Some of Aotearoa's domestic cricket teams are ushering in funky new changes, while others are sitting in the luxurious position of a settled cricket group and Auckland Aces definitely fit into that first bracket. Prior to the final contracts being dished out, each province names it's first round of 15 contracts and over the next few days I'll roll through them all with a minor dive into the nitty gritty of each contract list, then once the final contracts are offered on July 1st, I'll hit the diving board to get deeper into what each team is offering.
Auckland Aces haven't just welcomed two of Aotearoa's most talented cricketers, they have done so with the help of new head coach Heinrich Malan. Malan has made the move up from Central Districts Stag and you could make a fair case for Malan being the best cricket coach in Aotearoa, even if you chuck Blackcaps coach Gary Stead into that mixer. With an undeniable run of success at the Stags, while also rolling in a fresh crop of young talent every season, Malan can implement those skills with a young Auckland group.
Given that Kyle Jamieson averages under 30 in both First Class and List-A cricket, along with a unique style of bowling, it's safe to say that Jamieson is one of, if not the hottest seam bowling prospect in Aotearoa. Jamieson returns to Auckland having moved down to Canterbury after finishing school and will join the likes of Jamie Brown, Ben Lister and Danru Ferns as a simmering crop of youngish seamers.
Corey Anderson's move to Auckland from Northern Districts, offers experience and obvious talent to the Aces. Anderson will join more experienced players like Matt McEwan, Will Somerville and Craig Cachopa in leading Auckland, although Anderson's batting and bowling will be under the microscope as he tries to sneak into Blackcaps contention.
Of all the domestic cricketers around Aotearoa, Anderson may be the bloke who needs a commanding season across multiple formats the most. The Blackcaps are fine without Anderson and his consistent injury battles have seen him slide down the depth chart, yet Anderson clearly has the talent of an international cricketer. This could be viewed as a nice chance for Anderson to freshen up his cricket vibes with a new group, under the tutelage of Malan who has a proven record of improving players.
I'll explore this Aces group further when the final contracts are offered, but my initial feeling is that this is one of my more exciting groups to follow. Solid veterans and oodles of young talent, now upgraded with the arrivals of Jamieson and Anderson, along with coach Malan. I'm most eager to see how Malan can impact the likes of Sean Solia, Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman who have all shown their talent at this level and could be eyeing up a nek level under Malan.
Finn Allen, Corey Anderson, Graeme Beghin, Jamie Brown, Craig Cachopa, Mark Chapman, Danru Ferns, Ben Horne, Kyle Jamieson, Ben Lister, Matt McEwan, Robbie O'Donnell, Glenn Phillips, Sean Solia, Will Somerville.
Auckland offered 15 contracts, Canterbury have offered 14 contracts and they have all gone to players from the Canterbury system. Andrew Ellis is again the OG veteran and he is joined by Stephen Murdoch and Cole McConchie as the key leaders in this group, while the rest of the squad is similar to Auckland as it features players around the mid-20's mark who have steadily gained plenty of domestic cricket experience.
That's a trend that sits across all domestic teams to be honest and is a lovely sign of where kiwi cricket currently sits. The domestic circuit used to be the domain of grizzly veterans, grumpy at the world while still enjoying the comfy life of being a semi-pro cricketer. Now every team is predominantly made up of younger players, hungry to suss out further opportunities and see where this cricketing thing can take them.
Canterbury absorb the loss of Jamieson with a group of solid young seamers in Andrew Hazeldine, Ed Nuttall, Henry Shipley and Will Williams. These seamers offer swing and their own height-related advantages, however Jamieson's departure takes some x-factor away from their seam department and that can alternatively be viewed as an opportunity for someone to step up. Nuttall has been around the longest and has the best skillset, whilst also battling injuries a fair bit, leading to plenty of intrigue around this group of seamers from Canterbury.
There is no shortage of batting prowess in this Canterbury squad with Chad Bowes, Jack Boyle, Leo Carter and Ken McClure all having prodigious run-scoring moments over the past few seasons. Cameron Fletcher also put himself just behind the likes to Tim Seifert and Dane Cleaver in the wicket-keeping stakes after a strong summer and his development will be an interesting narrative across all formats.
Chad Bowes, Jack Boyle, Blake Coburn, Leo Carter, Andrew Ellis, Cameron Fletcher, Andrew Hazedine, Ken McClure, Cole McConchie, Stephen Murdoch, Ed Nuttall, Henry Shipley, Will Williams, Theo van Woerkom.
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