CENTRAL North faces a stern first-up test in its NSW Country U17 Championship defence at Raymond Terrace today.
The Riley Ayre-skippered side has drawn Illawarra in its opening game in what will be a replay of last year’s Bradman Cup final.
“They will most likely be one of the strongest divisions,” Central North coach Rod Bryant said.
“They have four kids in the state development squad.”
They include a pair of opening bowlers, who Bryant said “are quite lively” and a good off-spinner.
The Central North side is bar two – Kynan Shilalo and Moree Max Houlahan, who has returned to Queensland for school – as per the side that won the Bradman Cup last year.
Four of them, including Ayre, were also part of the U17s success.
Tamworth’s James Psarakis and Hunter pair Rigby Vane-Wood and Giles Manley are the other three.
Bryant is part of a coaching team that also includes Kel Walls and Chris Mudd, and he believes they’ve got a side capable of repeating its Bradman success.
If anything, they’ve strengthened their batting, with the inclusion of Maitland’s James Thomas and Armidale’s Will Frost for Shilalo and Houlahan.
“Both of those guys are very good bats,” Bryant said.
Houlahan will leave a big hole to fill though with he and Psarakis opening with aplomb for the zone side through from the U14s.
Tamworth’s Layne Berry has been elevated from eight last year to the opening slot at least in the 50-over games.
He bats there for Tamworth and it means too they can squeeze Frost and Thomas in without too much reshuffling of the order.
They are also loaded with plenty of bowling options with four pace and four spinners.
Frost will fill the role of the fourth paceman behind the three who handled the role last year.
Ayre, Will Chesterfield and Blake Small are the spinning options along with Psarakis, who is just back from touring Dubai with the Australian All Schools U16s.
He will also have a big role to play with the bat, and will be tasked with Berry to set a good foundation.
They will play four games over the weekend, with North Coast tomorrow and two Twenty20 games on Sunday.
The plan will be to win all four and hopefully pick up a bonus point or two.
Bryant said to succeed, they have to play with confidence and with the confidence in each other to do the job, although they did show that last year.
“Last year we were two for one in the final, and the two players out were the two who score the most runs,” Bryant said.
CENTRAL NORTH U17s: James Psarakis, Giles Manley, Will Frost, Riley Ayre (capt), Matt Everett, Hamish Batley, Layne Berry, Mitch Fisher, Rigby Vane-Wood, Blake Small, Will Chesterfield, James Thomas. Coaches - Kel Walls, Rod Bryant, Chris Mudd.