Search for O'Neill replacement to start

TONY BIRD
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013

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The Taranaki Cricket Association's search for a new head coach will begin soon.

The position became available when incumbent coach Kerry O'Neill announced he was stepping aside, after Revital Fertilisers Taranaki failed in their bid to win a Hawke Cup challenge this summer.

"At the moment Kerry is undertaking an end-of-season performance review of all players as part of the management system," association chairman Neil Sulzberger said yesterday.

"At the end of that process, TCA has a subcommittee that will analyse the review findings and then review the team management before starting the appointment process."

Sulzberger hoped a management team for the 2013-14 season would be settled on within eight weeks.

He was reluctant to discuss possible candidates or those who may be in the mix for the head coaching role.

"We have two level three coaches [Jamie Watkins and Debu Banik] in the province and we have a lot of experienced cricketers that have played for the province for a long time."

While not ruling out a player-coach taking the job, Sulzberger appeared lukewarm on the option.

"TCA have been down that road in the past and the results of that were not as good as what we expected," he said.

"It gives more independence to have a coach that is removed from the team in the playing sense and there is a desire that we do have independence."

Taranaki this season were beaten semifinalists in the one-day Chapple Cup competition held in Napier, and finished third in the Hawke Cup elimination series.

O'Neill gave his team a mark of six out of 10 for the season.

"If you looked at the Hawke Cup competition, the three most likely teams to win a challenge were Hawke's Bay, Manawatu and us. So when Manawatu beat us outright in the first round, that was fatal.

"It gave Manawatu a huge advantage, which made it too difficult to peg that back in the end."

O'Neill said the rain-shortened match against Wairarapa, and not being able to bowl out Horowhenua-Kapiti in the second innings, were other setbacks to Taranaki's chances.

O'Neill said it was the right time to step aside and let someone else take over as head coach.

"But I certainly want to go over things for the new guy coming in as to where we are and what we need to do better," he said.

"Whoever is coming in can pick up those opinions if they want to or not. That's the reason for having a review of the season."

O'Neill's departure ends what has been a long association with Taranaki Cricket.

It started back in 1978 when O'Neill played senior cricket for the Patea Cricket Club.

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He went on to represent the province from 1982 to 1984 before joining the association's management ranks.

O'Neill was a selector for the 1994-95 season, then selector-coach (1996-98), assistant coach to Ali Jordan (2006-2010), and, for the past two seasons, head coach and selector.

He said he had thoroughly enjoyed the part he played and would take with him a lot happy memories.

"The highlights were numerous. We won a Hawke Cup challenge back in 1997 - when we got beaten by Nelson. That was a good season and then we won the Chapple Cup when I was working with Ali in 2009-10."

O'Neill said he especially enjoyed seeing players he had been involved with achieve at higher levels of the game.

"The William Youngs and guys like Peter Ingram. When I first started, Peter was a 15-year-old school kid and he went on to play first-class cricket for New Zealand," he said. "Seeing guys reach their potential, they are my highlights."

O'Neill doesn't plan on walking away from the the game completely. He was just stepping aside to give someone with a few different ideas a chance to coach the Taranaki team.

"I will still be involved with cricket. I've been involved since I was a 6-year-old kid and of course we [Revital Fertilisers, of which he is a director] will continue as a sponsor."

- Taranaki Daily News

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