Coach mulls future-players' tour

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012

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An emerging players' tour might serve a better purpose long term than sending Taranaki's rep side away overseas, according to coach Kerry O'Neill.

Reacting to Daily News columnist Ian Snook's suggestion this week that Taranaki's players would benefit greatly from playing matches outside of the province in the leadup to the Chapple Cup and Hawke Cup, O'Neill said there were a number of issues that would likely prevent it happening.

Snook's column comes on the back of Taranaki slipping well behind Hawke Cup zone two leaders Hawke's Bay with two matches left.

While cost was an obvious obstacle, O'Neill said his players were also hamstrung by their other commitments.

"It comes back to having amateur players and costs. They are always a couple of obvious issues to deal with."

He did, however, back Snook's suggestion that players needed better conditions earlier in the season to be on an even playing field with the likes of Hawke's Bay but it was an ongoing and inevitable problem with Taranaki's traditional wet spring.

O'Neill did not think an end-of-year tour would benefit the team greatly.

"It could just turn into a booze trip for the boys," he said. "One of my biggest concerns is the growing gap between professionals and amateurs and it's the same in rugby.

"I was lucky enough to play rep cricket when you could play the likes of Hawke's Bay and you could come up against a New Zealand player. Nowadays, you would never see it, or very rarely, put it that way."

Another area of concern for O'Neill was the number of young players who were walking away from the game after years playing for age-group rep sides.

"Everything in New Zealand cricket is geared towards age-group and then that sudden leap into the senior ranks," he said. "Kids get picked from under-13, 15, 17, 19 and they really just expect to get picked again and if they don't, we tend to lose them.

"So, for me, an emerging players tour would be a good concept for guys who were over 19 and we would see them be a bit more mentally tougher when they are 23 or 24."

Taranaki Cricket Association chairman Neil Sulzberger was reluctant to talk about many of Snook's suggestions, preferring to wait until the season's end before commenting.

"Snooky raises some interesting questions and a lot of those things will be discussed in our season debrief at the end of the year with management," he said.

"The TCA board will then evaluate what they are going to do. Costs are a huge part of the rep scene to us."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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