Dubbo gun Mitch Bower will lead a new-look Western Zone side after selectors named just five returning players to travel to Inverell to take on the McDonald’s Country Championship’s northern pool.
Bathurst’s Matt Stephen will deputise for Bower while Dubbo duo Marty Jeffrey and Ben Patterson are back alongside Orange City quick Jackson Coote as the only returning faces from a side that finished last year’s pool with two wins and a loss.
After their starring roles with the Wranglers over the weekend, Bathurst pair Nic Broes and Ben Mitchell demanded selection.
Dubbo teenagers Brock Larance and Tom Atlee were both outstanding in club cricket last summer, as was Josh Doherty in Orange, leading both the runs and wickets aggregates after a super season with Cavaliers.
Cavs keeper Matt Corben and Centrals veteran Daryl Kennewell complete the ODCA’s representation while Parkes star Zachary Bayliss is the bolter.
It’s a changing of the guard highlighted by youth from right across the zone.
Chairman of selectors Neil Doherty, though, said Western’s youth movement has been somewhat forced, with the likes of Jordan Moran, Greg Buckley, Will Lindsay, Ryan Peacock, James O’Brien, Henry Railz, Darrel Williams and Ben Strachan all either retiring from rep cricket or moving from the region.
Still, he’s excited at the prospect of a host of new faces taking on North Coastal in game one of the championship on November 2.
“It’s the way it’s panned out. Some of the blokes in the team now have been on the radar for a while but couldn’t make last step,” Doherty said.
They’ve shown with their form that they’re up to it.Western coach Ian Strudwick on his side's young players.
“Some of the real young ones have only just come out of junior (reps) but performed well there and have done so in senior cricket now for a while too.
“It’s always a little bit of a lottery with a few replacements but we think they’ll handle themselves pretty well.”
Doherty is keen to see Corben perform at the next level having represented Orange and Mitchell for a number of years, while Kennewell is another the Gulgong-based selector says is eager to prove his wares against the best country cricketers in NSW.
But, naturally, a lot of the expectation will land on Bower’s shoulders, a seasoned country championship bat.
“He needs to lead by example and he’ll do that by scoring runs and in the field,” Doherty added.
Western Zone has named its squad for the upcoming @CtryCric_NSW Championships. There’s a whole lot of changes in terms of players and coaching staff. A real injection of youth in the playing group. Side will play at Inverell from Nov 2-4. pic.twitter.com/2tGa9tKdJ2— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) October 21, 2018
Blue Mountains-based coach Ian Strudwick said it’s a well-balanced line-up.
“Having the young guys in there is exciting,” he added.
“They’ve been to lot of colts, country and school carnivals but they’re up against the big boys now. They’ve shown with their form that they’re up to it.”
Western’s first game of the country championship is on Friday, November 2 at Inverell against North Coastal.
Bower’s boys will then take on Central Coast on the Saturday and Central Northern on the Sunday.
- WESTERN ZONE: Mitch Bower (c) (Dubbo), Matt Stephen (v/c) (Bathurst), Marty Jeffrey (Dubbo), Nic Broes (Bathurst), Matthew Corben (Orange), Brock Larance (Dubbo), Josh Doherty (Orange), Ben Patterson (Dubbo), Tom Atlee (Dubbo), Zachary Bayliss (Parkes), Jackson Coote (Orange), Daryl Kennewell (Orange), Ben Mitchell (Bathurst), Ian Strudwick (coach), Greg Nicholls (manager), Brad Broes (scorer).