Hot chance in Bundy

NEW South Wales Country will rely not only on the talents of experienced championship campaigners Graeme Batty, Andrew Maher, Simon Moore and Tamworth wicketkeeper Tom Groth in today’s opening CBA Australian Country Cricket Championships match against ACT in Bundaberg but also some “new blood” from an English allrounder and a Novocastrian who played for the Canberrans in last year’s carnival in Geelong.

Newcastle paceman Josh Bennett, played for the ACT in Geelong last year – part of a rule that allows the ACT to draw on a few players from outside its smaller playing area, said NSWC manager Ron Hancock.

“This year they’ve selected two players from Newcastle, one of them Geoff Goninan is a wicketkeeper from my club at Stockton,” Hancock told The Leader.

“Josh played against us last year for them and plays against them this week. We’ve also got a Pom. Andrew Hicks. He’s a very good allrounder, a middle order bat and medium fast bowler.  Plays in Wollongong where he’s becoming naturalised.” Hicks and Bennett make up a pace attack spearheaded by carnival veteran Andrew Maher as well as Illawarra Cameron Belshaw and Wagga’s Brett Davies.

“Our pace attack looks a lot better this year,” Hancock said.

“Seems to have a bit more depth. And we might need that in the humidity up in Bundaberg.”

He said the cooler conditions in Geelong will be a direct contrast to the heat up north.

“I prefer that cooler weather but we can’t do anything about that, got to play in the humidity. We know it’s going to be hard.” The “six or seven” new faces will add a lot of enthusiasm to the side too, Hancock said.

“But we do have some very good and experienced players too. Graeme Batty is a good captain and has been a leading runscorer at the carnival and will open with Troy Colley (Orange). Simon Moore will probably bat at three and Tim Laws, who has played a lot of first grade cricket in Sydney but now plays in Wollongong will probably bat at four with Pat Darwen at five.

“Having someone like Tommy (Groth) in the side is a great bonus too. I believes he’s the heart and soul of the team. Being behind the stumps is a big gig at these championships and he does it well.”

The fact Groth has won two of the four wicketkeeping awards handed out at recent championships shows that.

* Groth will miss Sunday’s big War Veterans Cup clash between Tamworth and Armidale at Tamworth’s No 1 Oval. Gunnedah plays Narrabri in the other WVC clash at Gunnedah’s Wolseley Park. Turn inside to Page 23 for more on Armidale War Vet hopes.

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