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
"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,
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.
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,