Don't discount the chances of Hawke's Bay softballer Jovaan Hanley returning to the Black Sox team for the June World Series in the Czech Republic.
That was the message from the Bay's most successful national title-winning age group team coach Tom Makea snr after watching Hanley in action for the title-winning Poneke-Kilbirnie team at the weekend's North Island Classic tournament at Akina Park, Hastings.
"Jovaan was a bit rusty because he hasn't been getting many games down in Wellington because of bad weather. He just needs more games ... the fitness is definitely there," Makea snr said.
"With the February National Fastpitch Championship tournament in Christchurch as well as the March national men's interclubs in Auckland to be played before the World Series team is announced, Jovaan has plenty of time to impress," he added.
Hanley, 27, was a member of the Black Sox team which finished second at the World Series in Canada in 2015. He missed selection in the side which won the World Series in Canada last year and opted to have a rest from the sport during the 2017-18 season.
"I felt like I was getting burnt out and I needed a break," Hanley recalled.
"If everything pans out the right way I would be stoked if I made the World Series team. But I'm just looking to have some fun and enjoy the season ... I was definitely proud of the boys at the weekend," he added.
The weekend's Just Softball-sponsored 10-team event was one of utility Hanley's first tournaments since returning this season. He proved it won't take him long to regain the form which saw him ranked among the top 11 New Zealanders in the code by Fastpitch World Media in 2016.
An Alto Packaging worker from Hastings, Hanley, was one of seven products of Hawke's Bay's premier men's club competition in the Wellington-based Poneke-Kilbirnie team which was unbeaten all weekend.
The others were Makea snr's sons, Campbell and William, Josh Gettins, Horowai Puketapu, Xaviar Herrick and former Junior Black Sox catcher Callum Carson.
Makea snr's grandson, Black Sox outfielder Reilly Makea, the son of Hawke's Bay's four-time world champion Thomas Makea jnr, added to the Hawke's Bay flavour in the Poneke-Kilbirnie side. His brother, Dante Matakatea, played for Miramar.
On Saturday defending champions Poneke-Kilbirnie beat Hutt Valley Cardinals 15-1, Johnsonville 10-0, Hutt City United 5-2 and Maraenui Pumas 10-0 in round-robin play.
On Sunday Poneke-Kilbirnie beat Porirua 5-1, Island Bay 5-3, Miramar 6-3, Hutt City United 5-2 and Johnsonville 10-0 in the top-six Trophy division to secure a berth in the final against Johnsonville, who had Black Sox pitcher Josh Pettett on their roster.
Poneke-Kilbirnie, with Hanley on the mound, won the final 6-3. Johnsonville tied the game up at the top of the second to last inning with a run to Jarrad MacDonald.
An automatic home run from Black Sox squad member Jerome Raemaki and solid hits from Herrick and Reilly Makea saw Poneke-Kilbirnie add another three runs which Johnsonville had to match with their final turn at bat. This proved too big an ask against such a star studded outfit.
Former Hawke's Bay pitcher Regan Manley did the bulk of the work on the mound for the third placed Porirua team. Another former Bay pitcher, Jordan Waterhouse, was prominent in the Miramar club's fourth placing.
Tournament organiser Craig Waterhouse was rapt to see the first string pitchers in three of the top four teams were all products of Hawke's Bay's premier men's competition.
In the plate final Maraenui Pumas beat Fast Pitch 6-3 to gain revenge for a 5-2 loss in round-robin play on Saturday.
The Aranui brothers - Karaitiana, Tiwana and Manaaki - batted in four of Pumas runs in the final while Fast Pitch player-coach Te Rangi Chadwick hit a massive home run, the only homer of the game.
Pumas and Fast Pitch were the only Hawke's Bay-based teams to play in the tournament. Both finished fourth in their respective sections on Saturday with one win each.