NZC: Welcome to a new wave of Coaches

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Photo Credit: New Zealand Cricket

The beginning of the 2023/24 Domestic season this Friday heralds the start of a new journey for a number of new coaches who’ll be taking the team reins for the first time.

Two men’s Head Coaches will be making a debut of sorts in round one of the new Plunket Shield NZC summer, with a third fresh face set to join the fold next month.

Hamilton’s Seddon Park is a hugely familiar stomping ground for both BJ Watling and Daniel Flynn. Both men represented Northern Districts throughout their Domestic careers, playing 191 first-class games between them.

Hamilton is Watling’s home town and it’s where he’ll debut as a Head Coach this Friday, taking over the role with his good friend Flynn who, as ND’s new Performance and Talent coach, will assist Watling with the running of the ND men’s side.

The duo both represented the BLACKCAPS during their careers, and Watling takes over the coach mantle from another ex-ND stalwart in Graeme Aldridge who meanwhile has gone to assist the BLACKCAPS and NZC as a specialist bowling coach.

Following his retirement from all cricket in 2021, Watling spent time coaching the Northern Districts A side before moving to Wellington as head coach of the Wellington Firebirds’ white-ball side, and was their assistant coach in the Plunket Shield last summer.

So now here’s where it gets a bit like Musical Chairs.

Current BLACKCAPS bowling coach Shane Jurgensen will wind up his decade-long role with the national team after the current ICC Cricket World Cup in India, and it’s Jurgensen who will join the fold as a new Domestic head coach in the Plunket Shield next month.

He’ll be taking over the Firebirds who get underway this Friday at the Cello Basin Reserve against last season’s runners-up, Canterbury.

In the meantime, Wellington Blaze Head Coach Lance Dry will step across to act as interim Firebirds coach, with his Blaze assistant Luke Woodcock – a record-breaking Firebird during his own career – to run the tiller as the Blaze get ready for their own season starting in November.

Several of the women’s Domestic teams have new people, fresh voices at the helm, too.

Taking over from Jo Broadbent, Northern Districts has hired former Dutch captain Peter Borren to mentor their female squad in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield and Dream11 Super Smash.

Borren is Kiwi-born and raised, based in Papamoa in Bay of Plenty and previously represented New Zealand Under 19, the Central Stags and Canterbury age group rep in a lengthy career that culminated in playing 58 ODIs and 43 T20 Internationals for The Netherlands.

If you’re noticing a theme of former Domestic/International players moving into key coaching positions, you’re right on point.

Tarun Nethula is another in that space, with the former Auckland Aces, Central Stags, Northern Districts and BLACKCAPS leg-spinner joining the Auckland Hearts as assistant coach, under Head Coach Rob Nicol.

Former BLACKCAPS and Central Stags allrounder Jacob Oram has switched from commentating the female game to coaching it, as he takes over the helm of the Central Hinds.

Already based in Palmerston North and a former WHITE FERNS assistant coach (bowling lead), he was a perfect fit to link back up with his own lifelong association.

Long-serving ex-Hinds coach Jamie Watkins remains on board with Central Districts to focus on growing its female game overall, while ex-Wellington assistant coach and Plunket Shield player Deepak Joon will step in to coach the Hinds during a few matches over the season for which Oram will be unavailable due to a pre-existing contract.

Joon recently joined Central Districts from Northern Districts where he spent part of this year as a pathway coach.

That’s the role Glenn Pocknall was performing for Central Districts last summer.

Pocknall, a former Wellington Firebirds Head Coach, also enjoyed stints coaching the BLACKCAPS and New Zealand A, and led the capital cricketers to national titles in all three formatsm – including the 2019/20 Plunket Shield.

He couldn’t stay away from the nets, and is now getting set for his first match as the Stags’ new Head Coach, in Auckland this Friday, as the latest edition of the Plunket Shield begins.

He coached the Wellington Firebirds to multiple titles, now Glenn Pocknall is in charge of the champion Stags | MBUTCHER

The Stags are the defending national Plunket Shield champion, having won the history-laden first-class trophy three times in the last six years, under three different coaches.

They have a habit of losing their coaches to International Head Coach positions, with last summer’s guru Rob Walter now the Head Coach of South Africa at the men’s World Cup.

Pocknall has been appointed Head Coach for the Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy campaigns only – the Stags’ twin title defences this summer.

For the Dream11 Super Smash, he’ll move into an Assistant Coach role under former Ireland coach, Ben Smith.

An accomplished County cricketer, Smith spent a couple of off-seasons in the early 2000s playing for the Stags, and it’s not the first time he has returned to New Zealand to coach the team.

He stepped in several years ago as a Specialist Coach in The Ford Trophy and Super Smash when then Stags Head Coach Heinrich Malan (now Head Coach of Ireland) was seconded to coach New Zealand A.

Smith has in recent years also been Northamptonshire’s Batting Coach on the English County circuit.

Meanwhile it’s steady as she goes for the other three teams, with seasoned coaches Peter Fulton (Canterbury), Dion Ebrahim (Otago Volts) and Doug Watson (Auckland Aces) all back for another tilt.

For all the Plunket Shield coaches and teams, the waiting is nearly over.

The cricket whites are ready, boxes of shiny new red Kookaburras have been delivered to the grounds and, for the country’s best cricketers at least, summer is here. 

The first-class season of 2023/24 begins at 10.30am this Friday as the 116-year-old Plunket Shield goes back on the line. 

The six coaches will name their first squad of the season by noon tomorrow (Thursday 19 October 2023).

When the Firebirds step out onto the storied Cello Basin Reserve on Friday, it will also be Wellington’s 750th first-class match since its first-class playing record began in the summer of 1873/74.

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