Black Sox' Casley injured on world champs eve

INJURY CLOUD: Black Sox captain Rhys Casley is in doubt for next weeks' World Championships in Auckland after re-injuring his shoulder.
INJURY CLOUD: Black Sox captain Rhys Casley is in doubt for next weeks' World Championships in Auckland after re-injuring his shoulder.

Black Sox captain Rhys Casley is in serious doubt for next week's world championships in Auckland after re-injuring his shoulder.

The Black Sox are in a team camp at a remote Northland location and could not be contacted.

Casley, 34, who had surgery to reattach tendons in his right shoulder last November, is understood to have suffered a setback while leading the Black Sox at last weekend's Dean Schick Memorial tournament in Auckland.

The second baseman was a dejected figure after the tournament, having worked hard to rehabilitate himself in time for the world championships in Albany from March 1 to March 10.

Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase is expected to give the quick-healing Casley as long as possible to bounce back from the setback.

A decision does not have to be made until tournament eve next Thursday when the final 17-man rosters must be submitted to the International Softball Federation.

Auckland shortstop Nathan Nukunuku, who led his Ramblers club to the title at the Dean Schick tournament where they beat the Black Sox, is the most likely replacement if Casley has to withdraw.

Nukunuku, who won gold medals with the Black Sox in 2000 and 2004 and was in their silver medal squad in 2009, was named as one of three standby players.

The others are Wellington outfielder Campbell Makea and provincial team-mate Karl Gollan, a pitcher-outfielder.

Without Casley, the Black Sox's infield depth would be compromised so Nukunuku would be the sensible choice.

Casley was cleared only last week to lead the Black Sox at the world championships after promising performances at the Vic Guth and Brother Patrick tournaments in Auckland.

Kohlhase said at the time Casley's shoulder had responded "outstandingly well".

"It's a credit to Rhys that he's able to play. He hit every game on the weekend and played a bit in the field, so we're really confident."

Casley had told The Hutt News, his hometown newspaper, last week that the shoulder was coming along nicely. He was "happy throwing and the strength is coming back and I am hitting fine".

The Hutt Valley Dodgers stalwart suffered the initial injury at the International Softball Congress tournament in the United States last August when he collided with a fielder while running the bases.

"It seemed pretty innocuous," he said after surgery in November.

"There wasn't a lot of pain but as soon as I went to throw a ball, I knew there was something wrong, so I went straight to the emergency room."

After returning to New Zealand, he discovered the biceps tendon was torn off the bone and his labrum (shoulder joint) was "pretty torn up". The surgeon had to "drill some anchors and sew it all back together".

Casley, who made his world championship debut as an outfielder in 2009, has been Black Sox captain since 2010.

However, Kohlhase has a strong leadership group to cover his skipper's likely loss. Jarrad Martin - who captained the Black Sox to the world title in 2004 - appeals as a possible replacement leader while Thomas Makea, Donny Hale, Brad Rona, Patrick Shannon and Daniel Milne also have plenty of experience.

If Casley cannot play, it would be the second time an injury jinx has struck the Black Sox on the eve of a home world championship campaign. Marty Grant, who pitched a no-hitter to win the 2000 tournament final, tore a calf muscle a few days before the 2004 tournament in Christchurch.

The Press