Sports correspondent & historian
The weather gods turned on beautiful Western Bay of Plenty day for the first game of the McDonalds Super Smash at the Bay Oval this summer.
One of the biggest crowds of this year's edition of the McDonalds Super Smash title race fronted at the headquarters of cricket in the Bay of Plenty on Sunday, to watch the Knights square off with the Otago Volts.
The Knights coaching session for the regions youngsters prior to the game, ensured that many came early with a myriad of youngsters with bats and balls on hand to watch their heroes.
The appearance of Black Cap's skipper Kane Williams, who was having a rare day of cricket watching from the other side of the fence, brought delight to the countless number of youngsters who stood in a long queue to grab his autograph.
It doesn't get much better for Western Bay of Plenty cricket fans, than current Black Cap strike bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee opening the Knights bowling attack when the Volts came out to bat.
Unfortunately the result didn't go the home teams way, with the Otago side chasing down the Knights total for the loss of just two wickets.
One of the most positive changes in Western Bay cricket in the last three or four years, is the number of young girls taking up the game.
This is result of Western Bay of Plenty Cricket taking the game into schools from Pongakawa to Katikati.
Over 6000 youngsters from Year One to Four have learnt the very basics of hitting, bowling, throwing and catching a soft ball in the last term of the year.
The NZ Cricket Superstars Cricket Academy programme picks up from the schools introduction visits to provide a six week fun cricket program, with many young girls taking part.
In addition, Bay of Plenty Cricket has been running the GoGirl program, which is a stand-alone cricket curriculum, which recognises that girls learn basic cricket skills differently from boys.
The GoGirl sessions conclude in Term One with the hugely popular Rainbow Cup, where the youngsters dress up in the colours of the rainbow to play in a fun girls-only cricket competition.
The most pleasing results from the cricket introduction programs, is that the number of girls playing Saturday morning junior cricket has increased markedly in the last couple of years.
Tauranga Intermediate and Tauranga Girls' College have embraced the game with remarkable success in 2016.
The Tauranga Intermediate Girls' team and Tauranga Girls' both qualified for the NZ Cricket National Finals, with both finishing in extremely meritorious third place.
Briana Perry and Nensi Patel, who were members of the Tauranga Girls' side that made the National Finals, were selected along with Kate Anderson, for the Northern Districts team to play at the New Zealand Under 21 Women's tournament.
The Western Bay of Plenty emerging women's talent, could see one or two join Anna Peterson as the Bay of Plenty's first White Fern, in the future.