Tom Groth’s prized baggy blue is understandably a bit weather worn.
Nine years bearing the brunt of the blazing summer sun will do that.
The Tamworth skipper flew out on Tuesday ahead of a record-breaking 10th consecutive Australian Country Championship campaign for NSW Country.
“Simon Moore, he played a fair few more, but not consecutively,” Groth said.
His first championships, he recalled, was in South Australia, in the Barossa Valley.
He was one of four Tamworth players to feature in the Bush Blues squad that year with the keeper joined by current NSW Country coach Jeff Cook, who captained the side, current South Tamworth team-mate Blake Fitzgerald, and current Australian paceman Josh Hazlewood.
It is always a week the 32-year-old looks forward to, although the motivation has, he admits, probably changed a bit in recent years.
“Obviously when you start you just want to play at highest level you can in the country,” he said.
“The last couple of years I’ve been wanting to hang on and finish on top. It would be good to finish on top.”
Not that he has any firm plans to put away the gloves just yet.
He hasn’t “made any decisions”, although he is - as he put it - “getting a bit older”.
Last year the Bush Blues won the one-day competition but had to settle for second overall.
This years championships will take place in Geraldton, and will see Groth joined by South Tamworth team-mate Tom O’Neill.
“I was really excited for Tom. Probably more excited for him than myself,” he said.
“It’s great. He’s been a good performer around Tamworth and Central North for the last couple of years.”
It will be Groth’s second championships in Western Australia.
“I played in Bunbury about six years ago. That was a really good tour. Probably one of the favourites tours I’ve been on,” he recalled.
“We finished second but we played some good cricket. I think we only lost one game.”
He likes the look of this years squad, rating it one of the strongest for the last four or five years.
“I think the team has got a little bit more experience than previous teams,” Groth said.
For most of the side it is at least their second or third time away, with O’Neill one of only a couple of new faces.
It has been a while since the Groth has tasted success at the championships with the Bush Blues last winning the silverware in 2013.
“We had a couple of good years in the middle but we’ve had a lean couple of years the last couple,” Groth said.
“It’d be really nice to win it again. Being one of biggest states, we probably should be winning it more than we have.”
He has been doing a bit of fitness work in the last few weeks to prepare for the rigours of what will be eight days of tough cricket, and is “pretty happy” with his form heading in.
“I’ve been batting pretty well and keeping going okay,” he said.
Relishing the chance to bat a bit higher and hence a few more opportunities, he has scored three half-centuries in the first half of the season.
“I’ve been able to get to training more. That has made a hell of a difference,” he said.
The Bush Blues open their campaign on Friday with a Twenty20 double header against the hosts and Victoria Country.
NSW Country squad
Simon Keen (c) (Central Coast), Graeme Batty (Illawarra), Scott Burkinshaw (Central Coast), Burt Cockley (Newcastle), Tom Engelbrecht (ACT Southern), Ryan Fenning (Central Coast), Nick Foster (Newcastle), Tom Groth (Central Northern), Ben Mitchell (ACT Southern), Jordan Moran (Western), Jonathan Nicoll (Riverina), Tom O'Neill (Central Coast), Joe Price (Newcastle), Cameron Suidgeest (ACT Southern), Caleb Ziebell (Nth Coastal). Coach – Jeff Cook (Central Northern), Ass Coach Manager – Robbie Jackson (Riverina), Physio – Llew Scott (Illawarra), Scorer – David Redden (Newcastle)
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