Obituary: Gary Ashworth

Gary Ashworth
Gary Ashworth with his ICC Service to Cricket medal.

A great servant to his sport, Gary Ashworth played his final innings but left a lasting legacy on the sport he loved.

Gary was born in Rangiora on May 29 1957, the oldest child of four.

The family farmed at Leithfield alongside his father’s two brothers and one sister and their respective families so there were always cousins galore and plenty of games of cricket to be played amongst them.

Gary attended Sefton Primary School and then Rangiora High School where he played for the first XI cricket and first XV rugby teams.

Sport was a huge part of his life.

He played both cricket and rugby at representative levels throughout the years from underage up to senior level.

Gary also coached the Ashley Rugby senior reserve team for a few years.

Gary played cricket for Sefton where he was instrumental in getting the first senior side established and it is still going strong today.

However, he chose to play for the senior reserves side so that he could help coach and mentor the younger players coming through and give the club a good pool of players to call upon when required.

He firmly believed that a senior side is only as good as the strength of the teams under it, a philosophy later brought to Mid Canterbury.

While on an end of season rugby trip with the Ashley team to Hokitika in 1982 Gary met his wife Deb, who happened to be on a similar trip with Albion Netball from Christchurch.

They married in 1987 and bought a 30 acre homestead block that had been subdivided off the original Ashworth farm at Ashworth’s corner, which had earlier belonged to one of Gary’s uncles.

Then came Kelsey and Meg born in Rangiora Hospital in 1992 and 1994 respectively and following the move to Ashburton in 1997 were followed by Cameron in 1998.

From the moment he arrived Gary immersed himself in the local cricket scene and over 15 years he played a major part in the development of junior cricket in Mid Canterbury with many of the initiatives he set up now taken for granted as a part of community life.

When Gary arrived there was little in the way of cricket development in Mid Canterbury so he set about rectifying that using the same successful development philosophy he established in Sefton.

He set up Milo Kiwi and have-a-go cricket in 2002 and has also greatly assisted Mid Canterbury chief executive Richard Pithey to set up a centre in Methven.

He coached club fifth grade and set the Ashburton College 1st XI up to play in the Christchurch Schools’ 1st XI competition in 2004.

The college 1st XI now plays in the top tier of the competition, and thanks to another suggestion from Gary – have gone on pre-season trips to Australia to help the team be more competitive.

Gary coached for 15 years ticking off the entire junior representative teams – from the year 5/6, year 7, primary, under 15 and under 17s, and also had a role with the senior development side, usually more than one in a season.

Last year he was in charge of the year 7s and the under 18s who won the Canterbury Regional Tournament for the first time.

He spent a large portion of his life coaching, managing, preparing wickets and doing almost anything for cricket.

In the 2009-10 season Ashworth received an ICC Centenary Medal for volunteerism, one of a thousand worldwide and one of only 50 awarded in New Zealand for his commitment to the game of cricket.

Gary accepted the award but said he did it for the passion and love of the game, not for any personal recognition.

He believed that every player had a valuable contribution to make to a team and he had a way of bringing the best out of players and those players will remember him as one of the best.

As a testament to the man who gave so much, the Mid Canterbury cricket team has organised a memorial event in January.