Steamers making steady progress

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz

Steady progress is Sideline Sid's verdict on the Bay of Plenty Steamers under the guidance coach Clayton McMillan over the last three representative seasons. 

Consistency of results has vastly improved, with the Blue and Gold brigade dispatching the other championship contenders (except Wellington and Northland) on their way to a rare home semi-final this Saturday. 

"Our" team faced a big hurdle in front of a full house at the Tauranga Domain, when arch rivals Waikato paid a visit last Saturday.

Sitting on the cusp of the top four, victory could bring a post section berth in seven days time while defeat would likely drop the Steamers out of the playoffs. 

While not at the Domain because of cricket commitments, reports suggest the Bay boys roared out of the blocks to stun the visitors in the opening minutes.

A quality of a team that knits together to produce success, is the ability to soak up pressure and then fire back with points on the board. 

While the Steamers grabbed a hard fought semi-final berth, the tactical nous of veteran Mike Delany played a big part in the ultimate victory.

At an age where most players have hung up their boots, the mercurial number 10 is like a fine wine - improving with age. 

As the regular rugby representative season winds down, another Bay of Plenty sporting team is planning on defending one of the oldest prizes in New Zealand cricket.

During the last five years, the Bay of Plenty senior representative team has had a mortgage on the NZ Cricket minor association prize. 

Bay of Plenty have won and defended the Hawke Cup on ten occasions since defeating Hamilton in January 2013.

While the Bay boys surrendered the long-time NZ Cricket prize to Manawatu in 2014, they regained the prestigious silverware against Hawke's Bay during 2016 and repelled four challenges last season.  

A big factor in the dominance of the Bay of Plenty team in recent years is succession planning off the field.

Current ND coach James Pamment instilled self belief and confidence in his troops, winning the Northern Districts big prize of the Fergus Hickey Rosebowl on three occasions in four seasons.  

Graeme Aldridge continued the Bay of Plenty momentum and made the 2016 season his own, winning the Fergus Hickey and the ND one-day trophy, along with regaining the Hawke Cup. 

With Graeme moving up to assist the New Zealand Under 19 team quest to win the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup to be played in New Zealand early next year, his able deputy has been promoted to the top job. 

Charles Williams has been the senior men's assistant coach for the two years and also coached the Bay of Plenty second eleven to ND Development success last season. 

This weekend, Williams will kick off his senior men's coach tenure, with two T20's and a fifty over aside encounter with Hawke's Bay, where both teams will be out to discard winter rust.  

There is likely to be a extra edge in the games between the "Two Bays" to be played at Fergusson Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Last season Hawke Cup Direct Challenge between the rivals started as a battle of attrition with 20 wickets falling in the first day and a session, before Bay of Plenty stormed back to blast their way to victory with 470 runs in their second turn at bat.  

Go the Steamers!

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The moon peeping through the clouds at Pillans Point. Photo: Mike Berry.

Send us your photos from around the Bay of Plenty. kendra@thesun.co.nz