GUNNEDAH’S depth will be seriously tested in this Sunday’s War Veterans Cup opener against Tamworth, with up to a dozen potential reps unavailable.
Troy Sands and Ben Middlebrook will co-captain the side but a number of other regulars are missing, including Jamie Mitchell, Dave Heyman, Matt Brady and Andy Mack.
The likes of Mitchell and Heyman have chosen not to play rep cricket this year due to other commitments, Mack has moved to Sydney while others who are also unavailable include Bon Winsor, Wade Ryan, Josh Leys and Jordy Ford.
“There’s been a lot of changes this year in both the Saturday comp and the inter-town stuff,” Sands said.
“We’ve lost a few – most of the side from last year.
“We’ve had a fairly unchanged side the last four years or so and had a bit of success.
“Last year was a bit of a struggle but the few years before that we had some success, making semi-finals and finals.
“To lose them all in one year is a bit of a problem.”
Fortunately the Gunnedah side named this week is still pretty handy, with experienced players like Cameron Milne and Farren Lamb included, alongside some younger players like Matt Avendano, Andrew Darley and Blake Small.
The likes of Trent Hilton, Ben Haire, Jay Urquhart and Mitch Swain have also played for the first XI before or are more than capable of doing so.
“There’s a bit of depth in the comp,” Sands said.
“This will test us but the talent is still there and we’ll be competitive.
“Ben is co-captain with me this year and Matt Brady was meant to play but has had to withdraw.
“Blake Small and Andrew Darley got a taste of it last year so they’ve been there before.
“It’ll be good to blood a few players but most of them have been there, except Matt Avendano – I haven’t actually seen him play.
“But the rest have played a bit of rep cricket before.”
Tamworth couldn’t be a tougher way to start for Gunnedah.
So strong is the side from the country music capital that it will play in the Country Cup this summer, while Gunnedah is involved in the new second tier knockout competition, the Country Shield.
The first games in that comp start next week, with Gunnedah taking on Tamworth’s second XI, Tamworth Gold.
“We’ve got the hardest game to start the year,” Sands said.
“At least it will highlight where we have to improve.
“It’s going to be a tough year but it’s always good to bring new players in.
“I think it’s a better system, with this new comp.
“It should give the smaller centres more of a crack at it.
“But the Tamworth (Gold) side will be good because they have a lot of depth.”
The other War Vets game pencilled in for Sunday between Armidale and Narrabri will now be played next week and double as a Country Shield game.
The third tier Country Plate also gets underway this Sunday, with Glen Innes at home to Moree, Walcha hosting Inverell and Quirindi travelling to Wee Waa to playPilliga.
GUNNEDAH: Troy Sands (capt), Ben Middlebrook (capt), Jay Urquhart, Cameron Milne, Trent Hilton, Farren Lamb, Ben Haire, James Mack, Mitchell Swain, Matt Avendano, Andrew Darley, Blake Small.