A new era begins for the SKYCITY Northern Knights this summer with Daniel Flynn today named captain of the team in all forms of the game.
Flynn, who debuted for the Knights in the 2004/05 season as a powerful young batsman from Bay of Plenty, has developed into one of Northern Districts' most prolific left-handers and has the added experience of 49 international matches for the BLACKCAPS. He owns the all-time ND record of 13 first-class centuries and was devastating in the Knights' one-day top order last season - form he intends to continue from the helm.
"Captaincy is a fresh challenge for me and it's come along at a good time in my career," said Flynn. "At 28 I've been around for a while and the extra dimension of leading the team will be stimulating. I'm really looking forward to working with our SKYCITY Northern Knights coach James Pamment and helping guide a team I'm extremely passionate about."
Pamment said the decision to revert to a single captain across all three competitions (after two seasons of specialist captains for the Plunket Shield, Ford Trophy and HRV Cup sides) was primarily driven by the youth of the new-look squad - underscored today when six players yet to turn 23 were named in the first round of domestic contracts.
Pamment explained: "Having the same captain across all forms of the game was considered a priority with a younger group of players because the constant changing of formats does make it more challenging for different leaders to put their stamp on the group.
"Daniel has a sharp cricket brain and is held in the utmost respect by all our players. He's impressed for many years as a quality leader of men, but because we've been blessed with so many leadership resources in the Knights, those qualities have been under-utilised until now.
"Brad Wilson, Scott Styris and James Marshall (who retired from the game after the 2012/13 season) have led the teams with aplomb in recent times. Brad and Scott are right behind Daniel and we are excited by Brad and Scott assisting Daniel in the coming season."
Flynn was one of 11 contracted Knights named today, with a further three names to be added on August 9. Graeme Aldridge, Brad Wilson and Anton Devcich fall into the established player category while Jono Boult regains a contract for the first time in two seasons.
"Jono fought his way back last summer which we were delighted to see," said Pamment. "He forced his way into our Twenty20 team, played the majority of the Ford Trophy and contributed in his three Plunket Shield opportunities. Spin is a long apprenticeship, but not only was he tenacious with the ball, we saw his skills in fielding and batting maturing as well."
Youngsters Ish Sodhi, Daryl Mitchell and Anurag Verma have retained their contracts while wicketkeeper Cameron Fletcher, batsman Jono Hickey and quick bowler Scott Kuggeleijn join the Knights' contracted elite for the first time. Kuggeleijn was previously contracted by the Wellington Firebirds.
"It’s a pleasure to reward dedicated young players with their maiden contract," noted Pamment. "Cameron Fletcher has an outstanding work ethic. I've been highly impressed by him ever since I worked with him as a fielding coach in the New Zealand Under-19s. He's an exciting prospect who's determined to represent his country, and it’s nice to be able to reward him after he made a big commitment to playing for us last season.
"Jono Hickey is likewise a New Zealand Under-19 graduate but was held back by a few injuries and missed opportunities in recent seasons. He overcame that in style last summer, coming into our Ford Trophy side with great zest and punching out vital half-centuries under pressure. We're investing in Jono. He'll have the chance to build on those 50s this summer and we look forward to helping him push his way into the first-class arena as well."
Northern Districts CEO Peter Roach congratulated all players contracted in the first round.
"Northern Districts Cricket is extremely pleased with the quality of players it has been able to contract. With five SKYCITY Northern Knights earning NZC contracts, and Daniel Vettori advising he didn't wish to be offered a contract yet remaining available to us, we have effectively been able to contract 20 players from our region.
"We are conscious there will still be disappointed players from within our region. We have built up an enviable depth of talent and much credit here should go to our District Associations for their development work. There are at least four or five players who will not be contracted who we believe are likely to play some cricket for the SKYCITY Northern Knights this season."
Roach said it was fantastic to see a couple of new faces in the initial offering of 11 contracts. "Cameron Fletcher and Jono Hickey really excited ND supporters with their debut season performances and we look forward to their continued improvement in 2013/14."
SKYCITY NORTHERN KNIGHTS CONTRACTED PLAYERS - FIRST ROUND
Graeme Aldridge / 35 / Bay of Plenty
Jono Boult / 27 / Bay of Plenty
Anton Devcich / 27 / Hamilton
Cameron Fletcher / 20 / Poverty Bay
Daniel Flynn / 28 / Bay of Plenty
Jono Hickey / 22 / Counties Manukau
Scott Kuggeleijn / 21 / Hamilton
Daryl Mitchell / 22 / Hamilton
Ish Sodhi / 20 / Counties Manukau
Anurag Verma / 22 / Waikato Valley
Brad Wilson / 28 / Northland