New Zealand’s oldest living Test cricketer died in Auckland on 21 September, 2017.
Born in January 1927, Vera Esther Burt (nee Robinson) was 90 when she died. The BLACKCAPS’ oldest living representative at the time was JR Reid, who turned 89 in June 2017.
Although she played three Tests for New Zealand in cricket, Vera deserves to be remembered for much more, including her incredible contribution to hockey. That passion led her to become a dual international, playing hockey for New Zealand against Australia in 1960.
Born in Patea, Taranaki, in 1927, Vera Robinson was the daughter of Lloyd Armstrong Robinson and Doris Emma Gribble. Like their daughter, both parents would live in to their 90s.
Lloyd, in particular, also shared a passion for sports which he would pass on to Vera. After moving from Patea to Whangamomona, Lloyd’s work as a post-master saw the family move from rural New Zealand to Auckland in 1941.
Vera began playing for Auckland in both her chosen sports in the mid-1940s. From that point, much of her life would be dedicated to sport, with 22 years as a hockey representative, 27 in cricket, and 34 as a hockey umpire. Once her on-field duties were complete, she remained involved in hockey administration until the 1990s.
Playing for the Training College cricket team in 1944, Vera made her mark on Auckland club cricket as a slow-medium bowler who was known as “one of the keenest fielders” in the competition.
On the 18th of November 1944, Vera claimed a hat-trick against a side comprised of many of her winter teammates, the Auckland Ladies Hockey Association. By the end of the following month she would be making her cricket debut for Auckland.
Although that match was somewhat mixed for the debutant – she claimed 3 wickets but made a duck in her first innings with the bat – it marked the start of one of the longest top-level careers in New Zealand cricket history. Her last game in domestic cricket would come in January 1971.
The 1945 club season changed the track of Vera’s cricketing life as her promise with the bat was realised. Opening the batting, match reports often noted she had carried her bat, with scores of 32*, 54*, and 100* marked against her name.
In her opening game for Auckland, she was a key part of the bowling attack. In her second game for the province she didn’t bowl at all and through the rest of her career she would be used sparingly.
Before her Test debut in 1948, she hit 54 against a strong Canterbury team before making 31 against the Australians in their Auckland tour match. Those performances and, likely, her useful bowling, saw her selected for her Test debut at the Basin Reserve.
A year later she would again be selected for New Zealand, playing England at Eden Park, but she would then see 20 years pass before again wearing the fern in 1969.
In the intervening years, she continued to play for Auckland – at times appearing alongside her sister, Pamela.
In 1952, she hit her high score of 84 against Wellington. Her best bowling came in 1954, when she took 3 wickets for just 5 runs against Otago. During the mid-1950s she was thrown the ball with more regularity and more success.
After hitting 40 in a strong Auckland performance against 1961’s touring Australian side, Vera’s appearances for the province ceased. Her career resumed with North Shore in 1965 and she would continue to represent them until bowing out in 1971.
Not one to rest on her laurels, in 1972 she made what Hockey New Zealand deemed “her major triumph”, assisting in the formation of the North Shore Women’s Hockey Association.
Vera’s contribution to sport, and hockey in particular, was recognised in 1990’s New Years Honours when she was awarded an MBE for services to sport. Her involvement in hockey was further recognised through Life Memberships of Auckland Hockey, Harbour Hockey, Hockey New Zealand, and the New Zealand Umpires Federation. Among all these accolades, she was also inducted in to the Harbour Sport Hall of Fame.
The New Zealand Cricket Museum extends its condolences to Vera’s family and friends.
Vera Esther Burt
Born 14 January 1927, died 21 September 2017
WHITE FERNS representative #19
New Zealand: 3 Tests
Auckland: 31 matches
North Shore: 11 matches
Photo: 1969 New Zealand women’s cricket team, featuring Vera Burt. Click here for details.