Club competition changes make life tough
Wainuiomata have played 13 games this summer for a solitary Twenty20 win over Petone-Eastbourne on October 22.
They're not shocked, having predicted before the season started that getting out of the Hazlett Trophy ghetto was going to create more problems than it solved.
But Cricket Wellington had committed itself to an overhaul of the club structure and provided clubs met the largely off-field criteria, then they would be accepted into the new all-encompassing competition whether they had any playing ability or not.
"The thing is, if we didn't apply for it, it probably would've been the end of Wainui Cricket Club," Wainuiomata premier captain Tim Wilson said.
The problem, now, is that it still might be.
Wainuiomata chairman Alan Broadhurst always said 13 teams were too many for the new competition. He favoured mergers and entered into discussions with other Hutt Valley clubs.
None took the talk seriously, so Broadhurst resolved to meet the new criteria come hell or high water. But he always held fears about how his club would fare on the field and they are beginning to be realised now.
"You have to apply again next year and meet the same criteria, so that's a decision we have to make and say, ‘Look, do we really want to do this again?'
"It's probably too early to make that decision, but we'll need to think about that once the season finishes," Wilson said.
What Wilson is sure of is that his team are out of their depth.
He also shared his chairman's view that 13 clubs were probably five more than Wellington's talent pool merited.
"We've played Karori, Easts and Taita, and they're all in the top-four, and you turn up to the ground and you already know the result.
"It's very hard and you wonder what they think, you know, when we've turned up and they've smashed us by 300 runs," Wilson said.
"After Christmas, once they split up into top six and bottom eight, hopefully we'll be a bit more competitive, because you definitely don't enjoy getting pumped every week."
Eastern Suburbs captain Lance Dry can't wait for the new year. He has skippered his team to 10 of the last 11 titles and they lead this season's competition by nine points.
He's always advocated two tiers of six teams and this two-month preamble, or grading games as CW have called them, have been a waste of everyone's time in his view.
"We beat Wainui by 250 and who enjoyed that? No-one," Dry said.
The pre-Christmas diet of Twenty20 and one-day cricket hasn't done much for him, either.
"The real meaningful cricket's been cut, with only five two-dayers now, when we used to have seven. They make you . . . play proper cricket, where in 50 overs, you've still got four or five guys dominating," he said.
"In two-day cricket, there's more opportunity to actually play and show some skills. Captains actually have to captain too."
With the bowling and fielding restrictions of limited-overs cricket, captains could just do things by rote, he said.
Overall, Dry's feeling is that the 13-team round-robin has robbed clubs like his of the hard-fought cricket they crave.
He should get a bit more later in the summer, when the top-six teams move into two-day mode. But next season will start with all 13 teams in together again, unless the odd club falls over or merges.
"We won't do a full review at the end of this season, we'll give it a couple of seasons to see how it all beds down," said CW development and operations manager Bryan Dickinson.
He said CW were happy with how things have progressed so far and that there was also general satisfaction at most clubs.
"We always knew there was going to be a handful of stronger teams and that you could throw a blanket over the vast majority of others," Dickinson said.
"Wainui are struggling a wee bit, but they haven't been far off in a couple of those games. The only little grumblings have been about the range from top to bottom.
"But we always knew it was going to be a long-term thing and having the season in two halves kind of mitigates that to some extent."
Looking at it from a distance, Wainui's plight is a shame, as is that of Naenae Old Boys. Finalists in both the T20 and two-day competitions last summer, the loss of Marc Calkin, Phil Tunnicliffe, BJ Crook and Ronald Karaitiana has clearly hurt Naenae.
But last summer's Hazlett Trophy winners, Petone-Eastbourne, look very competitive, as do University, who finished last in that competition. Existing Pearce Cup clubs such as Taita, Onslow and Wellington Collegians are also performing better.
There's also no doubt that, across the board, clubs are better run than they were before CW instituted the new criteria. Playing numbers were also up, CW said.
The Dominion Post