Volts in battle to keep pace

 Mike Coggan
Mike Coggan
Help is not on the way.

The departure of leading Otago all-rounder Nathan Smith has again highlighted the battles the Volts face to match the other five major associations.

The 22-year-old has elected to sign with Wellington and will play for the Firebirds next season.

He decision to leave was arguably in part down to a resourcing issue.

Wellington was able to offer superior bowling support not available in Dunedin.

In February, Otago Cricket Association chief executive Mike Coggan called for extra support from New Zealand Cricket following some disappointing performances in the Super Smash.

He cited a small population and the ongoing struggle to recruit players as an issue.

"It would be our view that NZC got involved and supported us," he said at the time.

His call for a leg up is unlikely to be rewarded, though.

NZC general manager of high performance Bryan Stronach said all six major associations received the same level of funding.

He added players often moved or stayed put for reasons other than cricket. The associations that had more success at recruiting were able to put together better overall packages.

"That can be where Otago can be at a disadvantage at times," Stronach said.

"But there are a number of players who have gone to Otago because of the playing opportunities they can get there that they might not get ... in bigger cities.

"If they set up their environment in the right way and create the opportunities then I think they will attract the right people if they sell it in the right way.

"They’ve got to back themselves to attract the next tier of players and turn them into the best players in the country."

New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association chief executive Heath Mills agreed.

"It is delicate balance between too much central planning and allowing each MA to run their own ship," Mills said.

"But I think Otago cricket have come a long way in the last few years.

"But it is fair to acknowledge Wellington does have a strong coaching set of resources around their players ... probably the best of the any the MAs.

"Otago may be light there."

The Firebirds do look to have a superior set-up at the moment. They have recently appointed former Black Cap Iain O’Brien as bowling coach.

They have also has appointed a specialist batting coach. Former Namibia head coach Doug Watson will move down from Auckland to take up the role.

The side has had a lot of success in getting players promoted or recalled to the national team recently. Hamish Bennett, Tom Blundell, Jimmy Neesham, Devon Conway, Finn Allen and Rachin Ravindra come to mind.

The Volts, meanwhile, are looking for a new head coach and an assistant following the departures of Rob Walter and Adam Miles.

Smith told the Otago Daily Times the uncertainty around staff in Dunedin was a factor in his decision.

Stronach sees it as an opportunity for the Volts to look at the structure of the management team.

"I do see it as an exciting opportunity, if they grab it, to be one of the best MAs around," Stronach said.

 

Comments

All these resources don't seem to be doing Wgtn much good — stone cold motherless in the Plunket Shield.

And if Coggon is right about ongoing recruiting struggle, it needs to be asked what's happened — Otago's survived on an influx of imports for decades.

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