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Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village opens in Birkenhead

Party marks opening of Auckland village

Ryman Healthcare’s new Birkenhead village has been officially opened and is filling fast.

More than 250 guests gathered to celebrate as Minister for Seniors Maggie Barry MP opened the Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village on Rangatira Rd on March 2.

The village is named in honour of North Shore local Bert Sutcliffe MBE, a former New Zealand cricket captain who had a stellar career as a batsman, and went on to influence generations of cricketers.

His son Gary Sutcliffe said he was sure his dad would have been proud of the village.

“As a family we thought ‘wow’ when we were asked if the village could be named after Dad. We quickly realised that Dad, in his usual modest way, would have been honoured. And so are we.’’

The village is owned by Ryman Healthcare and offers independent and assisted living apartments as well as a care centre offering resthome, hospital and dementia-level care.

The village also includes resort facilities including a swimming pool, spa, movie theatre, library, beauty and hairdressing salons, and a bowling green.

Maggie Barry MP, Minister for Seniors, said the village was a lovely place where people would be cared for and could live meaningful lives – with a glass of sparkling wine in the afternoon.

“Ryman does it really well,’’ she said. “We are a country that looks after and respects its seniors and that will always be the same.’’

Ryman Healthcare Managing Director Simon Challies said the village was filling fast.

“We realised back in 2012 that there was a shortage of care and retirement living options on the North Shore and in Birkenhead in particular, and we’ve had a great response from the community since we opened our doors.’’

“Over the next couple of years this village will free up more than 400 homes for sale in the area as residents move in. We think the village is good news for the community struggling with a shortage of housing. It will also provide steady long term employment for 150 staff.’’

Mr Challies said the site, which was formerly Fernz Lodge, was ideal because of the way it looked out over Kauri Point.

“The end result has fantastic views across Kauri Point. We designed it to take advantage of the natural contours and maximise the views, without dominating the neighbourhood. Our team has done a great job. As a company we are incredibly proud of Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village.’’

Dame Malvina Major performed at the opening and former New Zealand cricket captain Stephen Fleming paid tribute to Bert Sutcliffe in a video recorded for the event.

Stephen Fleming said he was 10 years old when he first met Bert and got talking to him after a match at Lancaster Park. Bert gave his time freely and over the years he played a significant role in his development as a cricketer.

“As my cricket career developed he was someone I enjoyed talking to, we had a lot of synergy around batting and as left handers we always look out for each other,’’ Stephen said.

“He was an absolute icon for New Zealand cricket and as a family – and everyone involved with him over the years – you should all be very proud to have this retirement village named after him. Congratulations.’’

About Bert Sutcliffe:

Born in Auckland, Bert went to Takapuna Grammar on the North Shore and showed huge promise as a young cricketer, captaining the school’s first XI and scoring more than 2,700 runs for the college

The talented left-handed batsman’s career blossomed after the war and he set a number of national and international batting records, becoming one of the most successful international cricketers New Zealand has produced.

He is perhaps best known for his courageous innings against South Africa in the Boxing Day Test of 1953. This was the Test in which Bert’s team-mate, Bob Blair, received a telegram in the early hours of the second day, advising of the death of his fiancé in the Tangiwai Rail Disaster. As the team left for the ground later that morning, a stricken Blair remained at the hotel mourning his loss.

On a treacherous wicket - and in the days before helmets - Bert was felled by a bouncer from fast bowler Neil Adcock; collapsed at the ground and at the hospital - but insisted on returning to Ellis Park to help his team-mates, who by this stage, had lost another of their own to hospital and were in dire straits at six down.

His head swathed in bandages, Bert launched a famous counter-attack, hitting the second ball he received for six and continuing to clear the fence as partners arrived and departed all around him. After the ninth wicket fell, and Bert was walking off thinking the innings was over, out of the tunnel came Bob Blair – who’d been listening to the game at the hotel and had rushed to the ground to help.

It was then that the Ellis Park crowd, so raucous a moment earlier, fell silent. As Bert remembered, “you could have heard a pin drop”. He went to Bob, placed an arm around his shoulders and said: “C’mon mate – let’s throw the bat at the ball and get the hell out of here.”

Together the pair did just that, adding a quickfire 33 runs for the final wicket. Bert was left unbeaten on 80 after hitting seven sixes, but in a final gesture of respect, stood back to allow his grieving team-mate to enter the tunnel first and receive the acclaim of the crowd.

After retiring from cricket Bert went on to become a coach and was awarded an MBE for his services to sport. He died in 2001.

About Ryman Healthcare: Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns 30 villages and serves 9,000 residents in New Zealand and Australia. Each village offers a combination of retirement living and aged care.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Corporate Affairs Manager David King on 03 366 4069 or 021 499 602.

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