On July 18th 1910, the New Zealand Cricket Council received a letter from the Auckland Cricket Association offering a shield for cricket competition from Lord Hawke. With a strong link to New Zealand forged by the visit of a team in his name during the 1902-03 season, Hawke’s offer was met favourably by the Council, although they asked for proof of the offer before accepting.
In that letter, it was confirmed that the new trophy – a cup, rather than a shield – would be presented to the NZCC for competition among the “second class districts”. The response to Lord Hawke noted that the “kindly thought which prompted you to help cricket along out here in such a substantial manner, has been very highly appreciated, and commented upon by every cricketer in the Dominion.”
Each of the districts who met the criteria were immediately informed of the new silverware and asked to consider how it should first be awarded, with the Council taking the position that it should be determined by a ballot. Although some, like Southland, agreed, the Council decided that the inaugural competition would see the winner among North Island teams play the winner of the South Island teams to be the first holder of the Hawke Challenge Cup.
TEAMS INVITED TO ENTER INAUGURAL HAWKE CUP
The knockout opening rounds were drawn with five North Island and two South Island teams having entered. Southland’s entry was sent to the NZCC on November 3rd 1910 with their secretary, Thomas Nisbet, noting that Invercargill could offer good accommodation to traveling teams and that their club pitches were in “pretty decent order”.
With entries confirmed, negotiations took place to arrange matches. For Southland and South Canterbury, those negotiations were fairly cordial – both sides happy to play on neutral turf in Dunedin so long as the gate takings were divided between the two associations.
Following the first match in Hawke Cup history – played in December 1910 between Manawatu, the winners, and Wairarapa – Southland and South Canterbury met at Carisbrook on January 2nd 1911. The first three innings were dominated by the ball as Jack Doig took 5 wickets for Southland, Leslie O’Callaghan claimed 7 for South Canterbury, and Arthur Poole took another 5 – including a hat-trick – for Southland. O’Callaghan couldn’t repeat his first innings heroics with McNeece (whose first name has been lost in the records) hitting 66 for Southland to lead them to a 5-wicket win.
With only two teams contesting the Cup in the South Island, Southland then had a long wait to see who their opponent would be. Although they wrote to the NZCC several times to try and lock in a date and venue, they were told to wait until their opponent had been determined.
The North Island final pitted Rangitikei against South Taranaki at Wanganui. Rangitikei’s #11, Brungar Signall, top-scored with 70 as his side won by an innings and 13 runs.
After some negotiation – Rangitikei initially suggested playing the final in Wellington, Southland wanted it played slightly later – the match to contest the Hawke Cup for the first time was played at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval on March 13th and 14th 1911. The match offered a sharp turnaround for the southerners, having finished a match against Otago in Invercargill on March 10th.
Southland showed no ill-effects of their travel, however, as James Bannerman and captain, Don Hamilton put on 70 for the second wicket. Although another batsman fell quickly after Bannerman went for 40, Edward Kavanagh joined his captain Hamilton in a partnership of 108 for the fourth wicket. Their stand saw Hamilton reach his century, and Southland reach 200 – a record for the province. Soon after the pair’s partnership ended, Kavanagh reached his 50 which saw him rewarded with a new bat, promised by a keen supporter of the side.
After posting 345 in 89 overs, Bannerman backed up his batting effort with the new ball, claiming six for 20 as Rangitikei could only muster 74 in reply. Asked to follow on, Rangitikei stood tall in their second innings, largely thanks to George Marshall who hit 166. He was well-supported by a man who must’ve been mounting a good argument for a promotion: Brungar Signall, again batting at 11, hit 38. Bannerman, who would be killed in World War I six years later, claimed another 5-wicket bag as Rangitikei hit 351 to set Southland just 81 to win.
Hamilton’s fine game with the bat continued in the second innings as he opened and made 29* while Poole came in after two early wickets and made 40*. Southland won by 8 wickets and became the first holders of the Hawke Cup.
The Southland Times was, understandably, effusive in its praise,
“The fine all-round performance of the team of Southland cricketers which has so decisively settled Rangitikei’s claim to hold possession of the Hawke Cup is certainly something to enthuse over, and the members of the team are deserving of the congratulations which are being bestowed on them from all sides.”
At 9am the following morning, Nelson’s challenge for the Hawke Cup was forwarded to the New Zealand Cricket Council. At 1pm, South Canterbury’s came in. The newly minted trophy had stirred interest in the provinces at its first outing.
There was some anxiety to follow with Nisbet, in a letter of thanks to the NZCC, writing,
“Have you obtained delivery of the “Cup” yet? We are very anxious to make its acquaintances.”
By May the Cup was in the hands of Southland, necessitating another letter of thanks from the Association,
“The “Hawke Cup” came to hand in due course, in good order & naturally we are very much pleased to be the first holders of it.”
With the Cup in the handers of its inaugural holders, it became a challenge trophy as per its original rules and in line with the Plunket Shield at the time. This saw just one match played in the 1911-12 season as Southland easily held off a challenge from South Canterbury in Invercargill. The NZCC, however, weren’t happy that their shiny new trophy wasn’t being more broadly played for and made changes to the regulations, removing the challenge process.
For Southland, that meant handing the trophy back, something that they were none too happy about. In response, they wrote to the Council asking to be permitted to contest the Plunket Shield, something that had been suggested within the local community before the Hawke Cup changes. They were granted the right to play under the same conditions as Hawkes Bay.
The outbreak of World War One interrupted both competitions, leaving Southland out of contests for either until they returned to the Hawke Cup in the 1929-30 season.
Cover image: the insurance policy taken out for the Hawke Cup by the Southland Cricket Association among other papers from the collection of the NZ Cricket Museum.