Claims of a "farcical" appointment process at Auckland Cricket and an exodus from the board has renewed calls for a change of leadership at the troubled association.
According to multiple sources, board chairman Nick Albrecht and chief executive Iain Laxon will be asked to front club delegates, many of whom are angry at what they believe was a botched appointment for the newly created director of performance and talent; a situation that saw a leading candidate walk away and three board members – Brett Hollister, Chris Glackin and Paula Gruber – resign.
The position was created in part to address fundamental concerns with the high-performance arm of Auckland Cricket, which lags behind most of the other five associations in key areas.
The sources, some of whom chose to remain anonymous because they were either not cleared to speak on behalf of their clubs, or feared retribution from the board, had a wide range of alleged grievances, including:
* A high-performance subcommittee being ignored;
* Three board members resigning as a result;
* A potential home ground move;
* A damning independent high-performance report by former All Black Ant Strachan;
* A lack of suitable nets and indoor training facilities in the city;
* What is believed to be a poor record of talent identification;
* An under-performing first-class side;
* Claims of damaging board politicking.
"Yes, the reason I walked away from the board was the appointment process," Gruber told the Herald. "It was very disappointing."
Gruber said she had a 30-year association with Auckland Cricket, going back her time as an age-grade player, through to the Hearts. She played two one-day internationals for the White Ferns in 2000.
Glackin, another board member with a long-standing relationship with cricket in the city after close a decade as chair of Takapuna, did not want to comment on specifics but confirmed that anger at key decisions around the appointment of the director of performance and discussions around moving the association to Colin Maiden Park were behind his decision to walk away.
There has been talk of dissatisfaction at the Albrecht-led board for some time, particularly by those whose allegiances lie beyond the "big four" city-based clubs of Grafton, Parnell, Cornwall and University.
That boiled over when ACA board member Campbell Newman moved a no-confidence motion against the chair in September last year. Albrecht saw that off and Newman is no longer on the board.
The current flashpoint, however, is the appointment process around the director of performance.
An interview panel convened that initially included Glackin, Strachan, Laxon and New Zealand Cricket's Bryan Stronach.
The first round of interviews was inconclusive and although Stronach could not attend the second-round, the three-man panel decided in favour of an ex-Auckland rep and ahead of Daniel Archer, who was part of Northern Districts' high-performance set-up.
The Herald has agreed not to publish the preferred candidate's name so as not to compromise his current employment. He did, however, confirm he had withdrawn from consideration due to uncertainty with the process and a subsequent employment opportunity.
A high-performance subcommittee had agreed unanimously to endorse his nomination for the position, several sources said. The process then began to "unravel", with elements on the ACA board pointing to the absence of Stronach at the second-round of interviews.
The board decided to ask NZC to review the two candidates. Stronach came back into the process to review it alongside Martin Croy, the high-performance manager at Canterbury Cricket, and a referee of Archer.
They recommended Archer for the role.
"We are delighted to have someone of Daniel's quality and calibre join us to lead our High-Performance environment," Laxon said in a release. "Daniel has a fantastic knowledge of the cricket environment in New Zealand and proven leadership qualities that will help us develop exceptional systems and people within our HP system."
The situation was described as a "farce" by one source, however, and saw the resignation of a good chunk of the board.
Hollister, who was CEO of North Harbour Rugby for 11 years after working with Canterbury Rugby and the Crusaders was left appalled.
Hollister said he "voluntarily chose to resign" from the ACA board due to what he believed was "a lack of alignment around key values, trust and integrity".
"I worry for the future of cricket in Auckland under the current regime," Hollister said.
Along with Newman's departure, that means half the board has left or quit in a year.
Laxon told the Herald he had confidence in the process taken.
"When you have board members resigning it's not ideal," he said, "and not how you want the process to run.
"In terms of the actual appointment – the interviews and the involvement of the parties within it – it was a really good process."
Laxon said the board seeking NZC input before making the appointment was a "logical alignment" given the aims of any major association was to add value to cricket in the country.
ACA's leadership is expected to face pushback when they front the clubs.
In an email to clubs, Laxon wrote: "Following a disagreement at board level on a key strategic appointment for Auckland Cricket, three directors of Auckland Cricket have tendered their resignation from the Board, as they are entitled to do.
"Whilst this is unfortunate the Auckland Cricket board remains committed to working collaboratively to ensure effective leadership of the organisation and focusing on the delivery of our new strategy."
In replies seen by the Herald, club chairs and delegates pressed Laxon.
"To say that three board members' resignations (from a total of seven) was brought about due to a 'disagreement' would surely be understating the circumstances," replied the chairwoman of Takapuna CC Susanne Martin, who expressed the opinion that there must have been compelling reasons for the mass resignations.
She was quickly supported in her request for details from the chairs of the North Shore, Waitakere and Kumeu clubs.
One high-level source said that while things were far from perfect at the association, they were sympathetic to the plight faced by Laxon and Albrecht saying that while politics probably played a part in the final decision to appoint Archer, politics also played a "huge part" in the push for the unnamed candidate too.
Another source said Auckland Cricket's issues should be front and centre of New Zealand Cricket's agenda going forward.
"If New Zealand Cricket are to continue to punch above their weight they need to do something about their biggest MA not contributing in the way it should from a playing, governance or commercial point of view," the source opined.
They point to a major association in New Zealand's biggest city that has lost a number of its biggest talents over the years, including batsman Kyle Jamieson (since returned as a world-class bowler), James Neesham, Finn Allen, Jeet Raval, Roneel Hira and latterly Will O'Rourke.
There is also pressing concern about the association's failure to find a suitable home base, with widespread disbelief that Colin Maiden Park, in Auckland's east, remains a live discussion.
Laxon confirmed there was no "proposal" in place to move to the Merton Rd venue, though acknowledged that it was part of the organisation's strategy that could accommodate the association's high-performance and administrative needs and due to Colin Maiden's hosting of domestic cricket in the past, it was "part of the conversation".