The Wellington Firebirds’ squad for the coming season includes some new faces as three young local cricketers join the contract list for the first time.
Lauchie Johns, Rachin Ravindra, and Ben Sears have all been offered contracts having progressed through the local pathway.
Cricket Wellington Pathway Manager, Chris Nevin was delighted to see the young local trio rise to being contracted professional cricketers, acknowledging the impact that the path they have taken will have on other aspiring players,
“I think it’ll be a real boost for other players to see that hard work, coupled with performances at club level, and then at A level, will be rewarded.
“It’s now be up to them to continue to perform and force their way into the starting side.”
Nevin went on to highlight the development of Johns in recent years,
“Lauchie has performed well for the As over the last couple of years and had a break-out season in 2017-18, making his First-Class debut.
“His consistency with the gloves, combined with heavy run-scoring at club, Dempster Shield, and provincial A level certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.”
Wellington Firebirds head coach, Bruce Edgar, is understandably excited by the potential of his new charges,
“Ben Sears has outstanding capability as a pace bowler and is currently with the MCC Young Cricketers in the UK. If not for rain, he would’ve made his Firebirds’ debut last season.
“Rachin is a superb spin bowler who can bat anywhere. He made headlines with the BLACKCAPS U19s last season and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do at provincial level.”
Both Ravindra and Sears were part of the Firebirds’ Rookie programme instituted by coaches Edgar and Glenn Pocknall last season. That programme gave them the chance to be part of the team’s setup, giving them an insight into the environment and culture, as Edgar outlined,
“Their rise to full squad members this year is real vindication for the rookie programme. They’ll come in to the squad already knowing a lot about our systems and what we’re trying to achieve.”
The Rookie programme will be in effect this season as well, with BLACKCAPS’ U19 players Jakob Bhula, Luke Georgeson, and Callum McLachlan joined by talented off-spinner Jed Wiggins.
In the full squad, Devon Conway and Jimmy Neesham receive Firebirds’ contracts for the first time.
Conway made a big impact last year, leading the batting averages for the side in the Burger King Super Smash, while Neesham has made the move north to join the side.
In recent seasons, the Firebirds have recruited well and coach Edgar emphasised how important those players have been to the overall culture he and Pocknall have built,
“It’s important that we add the right people to the group and that means guys who offer a lot – on and off field – and that’s true of all our players, no matter how long they’ve been part of the side.
“We’re looking to build a squad that has some good combinations and is well-balanced. We’re confident we’ve achieved that in this group, with the bonus of a nice mix of experienced players and younger guys.”
As well as the retirement of the Michael Papps, the Firebirds’ coaches have also had to build their squad without another mainstay, as Stephen Murdoch moves to Canterbury for personal reasons.
Cricket Wellington CEO, Cam Mitchell acknowledged the impact of those who have contributed to the side and cricket in the capital in recent seasons,
“We understand that the contracting process is a challenging one for players and no decisions are made lightly.
“There are a number of players who have moved on or missed out who have given a lot to cricket in our region, and we are very grateful for all that they have contributed and sacrificed.
“Now, the future is the focus and we’re looking forward to seeing what Bruce, Glenn, and the squad they’ve assembled can achieve in the coming season.”
The contracted Wellington Firebirds for 2018-19 are:
Logan van Beek
The recipient of the 16th contract will be named on Saturday 30 June.