Hockey: Indian league stalemate

By Michael Brown

Talks between Hockey New Zealand and players' association stall over availability.

Nick Wilson was snapped up by the Ranchi Rhinos for $28,500. Photo / NZPA
Nick Wilson was snapped up by the Ranchi Rhinos for $28,500. Photo / NZPA

Negotiations between Hockey New Zealand and the Hockey Players' Association have stalled over whether Nick Wilson and Simon Child will be able to sidestep a national training camp in February to play the entire Hockey India League.

The pair were the only two of nine Black Sticks available for auction for the new league, which is due to run from January 16 to February 10 and involve six franchises, based in Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Mohali, Ranchi and either Bangalore or Chennai.

Wilson was bought by the Ranchi Rhinos for US$24,000 ($28,500) and Child by the Delhi Wave Riders for US$20,000.

But their ability to pocket all of that in the pay-for-play league will be compromised if they are forced to return to New Zealand for a national training camp from February 5-12. Attendance at this stage is compulsory and new Black Sticks coach Colin Batch said earlier this month he was not prepared to change the date.

"They will still have to come back for the camp," Batch said. "We have put the camp there for a reason and the national programme comes first. I would want every player who is selected in the national squad to attend that camp because it's an important phase in our yearly structure and it's one of the few times we have all the national players together."

The HIL was initially scheduled to finish by the end of January, prompting Hockey New Zealand to schedule the camp when they did. They cannot push it back in February because it would clash with the start of the new European season which many New Zealand players, including Wilson and Child, are involved in.

Hockey New Zealand and the players' association met yesterday to try to thrash out an agreement but could not find a workable solution. Hockey New Zealand wants the players to return for the camp and the players' association want the players to be able to cash in.

The two parties agreed to extend the current memorandum of understanding (player contracts), which was due to expire at the end of the year, until March 31 as they attempt to find a solution. Neither party was able to comment during the process.

Wilson said he would abide by whatever agreement is reached.

"I will definitely go to India in the first place, it's just a matter of whether I will come back early for the camp," the 22-year-old striker said. "I would like to do both but it's just a matter of which one I am able to do. I like playing for New Zealand and I want to play in the Indian league. We just have to negotiate where the best place is for me.

"We don't get a lot of financial support playing for New Zealand. Hockey New Zealand do the best they can but it's quite a big programme to run and sponsorship isn't anywhere near like rugby.

"It means a hell of a lot for New Zealand players to play in a league like this because it means we can commit fully to our training and playing for New Zealand as well. The thing I want to do and everyone wants to do is play for New Zealand for a long time. The Indian league is a great opportunity to do that."

Each of the six franchises is made up of 24 players - 14 Indian and 10 overseas players - and Dutchman Teun de Nooijer went for the highest price when the Uttar Pradesh Wizards forked out US$87,400.

- APNZ

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