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Auckland Softball want NFC changes

Auckland Softball women
Auckland beat North Harbour to capture the women's NFC title. PHOTO: AUCKLAND SOFTBALL

Auckland Softball is calling on Softball New Zealand (SNZ) to make necessary improvements to the National Fastpitch Championship (NFC) tournament.

After sweeping the national event earlier this month, Auckland Softball released a statement asking for action from the national body.

Last season, delays as a result of scheduling at the NFC meant some Auckland men's players had to depart the tournament grand final in Christchurch before it had concluded.

The 2024 tournament was only marginally better as Auckland Softball again pushed for solutions from the governing body.

At the recent NFC at Rosedale Park on Auckland's North Shore, Auckland won both men's and women's titles to sit back on top of softball's provincial level.

Auckland defeated Canterbury in the men's final and North Harbour in the women's decider, but there was still plenty of conjecture around the management of the tournament.

The last three NFC finals have seen the losing team leaving prior to the prizegiving due to time constraints, but despite long-running discussions regarding the format and timing of the tournament, no real change has resulted.

Auckland Softball men
Auckland won the NFC men's final against a time-crunched Canterbury. PHOTO: AUCKLAND SOFTBALL

Players and management have had to catch flights, including Canterbury in this year's final. One of the umpires for the final also left before the completion of the game.

The timing issue came to a head last season when Hoani Lambert, chairperson of the SNZ executive board, said Softball Auckland’s actions were unacceptable. 

In the lead up to the 2022-23 tournament in Christchurch, SNZ was informed by Auckland Softball four weeks prior to the event about the only flight option due to the increased costs around travelling during Labour Weekend.

Meetings involving SNZ the night prior and morning of the finals failed to find a solution, with broadcasting obligations. The start of both finals was delayed by SNZ, with teams sitting in the dugouts waiting for games to commence.

Policies and procedures have been talked about so that the situation would not occur again. But nothing has been initiated and the 2024 men's final saw SNZ, with no prior discussion, reduce the warm-ups to one pitch per innings due to time constraints.

Auckland Softball were concerned that the pinnacle event has been impacted by event management in the previous three years.

Canterbury Softball proposed - backed by Auckland Softball - at the SNZ conference in May 2023 for a multi-week National League. The concept was unanimously approved by provincial associations. 

However, nine months later SNZ has not completed any work on the issue, much to the disappointment of Softball Auckland CEO Gareth Teahan.

“Auckland suffered last season with travel difficulties and mammoth charges to try and change flights from Christchurch for amateur sportspeople. We could see the problems occurring, but nothing was done about it,” said Teahan. 

“This year, the tournament was held in Auckland and Canterbury were watching the clock and were not able to stay for the prizegiving. It devalues what is otherwise a great national teams event. Auckland Softball will continue to advocate and assist with a new concept that allows our top-level players to excel at the highest level."


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