NORTHERN Inland hasn’t fared too well against its Hunter Valley counterparts in recent years but is hoping to arrest that at Maitland tomorrow.
Since the McNamara Cup was reinstated a few years ago, Hunter Valley has held the silverware.
Last year at Gunnedah, it recovered from 3-12 to make 8-192 and then bowled Northern Inland out for 183.
Nick Pearson was one of the best performers with the bat for Northern Inland and will be there again tomorrow.
He’s one of now three Bulls in the side, with teenage keeper Matt Everett receiving a late call-up.
Everett was supposed to be skippering the Tamworth MA Connolly Cup side but has come into the Northern Inland side for South Tamworth paceman Andrew Maher.
He’ll play as a batsman, with NSW Country keeper Tom Groth leading the side.
The match doubles as a selection trial for the Central North side to play in next month’s Northern NSW Carnival so there will be plenty of incentive to perform well.
Groth said it would have been great to have Maher, for both Northern Inland tomorrow and most likely Central North, but he still has a very handy attack at his disposal.
The pace stocks look strong, with Col Smyth, Angus McNeill, Aaron Hazlewood and Armidale’s Karl Triebe.
Triebe is one of a few players making their Northern Inland debuts.
He’s forced his way into the side with good performances for Armidale – taking 4-26 against Narrabri in last Sunday’s War Veterans Cup – and in club cricket.
The same goes for Michael Dawson and Stuart Plant.
Plant claimed 7-8 on debut for Tamworth last week to destroy Gunnedah.
“He obviously diced in with his 7-for,” Groth said.
“He’ll bowl the tweakers.”
Groth didn’t see him bowl last weekend but saw him the local round the week before.
“He backed himself and bowled well,” he said.
Michael Rixon will provide the main spin support.
“Mick’s been bowling pretty consistently now for North and Tamworth,” Groth said.
Smyth, McNeill and Hazlewood have been involved in previous campaigns with Central North, with Smyth back in the frame after not playing much rep cricket last season.
“He had a pretty big pre-season,” Groth said.
“He’s as keen as I’ve seen him.”
He’s also bowling as well as he’s seen him.
Hazlewood will fit in as the third or fourth seamer and could play a pretty big role with the bat too.
He’ll probably bat somewhere in the middle-lower order.
One of the pluses heading in this year is that they’ve got batsmen getting runs.
“That’s the difference going into this year compared to the last couple – we’ve got blokes scoring runs,” Groth said.
“Mick (Rixon) and Jonesie (Adam Jones) particularly are coming off a couple of big scores.”
Jones scored a century in club cricket last week, while Rixon cracked 96 against Gunnedah.
Dawson has also notched a century.
Groth doesn’t know a lot about what Hunter Valley has but expects that being at home they’ll be pretty fired up.
NORTHERN INLAND: Tom Groth (capt), Michael Rixon, Adam Jones, Kris Halloran, Nick Pearson, Aaron Hazlewood, Stuart Plant, Col Smyth, Angus McNeill, Matt Everett (Tamworth), Michael Dawson, Karl Triebe (Armidale).