As it has been highlighted in previous posts the City Cricket Club has been extremely fortunate to have very good overseas professionals involved with the club over many years.
This can certainly be said for English all-rounder Craig Rika, a right handed aggressive batsman and right arm medium fast bowler who joined the club as a professional in the 1992/93 season to play in the local Whangarei club cricket competition.
The Rika name was already famous to Northland sport, his late grandfather Kea Rika played rugby for North Auckland and late great grandfather Bill Rika was both a North Auckland, NZ Maoris and All Black forward in the late 1920’s so with that Craig came with a very good sporting pedigree.
The connection was made by City’s first class and Black Cap Bryan Young who met the youngster and his family back then when he played in England during the New Zealand off season and made arrangements for him to link Craig up with his City club.
‘Yorkie’ as he was known to many was only 19 when he arrived at the club as a young 1.88m tall strapping young athletic figure.
Back home in England he had been captaining his Woolhouse Grove School XI of Bradford and had signed as a non-contract member of the playing staff with the intention of being a paid member of the Yorkshire Academy of cricket staff which later on eventuated.
In addition to playing for his school he had also turned out for the Cleckheaton Cricket Club in the Bradford league where for three years he had been Cleckheatons young player of the year which in that time also saw him go onto play for the England U19 side.
Craig at that stage had also started to show his all-round sporting talents having also played for Yorkshire under 18’rugby team.
Craig became an extremely popular member of the City Cricket club and excelled on the field with both bat and ball – known for having a bullet arm in the outfield along with being a bowler who was somewhat of an awkward customer to face and punishing batsman who could hit a long ball. This was no better highlighted when he cleared the City clubrooms at Cobham Oval with a towering six in a blistering innings of 150 that also saw him take out the highest club batting score for that season.
It’s fair to say as a true Englishman he enjoyed a beer or pint or two but was along with that a true gentleman and as described by many of the Whangarei and Northland female fraternity ‘absolutely gorgeous’ when attending many a social nights out with fellow City team mates and there partners at the local Forum bar night club in Whangarei.
He also was integral in doing a grand job coaching the City cricket club youngsters and for that matter was an extremely popular figure throughout junior cricket in Whangarei.
‘Yorkie’ went on to represent Northland as an all-rounder in four matches that same season scoring a well compiled 101no in a Fergus Hickey two day match against Poverty Bay. He also played 5 one dayers for Northland and in one of those matches he produced a fine bowling spell in claiming a five wicket bag.
We unfortunately haven’t been able to track down ‘Yorkie’ since he last left New Zealand shores but if someone knows of his whereabouts or ‘Yorkie’ if you come across this post on your travels it would be great to hear from you.