Central North primed for Kookaburra Cup challenge

Central North take a good all-round side to this week’s Kookaburra Cup in Griffith.

Rep duties: Tamworth's Oscar Spinks looks for runs during an earlier juniors clash. He's off to Griffith this week with the Central North U14s.

Rep duties: Tamworth's Oscar Spinks looks for runs during an earlier juniors clash. He's off to Griffith this week with the Central North U14s.

The annual Country U14s carnival gets under way on Monday with Central North taking on Southern/ACT.

They then face Newcastle on Tuesday in the second of three what will this year be 40-over games.

Sandwiched inbetween the three one-dayers they’ll play two Twenty20s.

“That’s a result of those that get selected to play in the State Challenge, there are some Twenty20s in those,” head coach Kel Walls said.

Several of the players warmed up for the carnival by playing in the various carnivals that were held last week, and while he and assistant coaches Rod Bryant and Terry Browne had their “fingers crossed” for no injuries, Walls said the practice would be good for them after a few weeks off.

He said they are “quietly confident” they’ve got a solid group, the depth of talent that was on show over the trials causing a few selection headaches.

“This time with the selections there were 15 or 16 players that we had to try and get down to 13,” Walls said, attributing that to the work done over the winter with the academy programs.

For all that there is an element of the unknown going into the carnival.

”This is the first occasion when the Central North team has actually played at a carnival,” Walls said.

“At this stage we don’t really know much about the standard of the other zones.”

Skipper Joey Mead is backing up from last years carnival, and Walls will be looking to him to really lead the way with his experience and leadership.

“From what I’ve seen of him with the Northern Inland team he’s quite an astute and thoughtful captain,” he said.

He’ll also have a big role to play with the ball leading the quick battery.

“The bowling is particularly good. We’ve got four or five medium quicks and two quality spinners,” Walls said.

They are also a good fielding side, he said, and boast a strong batting line-up. 

That has, Walls conceded, been where Central North has potentially been a bit weaker in past campaigns.

“This team has good solid batting all the way down,” he said.

“Even some of the bowlers are quite handy with the bat.” 

One of the keys with the bat will be Armidale’s Benji Marshall.

“He’s a powerful batsmen that hits the ball hard,” Walls said.

“We’re hoping he can reproduce some of his recent form.”

He has four half centuries to his name so far this season.

The split of the side is half Northern Inland, half Hunter Valley with Mead joined by Tamworth team-mate Oscar Spinks and Tamworth 13s keeper Callum Henry, Armidale trio Marshall, Nick Page and Cotter Litchfield and Gunnedah’s Zac Clarke.

Central North 14s: ​Joey Mead (capt), ​Zac Clarke, ​Beau Parnell, ​Benji Marshall, ​Nick Page, ​Cotter Litchfield,  ​Hunter Ball, ​Tommy Dixon, ​Alex McNeil, ​Callum Henry (wk), ​Tom Druery, ​Oscar Spinks, ​Jack Sylvester. Coach – ​Kel Walls; Assistant coaches – ​Rod Bryant, ​Terry Browne