WHEN Matthew Tabbernor takes his Western Zone side to the New South Wales Country Colts Championships later this month, it will be with the knowledge he has a squad talented enough to win the coveted title.
While the colts age group has this season changed to under 18s, the players Tabbernor will have in action at Tamworth are not only regular first graders, but most have represented their respective cricket associations at an open level.
That sort of experience is valuable to the coach given Western is aiming to play the maximum five games in four days.
“It is a very strong side, it’s probably the best side we’ve had for quite a few years,” Tabbernor said.
“We’ve had a young side, but now they’re all into the right age group and have a lot of experience, I know selectors had great difficulty trying to narrow it down to a 13-man squad, which is a good problem to have.
“I think if we go through the list of the team, I think nearly everyone is in the open side for their towns in Western Zone Premier League. That is really good experience for them for when they go away to these carnivals as the standard is very high.
“They are playing against guys who have made New South Wales-ACT Country state sides, high up cricket, and top level schoolboy cricket. So the more experience they can get playing representative cricket, especially men’s cricket, that definitely helps them.”
Tabbernor’s squad includes three Bathurst players in Nic Broes, Ben Parsons and Luke Powell.
Both Parsons and Powell were in the squad last season when Western posted a win, a draw and a loss.
“I think they’ve got very important roles in the team. Nic Broes, he’s the vice captain and he’ll open the batting, so he’ll have an important role,” the coach said.
“He scored a very good 70-odd against Penrith in the trial match against a lot of their first and second grade players, so that was a good confidence booster. He also scored a century to start the Bathurst season.
“Luke Powell will open the bowling probably most games and again, he’s been going really well in school cricket as well.
“Ben Parsons will probably bowl first change and be batting seven-eight-nine, he can really put some quick runs on or line up to bat in the top order if we are chasing over 250. They’ve definitely earned their spots this year and I’m expecting big things from all of them.”
The rest of the squad comes from Dubbo and Orange, with Ben Knaggs to act as skipper and Marty Jeffrey as a vice-captain with Broes.
“It’s really good for Western Zone cricket as a whole that our talent is starting to spread out, we’ve got a couple of players from Orange, Bathurst, Dubbo even Corey McDean is originally from Forbes,” Tabbernor said.
“We are starting top see talented players from all over the region and it should make our competitions strong for many years to come.”
The carnival, which starts on December 18, sees Western in a pool alongside Riverina, Illawarra and Newcastle. The best performed of those four will go on to the finals on December 21 against the best of pool A, which involves ACT Southern, North Coastal, Central Coast and Central Northern.
It is not an easy pool, but Tabbernor believes his side is good enough.
“Riverina won the Bradman Cup last year, which is under 16s, so you’d think that a few of them will step up into the colts age group, and Newcastle is always strong at any level of cricket. Then we’ve got Illawarra who are a bit of an unknown, so we’ve got to treat that as being as tough as any other game, it’s not an easy pool,” he said.
“In saying that, I think we do have a team capable of beating them.
“You’ve got to perform four days in a row, if you have one day off, well not even one day, if you have 20 overs off in a game, that’s the end of it, you’ll probably get beat.
“The first day is really important, you really need to win that first day to keep yourself in it. But in saying that, last year the Western Zone open team lost their first game but went on to make the final of the Country Championship.
“But I remember when we got together September to have a bit of a chat, even before we played our trial games against Gordon, St George and Penrith, I thought that we had a team capable of winning this year.
“I really believe that, our performances with this squad over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the improvement, but I think this is the year that we’ve been targeting to at least make the final.”
WESTERN ZONE COLTS: Ben Knaggs (c), Marty Jeffrey (v/c), Nic Broes (v/c), Thomas Nelson, Tom Atlee, Brock Larance, Corey McDean, Ben Parsons, Hamish Starr, Luke Powell, Charlie Greer, Henry Railz, Fletcher Rose.