Expect the battle of the catchers to have a significant impact on the pre-Christmas final in Hawke's Bay's premier men's softball competition tomorrow.
It's a classic case of an old head in Fast Pitch Giants player-coach Te Rangi Chadwick, 25, up against a promising youngster in Saints 16-year-old Jacob Zurcher. Like Chadwick, Zurcher, started premier ball as a 13-year-old and has already emulated Chadwick's age group feats pulling on a black and white top at under-13, 15, 17 and 19 levels.
The pair have earnt the respect of each other as teammates in Hawke's Bay's senior rep team, the Central Vikings, this summer.
"Us older blokes are always learning off the younger players. You would be naive if you didn't ... if they're not teaching us they're remind us of things," Chadwick said before their respective teams trained last night at the venue for the final, Akina Park, Hastings.
Chadwick's Giants have won the last three pre-Christmas finals but he isn't taking a fourth consecutive title for granted. With three of his key players, former Junior Black Sox outfielder Rongo Rapaea and his infielder brother Puhi Rapaea (both family commitments) and utility Cameron Willis (overseas) unavailable, it's going to be a tough assignment.
"Just getting a starting nine has been a challenge. The older heads in the team know we have to perform to get us a win ... like last year we're going to have to score more than three runs to win," Chadwick said referring to the 2013 4-3 nailbiter.
"Pushing the limits has been one of our strengths for a while and we know we're going to have to do this again this weekend," he explained.
Concrete contractor Chadwick will play for Hutt Valley Dodgers at three major tournaments in the New Year, the Vic Guth and Dean Schick tournaments in Auckland and the North Harbour-hosted national interclubs and for Hutt Valley at National Fast Pitch Championship level.
Zurcher has yet to taste pre-Christmas competition glory and is hoping for a case of third-time lucky. He pointed out that Saints batters have had plenty of time to become familiar with Giants Canadian pitcher Kyle Crawford.
"It is a bit unusual because he has so much movement. Their big hitters are my biggest fear and it's up to me and Tamihana (Hokianga) to try and shut them down," Zurcher said.
An apprentice carpenter with Millbrook Furniture Solutions, Zurcher, hopes to gain Junior Black Sox selection in the near future. If he does Chadwick is likely to be among the first player he thanks.
"Te Rangi has taught me a lot including technique stuff ... particularly the best way to get the outs at two," Zurcher added.