Former Namibia fast-bowling allrounder Christi Viljoen has been given a contract for the first time by Otago for the 2016-17 season. He was one of three players to be given first-time contracts by Otago as the association released its initial list on Tuesday. The other five major associations also announced their first list of contracted players for the upcoming season.
New Zealand allrounder Grant Elliott, who retired from ODIs earlier this year, was not named in Wellington's first list but coach Bruce Edgar told stuff.co.nz that he is in talks to play T20 cricket for the side. Batsman Jesse Ryder, who is currently playing for the English county side Essex, has secured a contract again with Central Districts.
Former New Zealand batsman Hamish Marshall did not feature on Wellington's list, although the player had announced that he would be ending an 11-year stint with Gloucestershire at the end of the season to return to Wellington. Edgar said that Marshall would be considered for selection on his return, although he could play either as a local or an overseas player.
"Hamish is coming to settle in Wellington in October and at that point we'll consider him for Wellington. He's just got to see out his contract with Gloucestershire first," Edgar told stuff.co.nz.
Viljoen began playing for Otago last season, with four first-class matches in the Plunket Shield, and became eligible for a contract after qualifying as a New Zealand player. He had terminated his contract with Namibia in December 2014 to pursue opportunities in England and New Zealand. He played 174 matches for Namibia across first-class, List A and T20 cricket and took a total of 318 wickets. Viljoen represented Namibia in the Intercontinental Cup, the World Cricket League Championship and the 2014 World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand.
Apart from Viljoen, Otago also gave first-time contracts to former New Zealand Under-19s seamer Jack Hunter and 28-year-old legspinner Rhys Phillips. Northern Districts also had a couple of new names on the contracts list - 19-year-old medium-pace bowler Zak Gibson and allrounder Joe Walker. Gibson, who is the first recipient of the Maori Cricket Scholarship from NZC, was a part of the New Zealand squad in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year.
Canterbury, too, handed first-time contracts to fast bowlers Will Williams and Henry Shipley, and opening batsman Michael Davidson. Williams and Davidson had played Plunket Shield matches in 2015-16, while Shipley played one Ford Trophy match earlier this year.
The six associations will complete the second round of the contract process by July 12. Each team can contract 15 players overall, and is allowed to sign 9-14 players in the first round. The domestic contracts for this season have also been extended by one month and will run from September 1, 2016 to April 15, 2017. This was done after NZC and the players' association agreed to extend the contract period to seven-and-a-half months. Auckland, Canterbury, Northern Districts and Wellington will name their final contracted player on July 12, while Central Districts and Otago still have two spots open on their lists.
Auckland Cody Andrews, Brad Cachopa, Mark Chapman, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Donovan Grobbelaar, Michael Guptill-Bunce, Shawn Hicks, Dane Hutchinson, Tarun Nethula, Rob Nicol, Robert O'Donnell, Glenn Phillips, Jeet Raval
Canterbury Todd Astle, Leo Carter, Michael Davidson, Andrew Ellis, Cameron Fletcher, Peter Fulton, Kyle Jamieson, Timothy Johnston, Kenneth McClure, Cole McConchie, Edward Nuttall, Henry Shipley, Logan van Beek, Will Williams
Central Districts Tom Bruce, Dane Cleaver, Greg Hay, Marty Kain, Andrew Mathieson, Ryan McCone, Ajaz Patel, Seth Rance, Jesse Ryder, Ben Smith, Blair Tickner, Ben Wheeler, William Young
Northern Districts James Baker, Jono Boult, Dean Brownlie, Joe Carter, Anton Devcich, Daniel Flynn, Zak Gibson, Brett Hampton, Nick Kelly, Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Bharat Popli, Tim Seifert, Josef Walker
Otago Warren Barnes, Michael Bracewell, Derek de Boorder, Jacob Duffy, Ryan Duffy, Josh Finnie, Jack Hunter, Anaru Kitchen, Rhys Phillips, Hamish Rutherford, Christi Viljeon, Sam Wells, Brad Wilson
Wellington Brent Arnel, Hamish Bennett, Tom Blundell, Fraser Colson, Matt McEwan, Iain McPeake, Stephen Murdoch, Ollie Newton, Michael Papps, Jeetan Patel, Michael Pollard, Matt Taylor, Anurag Verma, Luke Woodcock