Former international Jesse Ryder isn't totally lost to cricket after a failed quest to find his perch among the Black Caps again.
Ryder, who Central Districts Stags also overlooked for domestic contract in the 2018-19 summer, is back in the Innovate Electrical Limited Napier Technical Old Boys premier men's club team as player/coach.
"We just wanted someone who had the skills and the experience to help out the premiers and the division one players so Jesse's just running training and providing one-on-one technical advice during the week," says newly appointed NTOB community sports club manager of cricket and rugby Morten Freer, who is also a player for the powerhouse side who have had a stranglehold on the overall Property Brokers-sponsored Hawke's Bay premier men's competition which starts today.
Freer, who also is a player in the prem side, says the 34-year-old replaces Dale Smidt who has stepped down as prem coach to focus on his administrative role with the Hawke's Bay Cricket Association.
Ryder has sold his property in Wellington to resettle in Napier.
The Masterton-born cricketer settled in Napier as a youngster before attending Napier Boys' High School.
He rose to prominence as a schoolboy with his ability to strike the ball cleanly with power and precision even before making his debut with NTOB who early this year were crowned the national club champions under captain Liam Rukuwai.
Ryder, who played 18 tests for his country and 48 one-day internationals, has scored 25 first-class centuries and 11 List A ones. He has three test tons and ODI ones each as well as half a dozen each of half centuries in both formats.
He made his domestic debut with CD in 2002-03 at 18 before leaving the province to ply his trade with the Wellington Firebirds for nine seasons and two with the Otago Volts.
Ryder returned in 2015-16 and under the tutelage of Stags coach Heinrich Malan did his utmost to claw his way back into the statistical equation for an international recall, although the national selectors didn't buy into it.
At the beginning of last summer the left-hander sat 11 runs shy of a record back-to-back four centuries in first-class cricket but still wasn't able to break into the New Zealand A team, never mind the Black Caps test side.
Ryder had had his share of run-ins with New Zealand Cricket and the writing was on the wall despite calls from cricket scribes around the country to urge former Black Caps coach Mike Hesson to throw him another lifeline.
On the other hand, CD Cricket opted to bank on two 21-year-old allrounders, South African-born Willem Ludick, of Nelson, and Christian Leopard, of Napier in their 16-strong squad this summer, along with Josh Clarkson, 21.
One-cap-old Ludick and Leopard proved their worth on Wednesday with some resolute batting in defending champion Stags' opening Plunket Shield match ending against the Canterbury Kings at Saxton Oval today.
"He started [playing for NTOB] in 2003, I think, when he left Napier Boys' High School so he'll probably finish there, too," says Freer of Ryder.
"At this stage he's just happy to play club cricket with a good group of mates and stay out of the limelight, mate, in trying to help out the club as much as possible."
Part of Freer's role is to help develop the juniors in both codes in light of dwindling numbers to ensure the stocks will go through to an elite level.
"Numbers are still very hard to come by," he says, revealing current membership is steady but certainly showing no signs of growth.
Freer puts some of it down to commitments people have to things outside sport and life.
"There's so much to offer a kid these days because only 20 years ago it was probably only rugby, cricket and soccer but now there are so many sports available that it's becoming hard for us to hold on to the mainstream ones."
The 30-year-old's position came into existence from September 1 after club secretary Jacqui Gardiner and rugby counterpart Steve Bryan retired.
"The two presidents got together to decide it was best to go back to the one administrator role ... to make life a little easier," he says of cricket and rugby, who share the clubrooms and facilities at Whitmore Park.
Freer says Gardiner was made the first female life member of the NTOB club at its annual meeting last month.
"She was really humbled to receive that," he says, lauding her for strong personality over the years.
"She used to keep the boys in line and has been awesome."
Freer also will perform some of the organisational tasks Smidt used to do.
He used to run the Active Indoor Sports Centre at the Pandora industrial site which he sold in 2012.
After a two-year stint with the Westpac branch in Napier, Freer worked as commercial property manager in Tauranga for four years where he played for the Otumoetai Cadets premier men's side.
When wife Rochelle gave birth to baby Ida 15 months ago the couple decided to return to Napier "because you have more baby sitters here".
Veteran Bronson Meehan, after helping out occasionally, returns fulltime and former You Travel Taradale CC member Kieran Noema-Barnett also is registered with NTOB but Freer reckons they'll be lucky to have the services of the former Stags skipper who has returned to the CD fold after the birth of a child while plying his trade in England.
Noema-Barnett is travelling with interim CD coach Ben Smith, of England, who is filling in while Malan is away with the NZ A side on the tour of UAE.
The prem men start with the 55-over English-style competition with all three matches at Nelson Park, Napier, where NTOB face last season's last-placed overall team Heretaunga Building Society Cornwall CC.
Second-placed Havelock North CC play fifth-placed The Station Napier Old Boys' Marist while Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay CC face Taradale in the third and fourth-placed sides.
HB Cricket chairman Craig Findlay says it's a five-round competition but the MJF [Mike] Shrimpton Memorial Trophy one-dayers will punctuate the longer format from Saturday next week.
"We'll also play five 50-over matches which will double up as the New Zealand club qualifiers, which have to be played before Christmas," Findlay says.