The chances of nine New Zealand hockey players featuring in
January's Hockey India League is looking increasingly
unlikely after the timing of both the auction and tournament
were moved again.
Not only has the player auction been pushed back for a second
time - it's now scheduled for December 16 - but the
tournament itself has also been moved to run from January
17-February 17 meaning it clashes with a Black Sticks camp at
which attendance is compulsory.
Dean Couzins, Shea McAleese, Simon Child, Phil Burrows, Steve
Edwards, Andy Hayward, Nick Wilson, Hugo Inglis and Hamish
McGregor were among 91 foreigners vying to be picked up by
one of the six franchises for hockey's equivalent of India's
Twenty20 cricket competition. Each team was due to comprise
24 players - 14 Indians and 10 foreigners.
McAleese, however, was increasingly sceptical about whether
he would be available to play because of national and club
commitments and also wasn't sure the league would even go
ahead, despite being sanctioned by the International Hockey
"Not so much," he said he asked if he thought the league
would happen. "Just because it's changed three times already.
You set your life up around a date and it changes on you. I
have been talking with my club the whole time. They took a
while to come around and now the dates have changed so I'm
not sure how it will go."
McAleese has a two-year contract to play for HGC in the Dutch
league, which is due to begin the week after the end of the
Indian league. The 28-year-old has been in contact with
hockey friends in the Netherlands and been told many Dutch
players, who were due to be among a large number of
foreigners up for auction, might be forced to withdraw.
On top of that, Hockey New Zealand have scheduled a national
training camp from February 5-12. Attendance is compulsory
and new Black Sticks coach Colin Batch said he wasn't
prepared to change the date.
"If players still want to play in it, and I'm not sure how
many do now because of all this uncertainty, they will still
have to come back for the camp," Batch said.
"We have put the camp there for a reason and the national
programme comes first. I would want every player who is
selected in the national squad to attend that camp because
it's an important phase in our yearly structure and it's one
of the few times we have all the national players together."
Although the Indian league might not have offered the riches
of cricket's IPL - New Zealand cricket captain Ross Taylor
was sold to Delhi Daredevils for US$1 million - it was still
seen as a fillip for hockey players who have often struggled
"If it was to work out and I was to get picked up it would be
amazing," McAleese said. "I would say we are
semi-professional players at the moment. You get free
accommodation and a car and just enough to live on. It's not
enough to kickstart your life. But if I was able to go to
India and get a bit of a pay cheque, it will really help. It
would mean I could be fully professional."
The latest delay in the auction was put down to franchise
coaches being in Melbourne for this week's Champions Trophy.