Over the next few months, sports reporter Jonty Dine is putting the spotlight on our off-field superstars. These people work tirelessly to make sport in our region happen – without trophies or medals to recognise their efforts.
The region’s oldest active cricketer, Jock Sutherland is still donning the whites for Wakatu at 74 years of age.
Other than losing a bit of zip in his step, Jock says he can still contribute to his club.
“They’ve moved me to slip to avoid blemishes in the field,” he jokes. “Quick singles aren’t straight forward but, apart from that, I’m as good as I ever was.”
An opening batsman by trade, Jock says these days he is happy to slot in the order wherever there is a vacancy.
“I’ll play when a side is short. I don’t want to stop a kid from enjoying his Saturday because of a fellah like me that’s had his day. I’d feel guilty about that, so it’s only when the phone rings.”
Despite his best years being behind him, Jock is no liability in the team.
“I get a few runs, nothing to write home about, I’m more there to hold up one end.”
He may not have scored any centuries in his career, but he sure frustrated the hell out of plenty of bowlers.
“I don’t give my wicket away easy, so a few bowlers came down the pitch and had a go, accused me of being stroke-less. I could stick around for a while, or I tried to.”
Jock admits the hand-eye coordination isn’t quite what it used to be, but his competitive nature keeps him coming back to his beloved Victory Square.
“When I make a mess of things I say I’m going to retire, then a few days later I’m keen to have another go.”
It’s not just the on-field experiences that Jock treasures.
“The comradery after is important I quite enjoy it at the bar, you play your best cricket at the bar.”
There has been a plethora of highlights as a player over his 40 plus year career.
“We won a few championships over the years and you don’t forget them, or just getting a game when you didn’t expect the phone to ring.”
Jock says there are no other players in Nelson close to his age.
He has, of course, been on the receiving end of plenty of banter by younger players.
“Sometimes the slip cordon of young kids have a few cracks, call me ‘grandad’, say ‘this guy is too old to trouble us.’”
Naturally, the veteran is too experienced to give anything back.
“You’re silly to do that, because if they’re proven right, they think they’re pretty smart.”
He prefers to answer their criticism with his bat, still possessing enough power to hit the occasional boundary.
“If it’s a bad ball and I manage to get the timing right, then there’s no need to say anything, you just give them a little look.”
It has been some years since he has cleared the rope though.
The Nelson stalwart has given more than 40 years’ service to the game, starting as president of the Wakatu Cricket Club in the mid-1970s.
His appointment came the day of the team photo as Jock, being a lawyer, was the only player to own a suit.
Jock’s efforts were recognised in the form of a Queens Service Medal in 2015.
Playing is where his true passion lies, however, and says as long as it holds up, he will be out in the middle.
“I’d prefer to be playing than to be spending all day in a meeting.”