LuXlraqT_400x400.jpg   Rochdale Cricket Club

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Former Pro Lou Vincent

22 Nov 2020

Lou Vincent was dismissed from the cricketing world in 2014 for his involvement in multiple match-fixing plots. His new life in Raglan has helped him settle in for what he hopes will be a more successful second innings.

The former Black Cap's infamy as the first New Zealand professional sportsperson to receive a life ban – or 11 of them to be precise - has turned into dedication for a that helped him heal.

One of the last times the now 42-year-old spoke publicly was via an online confession in 2014 in which he took full responsibility for his actions.

"My name is Lou Vincent and I am a cheat…" began the extraordinary online mea culpa. More than six years on, having moved from Kaukapakapa to Raglan, Vincent has literally reconstructed his life as a builder in the west Waikato surfing hub.

The terms of his bans mean Vincent cannot earn a living from playing the sport and he is not permitted to enter a ground while a match is in progress.

However, he has since rediscovered a joy for the game by watching Youtube clips of former West Indies cricketer Viv Richards marmalising attacks. That helped inspire him during the Covid-19 lockdown.

He's erected a backyard net and a pavilion which he has dubbed Windy Ridge Cricket Club.

He invites local families to use the facilities and offers coaching tips.

"I'm so grateful I can build this and people are coming to me. Let's face it, I can't be employed as a professional coach, but this is a step towards possibly fighting the ban, we'll see.

"I've got members signing up, club caps, and kids walking away with smiles on their faces. Giving them confidence fuels my passion.

"I've got an inquisitive and creative mind, and I'm also getting asked to do bespoke builds around Raglan, like shop and bar fit outs."

Support is building for Vincent to make incremental steps back into the cricket community.

Heath Mills, the head of the New Zealand Cricket Players Association, welcomes any such move.

"It's great to see Lou getting back on his feet, engaged with his local community, particularly in the building sector. Just to have built a little connection back to cricket will be positive for his wellbeing."

Friend and former cricketing rival Joseph Yovich now works for Sport Northland connecting regional communities together. He says Vincent's skills must be harnessed rather than ignored.

 "What Lou has created is exciting for the next generation, providing the opportunity for kids who may not have the resources, or could be disadvantaged, to have an experience that keeps them active.

"Lou has suffered his fate, taken it on the chin, and has moved on to a point that he's now wanting to give back; a quality he's always portrayed for anyone who's crossed his path."

Similarly, moves are afoot within the Auckland cricket scene to get their former representative's life bans li"ed. The major association's board discussed the issue at their October and November meetings. Further conversations are pending about whether a collective approach can be made to lobby the International Cricket Council or the English Cricket Board to reconsider the original punishment.

Furthermore, a police source has praised the way Vincent has "been actively engaging with various government and non-government agencies. You have shared your insights into the world of corruption with police, both from a sports integrity and financial intelligence perspective".

Vincent says speaking to groups about his experiences has been enlightening afer some "pretty dark years".

"I've been blown away with the direction it's taken me, from government agencies to the police to sports integrity units to the Olympic Committee, rugby, soccer, hockey and cricket.  I'll always regret going down the route I did, but you've got to learn from your mistakes.

"It took a bit of confidence to face groups of 20-30 and talk about it.  They want to know the details of the honey traps, the changing of the [batting] grips as a signal to the bookies, and the general game within the game.

"When I'm up there it's like you're talking about someone else, then I sit in the car afterwards and have to remind myself that was actually me and what a mental time that was in my life.  My purpose is that I hope that no other sportsperson has to go through that."

When the Herald on Sunday visited, Vincent brought a Willy Wonka-like exuberance to a guided tour through his creation.  We started with the net which the local concrete contractor made "as flat as a 1980s can of coke found in Grandpa's shed" by putting his float across it "about 20 times".

Next is the three-tiered grandstand benches behind the batsman, followed by a Tardis box moonlighting as a women's toilet and a men's urinal overlooking the coast with by products filtered to feed a lemon tree.  A dancing pole has been installed as a distraction at short cover, while a pizza oven and barbecue complete the surrounds outside the piece de resistance: The Pavilion.

This structure perhaps best characterises Vincent's resourcefulness. Wood which many might have been tossed onto a bonfire has been crafed into rustic walls; some windows salvaged from a TB sanatorium usher in light; distressed corrugated iron provides shelter for the hammock on the veranda. It feels like you have walked onto a set from George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.

"As a kid my favourite show was MacGyver," Vincent says.

"He'd always build something from the components of something else and I've been fortunate enough to learn some good building techniques over the years."  Vincent was preparing for the "club" launch on Friday night where he envisaged guests sitting at the bar taking in the cricket action, or poring over his wealth of memorabilia.

"Eclectic" might best describe the haul of mementos.

In a cheeky nod to his past, a South African one-day international shirt with "Cronje" emblazoned on the back – a reference to the godfather of match-fixers – sits among a host of other familiar names on a wardrobe rack.

Hidden among a picket fence of bats and stumps is a Kookaburra blade inscribed with the signature of Don Bradman, stirring memories of the day a 14-year-old Vincent, then living in Adelaide, took a bus into the suburbs to meet the world's undisputed greatest batsman with the test average of 99.94.

"His wife opened the door and I said 'hello, is Don here?' She said 'he's playing golf, but he'll be home soon'.

"Me and my mates stayed to play cricket on the street, then his car pulled up. We knocked on the door again and he invited us in.

"He asked how my cricket was going and I said I was getting caught a lot. He said it might make things easier if I played the ball along the ground.  It was like God had spoken … but I still got caught in the next game."

Above the bar sits a Rolling Stones' Voodoo Lounge LP signed by Mick Jagger.

"He just wanted a shirt - he loves his test cricket - and ordered his signature in return."  So where to for Vincent now he's built his backyard cricket paradise?

"I'm not doing this to disrespect the game.  A few will say you shouldn't be involved at all, but look at what I'm giving back.  I'm using decisions I made when I was younger and less mature to grow.

"I want to have fun and I'm seeing it every day in my own backyard."