South Canterbury’s new joint rugby and cricket chief executive, Tony Lewis, has taken up the reins and is excited by the prospect.
The 51-year-old former Otago rugby wing is looking forward to the challenges and has a clear view of how best to respond to them.
“South Canterbury is a sleeping giant and I’m keen to give it a prod,” he said.
“From what I understand, the South Canterbury economy is booming compared with the rest of New Zealand and I am keen to tap into that.”
Lewis said he and the boards needed to sit down and decide “where to from here” and it was up to him to drive it.
Improvement, as with all sports, was a numbers game starting at the grassroots, he said.
“I am keen to get in and support the schools. You only have to look at what happened at Marlborough Boys and Nelson College when the Tasman Rugby Union swung in behind them, they made the final of the Crusaders Schools comp against expectations.
“The same goes for cricket.”
Lewis said it was also important to get the schools in rural towns such as Geraldine, Waimate, Fairlie and Temuka involved in a positive way.
“Viable senior club competitions and reps sides start there, at the grassroots.
“You get the base right and grow the sport from there.”
Basically if the foundation is right, the top eventually takes after itself, he said.
“Part of that is ensuring the coaches have the support.”
Lewis said leadership was another important factor and something he would not shy away from.
“You also need to get into the community to get their support.”
Lewis said it would take some time to bed the job in but believed both rugby and cricket were year-round roles when it came to administration.
“It won’t be six months here and six months there.”
The new CEO also hinted he was keen to be involved at some stage in a possible sports academy that crossed codes.
The former teacher comes to Timaru with an impressive CV in sports administration.
He is the executive officer for Paddle NSW but has previously had roles in both rugby and cricket, including managing the contracted players for New South Wales Cricket and Cricket Australia for seven years.
He also had a stint as general manager of the Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club in Sydney.