North Harbour Indian Sports Club Inc. 1990

From its origins as a two-team club in 1990, the North Harbour Indian Sports Club Incorporated (NHISC) is now one of North Harbour’s larger hockey clubs, with seven men’s teams in 2010. As well as being one of the larger clubs, they are also one of the most enduring. Of the clubs who were in the Premier Men’s competition when NHISC played in 1990 only NHISC, Takapuna, ABC and Hibiscus Coast are still playing under their original name in that grade.

On 30 July 1989, a social hockey game between North Shore Indian residents led to an idea of the formation of a possible club. There were many Indians living on the North Shore side of Auckland, most who were no longer playing Hockey for any club. The North Harbour Hockey Association had a hockey turf at Rosedale Park, one of the few turfs then in New Zealand. Entering a team in the North Harbour competition offered a chance to resolve the travel issue.

In 1989 members of the club, approached the North Harbour Hockey Association about entering teams into its competition. Unanimous approval was given from NHHA management and was officially accepted and recognised by NHHA as an affiliated club. The first North Harbour Indian Sports teams were entered in 1990. At the request of North Harbour Hockey, NHISC entered a team in the Premier Grade and a social team in Division One. In 1992, the club entered its first women’s team. Many of the players in first women’s team lived in Auckland and had family or friends on the North Shore. To this day, many NHISC members live in Auckland city. Like many Indian Sports Clubs, most of the members of NHISC are of Gujarati descent.

At very beginnings, the club had proposed to be an affiliated club of Tamaki AISC. However, the proposals were repeatedly rejected by Tamaki AISC. Thus, the club was left with no other option press forward to form a club and establish its own identity. This led to various club name changes over the years. These being: North Shore AISC Club (Dec 1989), North Shore AISC Sports Club (Jan 1990), Wanderers Sports Club (April 1990), and finally, North Harbour Indian Sports Club (Feb 1991).

The club began playing in white and navy blue shirts which were supplied by its very first sponsor, “Milford Computers and Commodore Computers”. The club has played in various combinations of white and navy blue since. The club logo in its present form was adopted in 1993, previously a simpler handwritten design had been used. It took some time for North Harbour to be affiliated to NZISA. The club first applied in 1989. Many members of the North Harbour club had been members of AISC and some within AISC opposed the formation of a new club. It was not until 1992 that North Harbour was granted provisional affiliation of NZISA. Four years later, in 1997, they were granted full membership. In the years leading up to 2004, NHISC was the fasting growing Indian club in the country. In 2004, the club had its most significant development since it was formed, it become an Incorporated Society and it gained Major clubs status, from the NZISA.

In its early years the club worked hard to develop a family- friendly atmosphere, something players still feel is characteristic of the club today. They held invitation tournaments, inviting clubs such as Southern Indians, Hutt Valley Indians and Roskill Eden Indians to attend. In these tournaments NHISC sought to recreate the relatively informal atmosphere of early Queen’s Birthday Tournaments. The club also hosted after-match functions following these Mini-Tournaments to generate club spirit. Some innovative techniques used to fund-raise, including members serving food at Indian weddings, selling samosa’s and selling pies with spicy meat and vegetable fillings (-everyone remembers our famous Kheema and Butter Chicken Pies at QBT 1998). From the outset, the club has received a lot of support from the local Indian community. As a relatively small club people got to know each other, not just their fellow players, but the players extended families and friends. In those pre-internet and texting days, the telephone was the most important means of contacting club members. Other activities within the community included an annual picnic, which has been held every year since 1991 at which one of the feature events is a Married versus Single tug-of war. Many of the founding members of the club came from small towns where people had to use their own initiative to make things happen and, when interviewed, club members believed this was one of the reasons the club had succeeded. The club has continued to be innovative, particularly in using new media. It first launched its website in 2001 and has had a Facebook page since 2009. Both of these have worked well in letting people know about forthcoming events, and also allow, former club members and supporters stay in contact.

Since its formation, NHISC has developed a good rapport with the Pukekohe Indian Sports Club. The Hill Cup, which is contested between Pukekohe Indian Sports Club and NHISC, began in the early 1990s. The number of competing teams has expanded considerably and the 2010 tournament featured games between Premier, Golden Oldies, Women’s Teams and Under-23 teams.

Hosting the Queen’s Birthday Tournament in 1998 was a significant milestone in the club’s history. There were some seemingly forbidding obstacles before the event, there being no clubrooms then at the North Harbour Association turf and only a few small changing rooms. To compound matters, a vigorous rainstorm on the night before the tournament threatened to topple the marquee. The local North Harbour Indian community rallied to ensure the tent stayed up and the tournament was a marked success. Successfully hosting such a prestigious event generated a considerable amount of pride in NHISC, which endures to this day. The event was also a financial success, NHISC paying a $1000 hosting fee to NZISA, the first time a hosting fee had been applied. The club held a well attended function after the event to thank all their supporters. When it came to hosting the 2005 QBT, the facilities at North Harbour were more advanced, which was as well, for 31 teams attended the tournament. The social functions for both the 1998 and 2005 QBT’s were very popular, an estimated 1000 people attending each function. Food at these events were provided by Restaurants and Families from within the local Indian community. Hosting the 1998 and 2005 QBT’s was the biggest undertaking’s in the club’s history, and involved many members voluntarily subsidising tournament costs with their own money.

When asked if there were any features they felt distinguished NHISC compared to other clubs they had seen or been involved in, NHISC members identified the friendly atmosphere within the club and the continuing influx of new administrators as two significant characteristics. The club has a policy that the President, serve a maximum three year term after which they must stand down. This policy was deliberately adopted to keep the club dynamic and modern. It has had additional benefits in that previous presidents and executive members have stayed actively involved with the club, giving it a pool of experienced people whose skills can be utilised. The club encourages younger members to serve on the committee, something members believe has given the club a ‘younger thought process’. One important contributing factor to the friendly atmosphere fostered by the club is its family oriented nature. NHISC teams have a large catchment of support both from the local community and former members. The development of club spirit is aided by all North Harbour club hockey being played at the one venue, which allows NHISC members to watch fellow club teams in action. ‘A small town atmosphere in a big city’ was one member’s apt summary of the club.

Another feature of the club has been the involvement of Europeans in administrative, coaching and playing roles. Alan Dickie was the first non-Indian playing member, Kristen Horne and Joanna Underwood, were the first European executive members of the club. Ian Smith was the first European to be President of an Indian Sports Club and more recently, Mark Hobbs, the coach of NHISC’s victorious Under-23 team in 2010. The majority of the 2010 premier team are non-Indian and include Black Sticks Blair Hopping and Andy Hayward. Somewhat paradoxically, the strength of the present NHISC premier team has made it difficult for Indian players to make the top team. However, one stand-out Indian member is Raynesh Smith who has played for NZ U21 hockey team, the Junior Black sticks, the Midlands NHL team and the NZ Indian team. For a number of years, Bharat Unka, a founding member of the club, has been heavily involved in a development programme. This began to yield fruit at the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Tournament, when NHISC were finalists in the B-Section, losing to Wellington in the final. Determined to go one-better in 2007, the team, under the management of Bharat Unka and Pat (Dhiru) Kika trained diligently and won the B-Section at the 2007 QBT in Christchurch, earning promotion to the A Section. NHISC teams have had a philosophy of seeking to play attractive, open hockey, being prepared to use-soccer style tactics and play high forwards to take advantage of the no-offside rule. Since then, the club has remained in the A-Section, surviving several promotion-relegation matches.

One of the feature activities for 2010 is the clubs 20th anniversary, which was held on 1st October 2010. NHISC celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a function at the Auckland Indian Association’s Mahatma Gandhi Centre. This gathering brought together the community that NHISC had established over the prior 20 years, and NHISC proudly appointed, Suresh Patel and Bharat Unka, inaugural life members in recognition for their exceptional and outstanding contributions to the Club. The event also served as something of a reunion for past and present members and supporters.

Asked about their vision for the future, members indicated a desire to keep on expanding and to have more women’s teams. The club is also branching out into other sports, partly to offer a greater range of opportunities for young Indians to be involved in the club, and to reflect the changing sporting interests of that demographic. Reg Ranchhod formed a Dodge-Ball team in 2010, which may well be the first time a New Zealand Indian sports club has fielded a team in the code. With a promising group of younger players and continued support from former administrators and the local Indian Community, NHISC members are optimistic about the future of their club.