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Sport and Family, the Fabric of Past Player Craig Ingham’s Life

By Margot Butcher - Republished from Outright #54

In the 1990s, Central Stags opening batsman Craig Ingham was known as “Pup” and one of the “Nelson Gnomes”. It’s a clue to a lack of any exceeding tallness. His basketballing son, Tom, has somewhat broken that mould.


A 1.9m point guard with the Nelson Giants since 2010/11 (bar three seasons as an Otago Nugget when he was in Dunedin for his teaching degree), Tom Ingham towers over his parents and sister, Lucy.


Ingham the elder used to enjoy getting on the basketball court himself in his days at Waimea College. But as a gnome, your future professional options are fairly limited.


“I grew up in Stoke and the hub there is the Jack Robins Stadium. I wasn’t very good, but it was fun! Unfortunately my daughter Lucy got my genes. She was very good at volleyball, basketball and netball and some height would have been handy for her.”


Lucy captained Waimea College to the 2014 national volleyball crown; she’s now an Associate at a Nelson law firm. Tom was meanwhile a handy cricketer, playing Hawke Cup cricket. Ingham used to coach his age-group teams heading off to CD tournaments, then Tom started to shoot up in height.


“The Giants picked him as a 16-year-old Development player. He came home from school one day and said, ‘Oh, I’m in the Giants squad’. I thought he was kidding. But that was awesome, pretty cool to see him run out with some big names in the game.”


Ingham and wife Juanita (who meanwhile managed Lucy’s team) never missed any of the kids’ sporting missions, and they’re still cheering on the sideline. The Nelson Giants are a local phenomenon and “Not Just Concrete” adorns the back of the Nelson-blue singlets. That’s Ingham’s business, in partnership with longtime mate Chris Trathen — who played rugby for Nelson Bays around the same time Ingham was playing first-class cricket for the Stags. Trathen’s son Nick also plays for the Giants. Juanita coordinates the bench. Sport and family, the fabric of Ingham’s life.


“We love the sport,” he says. “It’s pretty tight knit and hard case, but they do it well down here. The Giants’ games sell out and there are kids everywhere because of their very successful Giants in Schools programme. It can still be tough to fund the marquee players outside of the main cities, but in lots of ways it makes it quite special, as well — just like CD. CD were always known as the country boys, but it creates that camaraderie and you pull together and punch above your weight.”


Ingham played senior club until he was 48, and had grown up watching the likes of Jock Edwards churn out tons of runs at Trafalgar Park, Nelson’s first-class batsman’s paradise before the advent of Saxton Oval.


“I used to do the scoreboard at Trafalgar Park — three metres up, hanging off the edge of it while the legends were out there playing. Fond memories. You imagine doing that today!”


Ingham debuted for the Stags in 1990/91, and went on to play 31 first-class and 29 List A games. “We won a few. Winning the Shell Trophy [Plunket Shield] in 1991/92 was pretty cool — even though I had a shit season! And the 1994 Shell Cup, that was a good campaign, even though we got beaten in the final [by 25 runs, against one of Canterbury’s strongest all-time line-ups].


“Twosey [Roger Twose] was our captain, we had Batchy [Mark Greatbatch], Blainy [Tony Blain] who were playing for New Zealand at the time. We all got on well, good people, and everyone involved was passionate about CD.


“That was my favourite time playing cricket. It was the camaraderie. Guys like Batchy and Blainy could lift a team, get the best out of us with their sheer personality and positivity.”


Meanwhile, Juanita was back in Nelson working two jobs so he could live the dream — domestic contracts a thing of the distant future. “I’m very grateful for having been able to do it,” says Ingham. “She worked hard when I was away.”


He still sees his old teammates like Andrew Schwass and Mark Douglas.


“Schwassy and I go mountain-biking together a lot. I do a lot of adventure riding and motorbike riding now, for my leisure. I did the Old Ghost Trail on the West Coast with Schwassy and a group that he took as part of his cycling business. Did the Otago Rail Trail as well.


“I see a lot of Craig Auckram too; we went on a trekking expedition together to Everest Base camp four years ago. We’d been talking about doing it for years. It was like being on Mars! You had to look after yourself, walk slowly, take 13 days to get up there as you acclimatise. It was beautiful.”


Ingham had started out as a cabinet-maker by trade. Douglas turned out to be a key connection, when the inevitable pressures of playing cricket all summer and trying to provide for his young family began to conflict. Douglas put him onto a job at a busy concrete kerbing company where Douglas worked before heading to Wellington.


“I needed more money, so that was a good move at that time for us. My current business partner Chris, he worked there too, running the kerb gang, while I was foreman of another side of the business. One day in our early 30s, Chris and I were talking and he says, ‘Why don’t we have a go at working for ourselves?’ It was a bit ballsy at the time, but it’s turned out awesome.”


Not Just Concrete did paving, retaining walls, general concrete works, but the purchase of a kerb machine saw business really take off.  “Now we employ eight staff, plus me and Chris. He’s a good bastard — in 23 years, we’ve never had a cross word.

“We’ve done some pretty big projects over the years like Lansdowne Park when the Mako first started, the Nelson Airport upgrade, and we do a lot of work for the bigger contracting firms.”

As well as providing 1/8th of the Nelson Giants squad, as passionate Nelsonians.

Despite being head-deep in basketball, the buzz for cricket has never left him. Last summer he went to an Alumni function at the Dream11 Super Smash day in Nelson. “I bumped in John Furlong there — I hadn’t seen Goose for years! And it was an awesome day, great to see all these people at Saxton Oval watching the old team. Cricket was good to me. We had a lot of fun.”



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