The influx of top juniors into the senior representative ranks, which has occurred this year with Tamworth, Northern Inland and Central North sides, is again factor – this time at Gunnedah.
Gunnedah co-captain Mitchell Swain said a slew of youngsters would be part of the side’s War Veterans Cup campaign this season, which starts on Sunday against reigning champions Narrabri at Wolseley Oval.
They include Hayden Baker, Kaleb McIlveen, James McGowan and Adam McGuirk.
While Swain said not all of them would play against Narrabri, they would feature in the War Veterans Cup at some stage.
“We’re obviously fairly excited to see how they go,” he said. “They’re all very good young cricketers.
“Hopefully them and a couple of other juniors get an opportunity throughout the year.
“We obviously want to get them going in the second XI Connolly Cup side, and we want them scoring runs, taking wickets – and they’ll certainly get opportunities throughout the year to step up into the first XI side.
“We have a reasonable side coming together.”
There is an element of redemption associated with Gunnedah’s War Vets Cup campaign this season, after the side missed a home final against Narrabri following what Swain labelled, at the time, as an “extremely disappointing” away loss to Inverell in the final round.
Veteran Gunnedah performers such as Swain, Cameron Milne, James Mack and co-captain Sam Doubleday will play on Sunday.
Brad Jenkinson may play as well, although he has a shoulder injury and would not bowl.
But Swain said Jenkinson was good enough with the willow to warrant selection as a specialist batsman.
It is hoped another veteran, Farran Lamb, will also play.
But allrounder Andy Mack will be a spectator this season, due to the knee injury he sustained playing AFL for the Bulldogs.
Swain said: “We’re probably not going to be at full strength [on Sunday] but we’ll certainly have a side there that will be competitive.”
He said he expected Milne to bat well and if given the opportunity, “to take it”.
And while wicketkeeper James Mack “probably had not scored the runs he or the team” would have like in recent seasons, “he is a quality batsman and once he gets a bit of confidence, he’ll certainly be a good bat”.