'Redemption' on minds of Black Sox ahead of World Cup

The Black Sox haven't played a competitive match since the last World Cup in 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and have even had domestic opportunities go begging with lockdowns and other restrictions.

As such, with the opportunity to host the next World Cup in November, the seven-time world champions are now cramming every opportunity they can to get out on the diamond.

Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson told 1News even he’s had to dust off a few cobwebs before his first trial in Wellington last weekend.

“It's been really hard, it's been a long time since I've been on the diamond coaching,” Sorenson said.

“I’m really excited but a little bit nervous.”

The time away has been even harder considering that last competitive fixture was a disappointing fourth placing at the 2019 World Cup, ending an almost four decades-long run of at least making the final.

Black Sox veteran Joel Evans, whose grand slam in the 2017 final led New Zealand to a record seventh title, said redemption is on the mind of many players this year.

“It still stings,” Evans said.

“It's really coming back, it's what we need - we want that gold back in New Zealand.”

After a few years in the wilderness and with May's trans-Tasman series in Australia cancelled last week, it makes any time together like the three weeks of nationwide trialling that much more important.

“We talked to the guys about thinking of this year like an 11-month season,” Sorenson said

“Normally we'd shut it down for the winter months but this year, it's pretty much going to be continuous all the way through.”

Covid-19 saw the World Cup in Auckland pushed back 18 months, leaving Sorenson and company having to reassess their talent pool for the tournament.

“Some of the guys we thought were going to be a bit young for February last year are now coming right into the frame.”

Guys like former Junior Black Sock Ciaran Bolger, who spent the weekend rubbing shoulders with athletes he grew up idolising as one of 90 players trialling for the squad.

“It's cool hanging alongside them, with them, against them,” Bolger said.

“You learn from them. It's mean - it's a great opportunity for everyone.”

“We've talked to these guys about how it's going to be the country that grasps the opportunity best and is the most adaptable that will succeed,” Sorenson said.