A perceived low contract offer and a feeling of isolation within the Wellington dressing room sparked Jesse Ryder's search for greener pastures.
And the blockbusting but troubled batsman found them in Otago, whose star player Brendon McCullum first sowed the seed of a move last year.
Ryder's camp, Cricket Wellington and the Otago Cricket Association sang from the same hymn sheet yesterday, saying the move south was a desire for a fresh start after nine years in the capital, and a renewed bid for a Black Caps recall after his Christchurch assault in March.
But, like an amicable divorce, neither side is shedding tears.
Ryder hoped to remain in Wellington, where he owns a house in Kelson, but doubts surfaced when he was offered ranking No 5 on Wellington's contract list, behind James Franklin, Luke Ronchi, Michael Papps and Mark Gillespie. That seems a fair ranking but Ryder was underwhelmed.
Fairfax Media understands Otago offered him no higher than No 5 as well, suggesting the move wasn't about money.
Ryder was the star batsman but also a source of angst for Cricket Wellington and was cut plenty of slack by team management. He had fractured relationships with team-mates, with Gillespie his only senior ally in what is renowned as a dysfunctional dressing room.
Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton denied he'd laid down unreasonably tough expectations on Ryder.
"Not any more or less than anyone else. We've got plenty of experience with Jesse and we know what sort of environment he enjoys best and that was what we were trying to create."
Ryder's manager Aaron Klee said three major associations outside Wellington were interested. That was narrowed down to Auckland and Otago, with the latter winning out via Ryder's friendships with the McCullum brothers, Ian Butler, Neil Broom and Aaron Redmond, and coach Vaughn Johnson who first lured Ryder from Central Districts in 2004.
"He's played quite a bit of cricket with those guys. He gets on really well with Brendon, they perform well together and Brendon was chipping at us last year to go down there," Klee said.
Klee denied Ryder was effectively forced out by Cricket Wellington.
"It's never been smooth sailing and Jesse knows that, and that's what he wants to address. It soon became apparent that it was more about the fresh start than anything he's been offered."
Otago chief executive Ross Dykes said there were no special conditions attached to Ryder's deal.
"We're looking at Jesse Ryder the cricketer and we're trying to put him in a cricket environment under a structure that will enable him to flourish in all aspects of life."
Ryder's close support network of Klee and clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo will remain involved with Ryder after he heads south for his first day of work on October 1. "Our working relationship will continue and Otago is very supportive of that," Nimmo said.
Ryder is yet to hit a ball since his late night attack and still experiences concussion symptoms. Ryder's specialist said that would ease in coming months, and Klee expects Ryder to be back in the nets in a month's time. He is running and in better shape than the latter part of last season, Klee said.
"It's not the first time in his life he's decided he needs a fresh start and a new challenge. He's at a stage where he's having to rebuild his career and almost start from scratch."
- The Dominion Post
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