Both sides, New Zealand Croatia and Northern Maori, feature prominent players with international, first-class, or district representative experience. And, after a ding-dong battle last year saw the annual doubleheader go down to the last ball, Yovich is not underestimating Sunday’s challenge.
Captained by Waikato Valley’s Leighton Parsons, Northern Maori is the official Maori representative team of Northern Districts Cricket and stars ND’s 2014 District Association Player of the Year, powerful batsman Josh Bates.
New Zealand Croatia match that with a first-class allrounder in Yovich, who represented the Northern Knights in a long professional career. John Vujnovich, Anton Vujcich and wicketkeeper Anthony Govorko are New Zealanders who have both represented Croatia at ICC international level, while tall pace bowler Michael Ravlic is a rising star pushing for selection in the current Auckland Aces squad.
Roll in the sporting talents of Dean Devcich. Besides being the brother of Blackcap Anton Devcich and a useful cricketer himself, he has played over 100 games of representative development rugby for Waikato.
Devcich and 18-year-old left-arm seaming allrounder Ben Lister, coached by fellow New Zealand Croatian Dušan Hakaraia in Auckland’s Waitakere premier squad, are the two faces making their debut in the New Zealand Croatia team that recently returned from an unbeaten Twenty20 series in Rarotonga -- where they beat the ICC-affiliated Cook Islands national team for the second year running.
It’s a measure of how seriously Kiwi Croatians take their sport and how much pride they share in representing a widespread cultural thread of New Zealand, says Yovich.
“We get white line fever as soon as we cross that rope. We’re disciplined in our cricket skills and look to play a big-hitting, entertaining Twenty20 style,” says the Whangarei-based captain. “So it was hugely disappointing to us to lose both Northern Maori games last season by the skin of our teeth.”
On the upside, he has been impressed by the growth in awareness of Maori cricket and the rapid improvements made by Northern Districts’ flagship team since it was launched as a Northern Districts development initiative four seasons ago.
“Maori cricket is going from strength to strength and it’s great to see that at long last. They take a great deal of pride in what they are about, as do we, and that’s created quite an affinity and respect between our two teams.
“We are certainly not taking these games lightly, and have selected a very competitive squad of 14 players drawn from Auckland, Northland and Waikato to give Northern Maori a big run for their money,” says Yovich.
“With the fixtures being played in Rotorua this year, we’re also looking forward to bringing a truckload of supporters with us to balance out the sidelines. Rotorua has been a focus of Maori cricket development for Northern Districts and we know there is a lot of local support for the Northern Maori players and involvement with schools in the region, so we will be matching that with the red and white checkers and very strong vocal chords on the sidelines!”
The Twenty20 doubleheader, dubbed the “Cros Versus Bros” will be played at Smallbone Park this Sunday 23 November. The first game begins at 10.30am, followed by the afternoon match at 2pm. Both games will be live-scored on CricHQ. New Zealand Croatia Cricket is proudly sponsored by BUSCK Prestressed Concrete.
New Zealand Croatia squad for Rotorua
Joseph Yovich (c) Northland Dubrava
Brad Bennetto Northland Vrgorac
James Bevin Auckland Zivogosce
Craig Borich Auckland Podgora
Jason Brajkovic Auckland Zivogosce
Dean Devcich Hamilton Podgora
Anthony Govorko (w) Hamilton Vrgorac
Ben Lister Auckland Zivogosce
James Piskulic Auckland Novi Vinodolski
Michael Ravlic Auckland Kozica
Adrian Smith-Hodgson Northland Vrgorac
Anton Vujcich Auckland Vrgorac/Podgora
Matthew Vujcich Auckland Vrgorac
John Vujnovich Auckland Sucaraj
Players unavailable for selection:
Daniel Marsic, Paul Vujnovich, Anton Devcich, Nick Matijasevich, Evan Erstich, James Banicevich
McCaw Lewis Northern Maori squad for Rotorua
Leighton Parsons (c) Waikato Valley Ngati Porou
Josh Bates Poverty Bay Ngati Porou
Matt Earl Bay of Plenty Te Rarawa
Thomas Hayes Poverty Bay Ngati Porou
Liam Hunia Counties Manukau Ngati Awa
Robert Kaihe (w) Waikato Valley Ngapuhi
Shannon McSkimming Bay of Plenty Tuwharetoa
Shaun Simpson Counties Manukau Ngati Awa
Tom Te Whare Waikato Valley Ngati Maniapoto
Rees Uerata Bay of Plenty Tainui
Keith Vincent Waikato Valley Te Arawa