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Auckland Softball voices concerns over National Fastpitch Champs

Monday 26 February 2024, 2:35PM

By dave worsley

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After victories in the National Fastpitch Championship, Auckland Softball is calling on Softball New Zealand to make vital improvements to the tournament for the future of the event.

Last season, delays as a result of scheduling at the NFC meant some players had to depart the tournament during the grand final in Christchurch.

This 2023-24 tournament was only marginally better as Auckland Softball again pushed for solutions from the governing body.

At the recent NFC at Rosedale Park, Auckland won both men's and women's titles to sit back on top of softball's provincial level in New Zealand.

The result which saw the men beat Canterbury in their final and the women's team account for North Harbour, still left plenty of conjecture around the management of the tournament.

Long-running discussions regarding the format and the timing of the tournament for the benefit of all have not brought about any real change. This is despite the last three NFC finals seeing the losing team leaving prior to prizegiving due to time constraints.

Players and management have had to catch flights, including Canterbury in this year's final. One of the umpires for the final also left before the completion of the game.

The timing issue came to a head last season when Hoani Lambert, Chairperson of the SNZ Board said Softball Auckland’s actions were unacceptable. 

In the lead up to the 2022/23 tournament in Christchurch Softball NZ was informed by the Auckland Softball four weeks prior to the event about our only flight options due to the increased costs around travelling during Labour Weekend.  

That followed with a meeting involving SNZ on the night before the finals confirming the departure time on the last day. The day of the final another meeting was held looking for other solutions including playing the game on a different diamond but SNZ would not make changes due to livestreaming.  

The start of both finals was delayed due to SNZ, with teams sitting in the dugouts waiting for games to commence.  

Policies and procedures have been talked about so that the situation wouldn't occur again. But nothing has been initiated and the 2024 men's final saw Softball NZ, with no discussion reduce the warm-ups to one pitch per innings due to time constraints.  

Auckland Softball are concerned that the pinnacle event has been impacted by event management in the previous three years. 

The Canterbury Softball proposal, backed by Auckland Softball at the SNZ conference in May 2023 was for a multi week National League. The concept was unanimously approved by Associations. 

However, nine months later Softball NZ has not completed any work on the issue much to the disappointment of Softball Auckland’s CEO, Gareth Teahan.

“Auckland suffered last season with travel difficulties and mammoth charges to try and change flights from Christchurch for amateur sportspeople. We could see the problems occurring, but nothing was done about it,” said Teahan. 

“This year the tournament was held in Auckland and Canterbury were watching the clock and weren’t able to stay for prizegiving. It devalues what is otherwise a great national team’s event. Auckland Softball will continue to advocate and assist with a new concept that allows our top-level players to excel at the highest level