Walter re-signs as Otago coach due to 'unfinished business'

Rob Walter.
Rob Walter.
Otago coach Rob Walter was not interested in going anywhere else.

As far as he is concerned there is ''unfinished business'' right here.

Earlier this week, the association announced the former Proteas conditioning coach would be returning for another two-year stint.

By the time he has completed his latest contract, he will have spent five years in the city trying to turn the Volts into a more competitive unit.

History is not on his side. It has been more than 30 years since Otago won the first-class competition, and 11 years since it won the one-day tournament.

The Volts' last national banner came in 2012, when it beat Wellington by four wickets in the twenty20 final.

It has been a struggle since then, but there were signs of a recovery last season. Otago hosted Wellington in the one-day final and fought hard before eventually losing.

The Plunket Shield campaign was poor, though. And the Super Smash was arguably only marginally better, although Otago's fourth-place finish was an improvement on the previous two campaigns.

The team has been in transition. Black Caps Jimmy Neesham and Neil Wagner have transferred, while long serving wicketkeeper Derek de Boorder retired.

Experienced right-hander Neil Broom is no longer playing first-class cricket, and opener Brad Wilson retired at the end of the season.

Pace bowler Warren Barnes is taking a break from cricket too.

But from Walter's point of view, he has seen progress despite the obvious challenges.

''We just started to get some momentum, so it is nice to have an opportunity to really build on that over the next couple of seasons,'' he said.

''To leave now would have been to have left some unfinished business.

''In terms of the type of cricket we want to play and the type of team we will be, I think we showed a bit of that this last season.

''It is really about just trying to do that better and build on that.''

The Volts have some unique challenges. It is easily the smallest of the six major associations and is, in that sense, reliant on bringing in talent. But enticing people south has been a ''tough sell''.

''Everyone has got their challenges,'' Walter said.

''We've got to be better than that and figure out ways to navigate our way around that.''

The first contract offers are due on June 10, so the recruitment window is wide open.

Walter, though, played down speculation there might be wholesale changes.

''The immediate thing is we have players to replace in Brad Wilson and Warren Barnes. And then we have an overall view of how we would like to try and strengthen the squad.

''The most obvious place to look is where good players are not getting an opportunity.

''But some players are happy with the environment that they are playing and are happy to only play 60% of the fixtures with a view to playing 80% next year.

''All you can do is ask questions and then decide whether they are better than what our players could become over time.

''It is a juggling act and sometimes it is just a gut [feeling].

''Central Districts [have] proved that if you really get it right you can create some sustained success.''

 

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