Western Zone can win this month’s McDonald’s Country Colts Championship.
That’s the word of coach Matt Tabbernor, from Orange, who is certain his squad is talented enough to bring the trophy home from Tamworth, which would be Western’s first title in a long time.
In fact, even though the colts age has dropped to under 18s this summer, he labelled it “the best side we’ve had in quite a few years” based on his players’ experience in their respective senior representative sides.
The side is headlined by Dubbo’s Brock Larance, an Australian under-16 rep and undeniably Western’s most exciting young prospect, and he’ll be joined by Kinross and Orange duo Fletcher Rose and Charlie Greer.
Like Larance, Rose is one of the side’s most experienced having donned NSW Schoolboys colours this summer while Henry Railz, also from Dubbo, was a star in Western’s senior campaign at Inverell last month.
Ben Knaggs – who will skipper Western – Marty Jeffrey, Thomas Nelson, Corey McDean and Tom Atlee round out the side’s Dubbo contingent, while Bathurst is also well represented with Ben Parsons, Nic Broes and Luke Powell making the cut.
Grenfell’s Hamish Starr, now plying in his trade for Queanbeyan in the ACT Premier Cricket competition, rounds out the squad.
“It is a very strong side, it’s probably the best side we’ve had for quite a few years,” Tabbernor said.
“We’ve had a young side, but now they’re all into the right age group and have a lot of experience, I know selectors had great difficulty trying to narrow it down to a 13-man squad, which is a good problem to have.
“I think if we go through the list of the team, I think nearly everyone is in the open side for their towns in Western Zone Premier League.
“That is really good experience for them for when they go away to these carnivals as the standard is very high.
“They are playing against guys who have made NSW-ACT Country state sides, high-up and top level schoolboy cricket.
“So the more experience they can get playing representative cricket, especially men’s cricket, that definitely helps them.”
“It’s really good for Western Zone cricket as a whole that our talent is starting to spread out, we’ve got a couple of players from Orange, Bathurst, Dubbo, even Corey McDean is originally from Forbes.
“We are starting top see talented players from all over the region and it should make our competitions strong for many years to come.”
Western will face-off against Riverina, Illawarra and Newcastle in the pool stage, which kicks off on December 18. The best-performed side will qualify for the finals on December 21, against the best of ACT-Southern, North Coastal, Central Coast and Central Northern.
It is not an easy pool, but Tabbernor believes his side is good enough.
“Riverina won the Bradman Cup last year, which is under 16s, so you’d think that a few of them will step up into the colts age group, and Newcastle is always strong at any level of cricket,” he said.
“Illawarra’s a bit of an unknown, so we’ve got to treat that as being as tough as any other game, it’s not an easy pool. In saying that, I think we do have a team capable of beating them.
“You’ve got to perform four days in a row, if you have one day off, well not even one day, if you have 20 overs that’s the end of it, you’ll probably get beat.
“The first day is really important, you really need to win that first day to keep yourself in it. But in saying that, last year the Western Zone open team lost their first game but went on to make the final of the Country Championship.
“But I remember when we got together September to have a bit of a chat, even before we played our trial games against Gordon, St George and Penrith, I thought that we had a team capable of winning this year.
“I really believe that, our performances with this squad over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the improvement, but I think this is the year that we’ve been targeting to at least make the final.”
- WESTERN ZONE: Ben Knaggs ©, Thomas Nelson, Tom Atlee, Brock Larance, Henry Railz, Marty Jeffrey, Corey McDean (Dubbo), Fletcher Rose, Charlie Greer (Orange), Ben Parsons, Luke Powell, Nic Broes (Bathurst), Hamish Starr (Grenfell/Queanbeyan)