Softball: Otago plans 'good crack' at champions

Ben Watts
Ben Watts
They may be heading off to attend one of New Zealand sport's most predictable tournaments, but the Otago softballers hope to surprise this weekend.

Christchurch again hosts the annual Jefferies Cup, for the top South Island provinces.

And, as usual, the home-town Canterbury Red Sox will start as the strong favourites. That tends to happen when a team wins a title 17 years in a row.

Otago coach Aran Bailey has seen his share of those years and knows the old David v Goliath story has never been applied more appropriately.

"It's always a challenge," is his understated view.

"Canterbury are always the ones to beat. But we're going to have a good crack at them.

"We came close four or five years ago. Southland came close, too."

A bonus for Bailey is the availability of star pitcher Ben Watts, who has left town but is allowed to play for Otago.

Watts, who was at the world championships with the Junior Black Sox, is now registered in Canterbury but is able to play for his original association for a year or two.

"Ben is obviously a big key for us. If he can keep some bats quiet, we can do well, because we can definitely hit."

Bailey will call on the talents of the other Watts boys - Cam and Mark - as well as other promising youngsters such as Krizevac Tuitea, Hoani Iva-Keen and Will Meiklejohn.

Doug Hill, Ryan Williams and Crete Whaanga can belt the ball, and captain Jamie Robinson and Steve Willis know all the ins and outs of the diamond.

Otago plays Canterbury, Southland and Canterbury under-19 today, and will play Marlborough and Nelson tomorrow.


Otago softball
Jefferies Cup team

Jamie Robinson (captain), Doug Hill, Hoani Iva-Keen, Will Meiklejohn, Jeff Orchard, Tom Snow, Krizevac Tuitea, Ben Watts, Cam Watts, Matt Watts, Crete Whaanga, Ryan Williams, Steve Willis.