Craig Brett is leaving after 40 years of playing and coaching hockey in Nelson. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

Nelson hockey stalwart calls time on career

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One of Nelson hockey’s most dedicated servants is leaving the district after 45 years of playing, coaching and administrating the game he loves.

Craig Brett, 54, started a lifetime in hockey playing for Stoke before joining Federal and then later making the inevitable transition into coaching. But perhaps his greatest contribution to the game has been over the last 14 years serving as a regional development officer, a job he concedes will be hard to leave behind.

Craig started working for Sport Tasman as a development officer under the CoachForce scheme in 2003, looking after Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast and Buller. He later took on the same role for Nelson Hockey, a job he has made his own over the last seven years.

“When I first started with CoachForce, I had some long days driving down to schools in Greymouth and Karamea and then coming back to run our programmes here. It wasn’t sustainable so, when the opportunity came up, I took on the role as regional development officer for Nelson Hockey in 2010.”

“It’s only a small area but there’s still so much to do. We have 1200 players and 18 programmes, so we’re always busy.”

Craig says the growth in numbers of junior players has been one of the highlights of his time as development officer. When he first started, the Nelson primary school’s tournament attracted around 100 players – this year’s edition attracted around 900.“We have quite good growth at

“We have quite good growth at junior level and it’s very satisfying seeing that progress. We’ve worked hard to develop our programmes and keep them interesting and we’ve had good support from coaches.”

Craig says the success of the junior programmes is one of the reasons that Nelson has produced top quality players like Black Sticks Anita McLaren and Kelsey Smith. And that is likely to continue says Craig, “there’s five or six young players around here now who have very good futures.”

Craig says they are also fortunate to have a new stadium and two artificial turfs which “have made a big impact on the sport in Nelson”. Playing mid-week games has also been a good move because it avoids clashes with other sports.

A personal highlight for Craig has been his involvement with Masters hockey, including winning three world titles. However, the veteran concedes it’s getting harder to stay in shape to play the game he loves.“The

“The Masters hockey has been a real buzz although I’m a lot slower than I used to be and have to train a lot harder to get the same output. We tried to add the number of games I’d played a while ago but we gave up – it’s well over 1000 but I still love it.”

Now, after 14 years, Craig says it’s time for a change as he and his partner move to North Otago later this month to start the next chapter in their lives as owners of the Moeraki Tavern.

“I think I’m the oldest development officer in the country and it’s a full-on position, so it’s time for someone new to take over.”

“But it’s going to be a hard thing to leave. Nelson Hockey has been good to me and so has my club and that’s something I’ll always cherish and remember.”