Roaming in the 'Groves
Deep in the Cricketing Mangroves & The Hannah Wilkinson Quintet
The Niche Cast - God SZN (Blackcaps, Ajaz Patel, Super Smash)
Flying Kiwis – December 22 (Football)
Deep in the cricket mangroves…
Thoroughly enjoying the summer diet of cricket and there are plenty of tidbits to explore. Let’s start with England's mahi in the Ashes, because their woes are evident in their form against Aotearoa. Earlier this year the Blackcaps played two Tests against England and drew the first Test, then swapped out six players to win the second Test. That first Test also featured Devon Conway hitting a double hundred on debut at Lord’s and a Blackcaps team that wanted to generate a result with attacking cricket, only for England to put a muzzle on any fun.
Aotearoa went to England, drew the first Test and swapped out six players to defeat England in England in the second. Of course, England play so much cricket that they got washed up in all sorts of other series (five Tests vs India, T20 Blast, The Hundred) and the Blackcaps dominance over England in England was swept under the rug.
Swept under the rug like England’s record against Aotearoa since the start of 2015…
2015: England win, NZ win (in England).
2018: NZ win, draw (in NZ).
2019: NZ win, draw (in NZ).
2021: Draw, NZ win (in England).
We can play cricket math here as Aotearoa always struggles in Australia (smoked in the last tour) and if Aotearoa’s consistently better than England, then England will obviously struggle in Australia. England’s woes are a boil up of what not to do when building a sports system and from tactics in this Ashes to building County cricket there are all sorts of niggly notes. England only compare themselves to Australia though while their struggles against little ol’ Aotearoa get overlooked.
I feel good about Blackcaps vs England Test cricket - almost as good as I feel about Blackcaps vs Bangladesh in Aotearoa. This will be a show, fun for everyone and good vibes all round. Before the first Test we have a warm up game with Neil Wagner and Devon Conway lining up for the Aotearoa 11.
Don’t stress about the other names for the Aotearoa 11 though. While NZC’s announcement made it sound like the Aotearoa 11 was a who’s who of young talent, the basic truth is that these are players not playing Super Smash. Wellington’s Tim Robinson looked exceptional in a brief Super Smash knock recently and he’s in the team, while everyone else is surplus to their Super Smash teams.
Brett Randell has been dominant in Plunket Shield and he’s named among talented young cricketers. They aren’t good enough to be consistently selected in Super Smash 1st 11s though and that’s very different to an Aotearoa ‘A’ type of squad.
I dropped another Otago Sparks update this morning after their win yesterday over Canterbury. As for Canterbury wahine…
Missy Banks is on the rise as a young seamer. 3w @ 5.50rpo vs Otago and 7w @ 6.33rpo overall for the 20-year-old.
Tough start for Amy Satterthwaite after five games: 86 runs @ 17.20avg/92sr.
Amy’s wife White Ferns seamer Lea Tahuhu has 76 runs @ 25.33avg/181sr.
Tahuhu is also the only Canterbury batter to hit a six (4).
19-year-old Abigale Gerken scored 50 and 108 in back to back HBJ Shield games (mid-November). In five Super Smash games she has 21 runs @ 4.20avg.
Canterbury vs Otago men…
Canterbury have Ed Nuttall and Matt Henry leading all wicket-takers. Five games each, 21 wickets between them and along with Todd Astle they have 27w. Compare that to Michael Rippon who is Otago’s best bowler with 6w @ 28.66avg/9.05rpo.
Henry Nicholls domestic form…
Super Smash: 2inns, 84 runs @ 84avg/145sr.
Plunket Shield: 3inns, 158 runs @ 52.66avg.
Jacob Duffy is the most interesting Otago bowler as he’s taken 3w @ 54.66avg/9.11rpo.
Duffy made his Blackcaps T20I debut last summer and his four games amounted to 5w @ 15avg/15.6sr - pretty damn good. In the Super Smash last summer though, Duffy 4w @ 85.25avg and in a tough tour of Bangladesh, Duffy took 1w @ 42avg in three games.
I do not believe Duffy is a top-tier T20 seamer.
Hamish Rutherford is fantastic. 144sr across 161 games and right now in the Super Smash, Rutherford is 2nd for runs (159 @ 146sr). Rutherford and Neil Broom (101 runs @ 104sr) are the only Otago batters with 70+ runs.
Meanwhile in Australia…
The Hannah Wilkinson Quintet
Absolutely unreal from Hannah Wilkinson in the Melbourne Derby last night. She scored all five goals for Melbourne City in a 5-1 win over rivals the Victory. A mixture of clever positioning, composed finishing, and a little bit of physical dominance doing the trick for Wilkie as she equalled Kate Gill’s A-League Women’s record of five bangers in a single match. The 26 minutes she took to complete her hatty from opening kickoff was also a record.
Kate Gill, curiously enough, was born in New Zealand. However she grew up and played all her footy in Australia and actually debuted for the Matildas against Aotearoa... going on to score 41 goals in 86 caps. She scored her five for Perth Glory in a 10-1 win over Western Sydney back in 2014. Sam Kerr scored twice for Perth that day also. Craziest thing about that game was it was still 0-0 after 40 minutes.
Hannah Wilkinson also scored twice against Adelaide a week ago so that’s seven goals in her last two appearances. Seven goals has her way clear at the top of the Golden Boot standings (nobody else has more than three). No kiwi woman has ever won that award before so that’s one to write down as a target to manifest now. Let’s go Wilkie.
She had chances to score in each of her first two matches as well, it just took her a couple games to get back into rhythm, so there’s nothing to suggest that this scoring streak is some unsustainable fluke. Five goals in one game obviously ain’t happening again in a hurry but she’s going to keep getting shots away and she’s probably going to keep scoring a decent amount of them.
Put it this way: HW has taken 20 shots in four games with 12 of them on target. That’s an average of five attempts per game with three of them on target. All four of those stats are the best in the league as of the time of writing. As a general rule, the players who score the most goals tend to be the ones who take the most shots. The more of those shots are on target, the more of them will go in (and the closer you are to the goal when you shoot, the better your chances of both those things – being on target and subsequently going in). Wilkinson has scored from 35% of her shots through these four games. Them’s crazy numbers.
In her post-game chat, HW spoke about how those goals belonged to the team as they were a result of an excellent combined effort across the park. One thing in particular that she mentioned was the pressing system that they’ve been working on since the start of pre-season. That’s gotta be music to Jitka Klimková’s ears.
The Footy Ferns are desperate for a striker who can lead the line and score goals whilst contributing to their new pressing system. Wilkinson has been the striker getting the most opportunities there for several years but her goal ratio has never been fantastic for the Ferns. Nor has mobility been a prime feature of how she’s been used as past coaches have often preferred to use her as a target striker. So to see her in great form, looking super fit as always, scoring bundles of goals, and playing in a tactical system close-ish to what the Ferns are building towards is next level awesome.
There’s an easy leap to make from here about the Wellington Phoenix hopefully trying to sign her for next season but that leap misses the whole purpose of the Nix and of the A-League in general. In the past couple years, so many of the best Aussie players have stopped coming back for A-League footy and instead signed in England or wider Europe. The Phoenix could obviously use a veteran kiwi international or two but their main reason for existence is to expand the kiwi pro player pool and they’re doing so in a competition which has proven itself to be a fantastic stepping stone into top professional leagues overseas.
Hannah Wilkinson is a great example of that. Her club career has taken her to several countries already and has alternated between disappointing goal tallies and absolute abundance. Here are the stats as best as I can find ‘em:
Vittsjö (Sweden) – 3 goals in 33 league matches
Sporting CP (Portugal) – 16 goals in 20 matches in all comps
Djurgården (Sweden) – 0 goals in 17 league matches
MSV Duisburg (Germany) – 3 goals in 10 matches
Melbourne City (Australia) – 7 goals in 4 matches
[Football Ferns – 26 goals in 100 matches]
There’s more to those numbers than the face value, of course. She did score in cup competition for Djurgården while most of her league games for them were as a substitute. For Vittsjö one of those rare goals was an absolute ripper that saved them from relegation on the final day. Duisburg did get relegated when she was there but Wilkie only played half a season and her goals gave them hope. Meanwhile her Sporting CP team was in a title race when coronavirus ended that season early.
Natural pattern there being that when she’s played for strong teams, she’s scored a lot of goals. When she’s played for weaker teams she has not. Same trend follows with the international stuff where a goal in every four caps is bang average for most strikers but to be fair most recent Ferns incarnations hardly ever manage to score at all against decent teams so in that context... not so bad after all. She’s the top scoring active player, after all.
The ideal scenario here is that a successful stint with Melbourne City is a launchpad to a contract with a WSL club in England or maybe an NWSL team in America (where Wilkie went to university)... and then peaking for the 2023 World Cup.
It’s a pathway that’s worked for plenty of other players out of the A-League so you know those scouts are watching. Liv Chance had a year with Brisbane Roar and leveraged that top form into a move to Celtic. Rebekah Stott was part of the main wave of Matildas players moving to England when she signed with Brighton and it was only her cancer diagnosis that saw her return. She’s slowly edging up her minutes at City by the way. Got 77 mins in the win over Victory and has lasted longer than the previous game each time so far.
It’s in that light that the likes of Rosie White, Katie Bowen, Daisy Cleverley, Jacqui Hand, etc. could do a lot worse than a short term contract with an A-League team as their next move (though not the Phoenix as they’re already at their quota... unless one of them can produce an Aussie passport or some form of dual citizenship). There is that salary subsidy for an NZ player on each roster which not every other club has used. You never know what offers are already on the table though. That’s the fun of it.
Also... spare a thought for the New Zealander on the other side of that 5-1 defeat. Claudia Bunge did her best to hold together a patchwork Victory defence to little avail. Her regular CB partner Kayla Morrison – one of the best defenders in this competition, with that Bunge/Morrison partnership leading MVC to the title a year ago – went down with an ACL injury in week one and they’ve not had much luck in trying to replace her.
Emma Robers came on for Morrison in the game she got injured. Midfielder Amy Jackson then started with Bunge in the other CB position the following game but was sent off late on. For the next one, usual fullback Courtney Nevin slid into the middle and didn’t have a great time of it. Victory still won all three of those games (including a 2-1 win over City in the Jackson red card match) but the bubble inevitably burst in game four. Tiffany Eliadis came in for her first appearance of the season and you already know what happened - in fact one of the five Wilkinson goals was directly her fault after a mix-up with her keeper. Wilkinson absolutely feasting on the disjointedness at the back from Victory. Claudia Bunge has had four different CB partners in four different games (plus a fifth off the bench).
Fun fact: Hannah Wilkinson is now the second all-time top-scoring New Zealander in the A-League W, surpassing Rebekah Stott and Annalie Longo with her last goal, trailing only Emma Kete (11 goals in 39 matches)... and at this rate she might go past her within the fortnight.