Taranaki v Hawke's Bay
Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
Word has it Bronson Meehan is "simply over cricket".
Suffice it to say Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay senior men's cricket team coach Lincoln Doull is miffed with the attitude of his top-order batsman from Complete Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys.
Doull did mince his words a little, but there was no subtlety in the tone of his voice.
"Let's just say I've had a brief chat with Bronson and I've left it at that," he said, before hitting the highway to New Plymouth for their last Hawke Cup qualifying match against Taranaki from today.
"Bronson knows I'm not that happy about that ... and I'm still annoyed," the former Wellington first-class player said, after the team effectively blew their chances of becoming the Central Districts qualifiers to earn the right to challenge for minor association supremacy, following a first-innings loss to Manawatu in Palmerston a fortnight ago.
Meehan was among the top-order batsmen who got starts but didn't go on to anchor the Bay's innings after the bowlers skittled the Michael Mason-coached Manawatu for a gettable 267 runs at Fitzherbert Park.
Doull had chastised his batsmen - bar veteran No 6 James Mackie - claiming they had played "silly shots with soft outs at stupid times" on the foundation of "very bad decisions" going into that match as competition leaders.
Meehan, though, clarifies he wants to play for the Bay men but other factors make it unviable.
"Hawke's Bay Cricket sadly don't pay my bills so I have to work, as much as I love playing cricket," says the 22-year-old, who helps run a children's programme, Kelly Sports, owned by Hawke's Bay Cricket Association chief executive Craig Findlay.
With 60 children and five staff helping out, Meehan says the timing of the last round didn't help although if the Bay team were in a commanding position he would have been available.
Overall, the opening batsman says he is "cricketed out".
While the new format for the New Zealand Club Championship is better than earlier seasons' method based on the one-day winners of the previous summer, Meehan reckons it crammed in extra games into the HBCA's T20, English style (60-over) and one-day (50-over) competitions.
Favourites NTOB lost to CHB at Ongaonga Domain on Christmas Eve in the final qualifying match on the Duckworth-Lewis Method after rain disrupted play.
That prompted an outburst from skipper George Diack, who labelled the domain wicket substandard and outlined the merits of playing the final at Nelson Park, Napier.
Diack unequivocally apologised for his remarks when normal premier men's club one-day competition resumed this month. Amid some flak, the NTOB sounded like bad losers.
Meehan says the club champ's one-dayers had left many players in a "social competition" disgruntled.
"Christmas and New Year is a time to have fun and have a few beers and chill out. We ended up having one measly weekend off when traditionally we have three weekends off cricket."
Last month, he spoke of the irony of playing a selfishly individual summer sport masquerading as a team one.
Revealing he still harbours a desire to play for the CD Stags some day, Meehan had touched on how in the blink of an eye a batsman could lose his confidence.
Not playing this weekend, Meehan says: "I wish the boys a load of luck and hope that miracle [permutation] happens."
Manawatu, leading contenders now, play a weak Wairarapa this weekend and should challenge for the cup, bar what will be a colossal upset should the underdogs prevail.
The upshot of that is the Bay's fate rests on the permutations of what other teams will do.
Doull begs to differ, pointing out if Manawatu collect only seven points and the Bay pick up 10, then it is game on.
"It's a tough ask but it can happen," he says, emphasising the Bay still have to claim the maximum 10 points.
He insists Wairarapa won't be easy beats this weekend with the return of former CD rep Peter Borren and Dean van Deventer back to the fold.
For the Bay, Taradale batsman Toby Doyle comes in for Mackie, who is attending a friend's wedding.
CHB batsman Henry Hunter will fill Meehan's boots and also offers a spin option, with Ajaz Patel playing for CD against the Canterbury Wizards in a Plunket Shield match at McLean Park, Napier, this weekend.
CHB teenage seamer Driaan Lubbe comes in for another Stag, Andrew Mathieson.
"For some of the boys who have not played there, it'll be a great stage [Pukekura Park] so they're pretty excited about it," Doull says.
The Kerry O'Neill-coached Taranaki need a maximum 10-point victory but also need a miracle from Wairarapa to defeat Manawatu outright.
Central Stags batsman William Young is out with a broken finger since a training mishap in Dunedin in the match against champion team the Otago Volts.
Josh Barrett also comes in for Ryan Watson, who has been named in a wider national under-20 training squad after the national under-19 tournament in Christchurch.
The hosts' batting line-up is formidable, boasting former Black Caps and CD batsmen Peter Ingram and captain Dion Ebrahim opening, with Stags squad member Dean Robinson at first drop, although he has been out of form lately.
Pace bowler Douglas Hondo is a former Zimbabwe international in the mould of captain Ebrahim.
Hawke Cup zone 2 standings after round four matches: Manawatu 31, Hawke's Bay 28, Taranaki 24, Wairarapa 13, Wanganui 8, Horowhenua-Kapiti 2.
For the final round of Hawke Cup-qualifying match between Revital Fertilisers Taranaki and Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, from today:
Hawke's Bay: Jacob Smith (c), Jayden Waters, Michael Taiaroa, Seb Langridge (wkt), Ben Jackett (all Cornwall); Stevie Smidt, Liam Rukuwai (NTOB); Toby Doyle (Taradale); Scott Schaw, Angus Schaw, Driaan Lubbe, Henry Hunter (CHB).
Coach: Lincoln Doull.
Taranaki: Dion Ebrahim (c), Peter Ingram, Dean Robinson, James McDougall, Tom Bruce, Moritz Hartman, Andrew Mason, Jamie Watkins, Douglas Hondo, Josh Barrett, Jackson Braddock-Pajo (wk), Rob McLeod.
Coach: Kelly O'Neill.