Coaches Blog - 4th Edition

Three top domestic coaches will bring you regular updates throughout the year. 

Mike Hesson

Coach - Otago Volts

We had an extended season as our preseason started in June, training for the Champions League and it was a very long season. I think later on we felt that.

In terms of highlights throughout the season we’ve had plenty of personal highlights like Nathan McCullum, Neil Broom, Nick Beard and James Fuller doing well. In terms of the team, the HRV Cup was pretty good but we were disappointed not to make the final. We played some good cricket during that month. In terms of the One-Day competition we have made the last three finals, so it was disappointing not to emulate that again. But it will bring us back bigger and stronger for next season. Regarding the Plunket Shield we played some good cricket and managed three outright wins which hasn’t been achieved for a number of seasons.

The biggest challenge for us was the amount of players selected for the BLACKCAPS. We’ve had to get the other players up to speed quickly but it can be exciting finding the next generation of players. It was also good having international import Yasir Arafat from Pakistan. He’s softly spoken but highly competitive and did very well during the HRV Cup. He’s since been reselected for the Pakistan side.

We have debriefs over the next few weeks reviewing the season and come June we start talking about recruitment, retention and contracts. During May we’ll have some time with our families. We’ve spent over 100 nights away from home over the last six months and that hard, it puts a lot of pressure on relationships so the winter months gives us some to reconnect.

Coach’s tip – rest and relaxation

Often when you become a professional cricketer you spend the whole winter thinking about next season and spending time on strength, condition or skills. Sometimes having six weeks away from the game, both physically and mentally, brings that drive back and makes the winter months more valuable. I’ve noticed over the last five years that players having a mental break for most of the winter are fresher at the start of the season compared to those who keep training.

Bob Carter

Coach - Canterbury Wizards

If we look back at the season we need to take each competition separately. In the Plunket Shield we were runners up behind the Northern Knights. We had a chance to win the final game however we were disappointed that we lost first innings points and ND were able to take the Plunket Shield. Saying that we thoroughly enjoyed the 10 round competition and it made for some entertaining matches. We had some long matches as most of our games went the full four days and at times the pitches were somewhat too good!

It did bring out some good cricket for us however and our batsmen were able to score a lot of runs. A highlight would have to be Shanan Stewart making over 800 runs and Michael Papps making over 900. At the same time Papps broke the record for the most runs scored by a Cantabrian in First Class cricket. He also scored two centuries in the last game, and is only the fourth Cantabrian to do so and he’s also got a record of 20 centuries.

The development of younger players was also a highlight for us - the likes of Todd Astle, Jason Donnelly and Logan van Beek and Tom Latham who was a 12th man for us. On the down side we had a lot of injuries, but on the up side these players were able to shine along with Hamish Bennett who had an amazing comeback after surgery on a back injury.

In the One-Day competition again we played well and a highlight for us was breaking a Canterbury record of 410 against the Volts. We had steady performances right through and were unlucky to be beaten by the Stags late in the competition which prevented us from progressing into the finals rounds.

Regarding the HRV Cup, obviously we felt we didn’t perform all that well and we missed the likes of Shane Bond and Cory Anderson who are two big players well suited to the shortest format. We felt that we could give ourselves a chance by post 160-170 however a number of times we failed to do that. The big turning point for us came when we played the Knights at home. We only got 127 however we had them on the ropes for 75 for 8. However we didn’t bowl very well at the end and a couple of their players were able to carry them through for the victory. Towards the end we were able to influence the competition by beating the Volts in Dunedin, which doesn’t happen very often. We felt we didn’t reach our full potential.

We now turn our sights to next season and the biggest challenge is looking at four areas in which we can improve. They are batting, bowling, fielding and ensuring we are in top physical shape ready for any challenge the season throws at us.

Coach’s tip – practice makes perfect

We’ve had an extended season which is great. I love the fact that we play a lot of cricket. The more you play the more you learn about the game. That’s where you can hone your skills and move forward.

Grant Bradburn

Coach - Northern Knights

Northern Districts had an outstanding season and we are all very proud and pleased with our success. A lot of credit goes to the whole organisation. Our success is a combination of a lot of commitment from lots of people. So many people at ND are inspired to go the extra mile, which makes ND Cricket a neat environment to work in. This is also why so many people need to take credit for our success.

I’m pleased our guys showed character during the Plunket Shield final round. We found out we had won the Plunket Shield early on day two against the Stags and although we were excited to have won, the attitude of the team was to be determined to keep the standards up right to the very end and finish the season with a high. It was a fitting end to an awesome season. James Marshall played his 100th game for ND in that final round and Brad Wilson finished the big run chase in style by whacking a six which brought about the win plus his own century.

On our dressing room wall we had the scorecard of the Northern players who played in the side last time we won the Plunket Shield back in the 1962/63 season. It really inspired us to do well. A lot of those guys from that team had passed away. My Dad was one of those who played in that game. He always spoke very highly of the Plunket Shield and how it was so hard to win back then, as ND were easy beats in the early years. He always reminisced fondly of the Plunket Shield, so winning it is very special.

There are so many highlights during the season for us but from a coaching point of view it was the fantastic team environment. We adopted a philosophy of continual improvement and always adding value to what we are doing. The most challenging and rewarding period for me was the lead up to the One-Day final. We had been walloped in the first semi against the Aces and we played poorly and for us to turn it around in a week and play two amazing games against the Stags and Aces was very satisfying.

We know there is so much more we can improve on, we are just scratching the surface and we have created so much depth in the association over a two year period. We are creating an attraction to be part of our environment. Here we aim to foster players learning and who want to be part of a positive culture and environment. Players know that the whole management team here are behind them as players and people and that’s important to us.

The next few months for me should be a bit more relaxing than last year! This time last year I had just finished my first year with the team and Andy Moles had left so quickly, so I didn’t have a lot of time to plan. However this year I’m going to ease into the planning for next season. We will also be covering reviews soon and it is an important process regarding the continual improvement of our success. We are conducting player reviews to map a pathway for players to make strides over the winter period. The winter months are also a chance for us to reconnect with our families, because our girls and kids sacrifice a lot so we can do a job we love.

There are also a number of people who have played a critical role regarding our success. It’s not just about the head coach, but it’s about the wider coaching team. We have a great mix of personalities who work well together. The likes of our statistician Bill Anderson who flies under the radar but plays a huge role in the environment. Our fitness trainer Jason Wheadon, deserves a pat on the back. This season Jason has inspired our guys to fitness levels that we haven’t seen here before. This has really helped our concentration levels and also our outstanding fielding. Our injury count has been low, in fact only one calf strain other than three impact injuries. Physio Shane Derry and manager and assistant coach Graeme Stewart travel with us all the time and they are gold in terms of the roles and work they do within the team and they are a critical support to me and our success. Graeme is also the leader of our band! He’s not the only one who plays guitar, but we admit he’s the only one that sings any good!

Coach’s tip – sportsmanship in victory and defeat.

You need to win – or lose – gracefully. It’s something we talk about a lot and when we lose we make a point of taking it on the chin and knocking on the dressing room next door to spend time with the opposition when they have been victorious. When we win, we win with humility and we are gracious in victory and defeat. For me personally it’s not necessarily about the trophies, they are a symbol of the work and culture we have created for us playing quality cricket every day. Therefore we are so proud to have two.

Paul Strang

Coach - Auckland Aces

We set our sights on winning the two short form trophies and defending our championship crown. You’ve got to set those goals at the start of the season. As a whole the two finals appearances were pretty good from a team perspective and the way we finished in the four-day competition in the second half. We won three out of five games which is very positive as we didn’t win any before Christmas. We went point for point with some other teams in the second half and it showed what the guys are capable of.

I was very happy with our performances from Christmas. The two finals were a highlight. We played very well in the two competitions after a poor start and that team effort was a real highlight for me.

We did lose a number of players to the BLACKCAPS during the season, however we plan for those occasions when guys get called up or injured. You’ve got to have those contingency plans in place. We don’t begrudge anyone who goes off to represent their country. We’ve got experienced players and young guys who can stand up and be recognised who are talented. We see it as an opportunity.

We also say goodbye to Richard Jones, who after a long illustrious career has decided to retire. It’s a huge loss as he was a leading role model within our side. He understands the game well and hopefully we can keep him close to the side in a mentoring role.

Now that the season is over we go through our review process which takes a couple of weeks. We have one on one time with the players and the high performance management staff. We look tentatively and look to go forward with individual. Then it’s holiday time!

This has been my first year in the job. It has been challenging but I’m pleased with how we did during the season. On a personal level I’m proud of the team’s achievements and commitment.

Coach’s tip – the importance of reviewsIt’s very important to have a review after the season and to get players to understand how they have performed. There are always one or two individuals who don’t like hearing bad news during the season; they only want to hear the good stuff. The big questions is how did they go as individuals and did they move their game forward. You don’t want to focus too much on the trophy cabinet otherwise you can lose sight of the development of players. Lots of players are becoming better and that’s what we are aiming for.

With Thanks To

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