THERE’S been personnel changes heading into a new Country Championships on Friday but in the view of Western vice-captain Matt Stephen there’s one key thing that hasn’t changed: The will to win.
Western has risen through the ranks in recent years at the NSW Country Cricket Championships, taking out the title in 2016-17 and going within a win of the grand final last season.
When Western start their new campaign on Friday against North Coast at Inverell they will consider themselves a strong chance of maintaining their excellent record at the tournament.
“There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into getting Western up to this level. A lot of people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes,” Stephen said.
“We’ve lost some experienced players this year like Jordan Moran and Will Lindsay. They’ve been campaigners for years.
“Then again there’s young blokes coming through who are looking to impress as they start their adult representative careers.”
Two of those key junior additions also hail from Bathurst: Nic Broes and Ben Mitchell.
The pair showed they’re up to the challenge of senior representative cricket during their recent Regional Bash campaign for the Central West Wranglers.
Broes and Mitchell produced knocks of 85 and 81 respectively in the Twenty20 competition to put their hand up for selection in the 50 over format.
Stephen admires the work the pair have put into their cricket to reach Western selection.
“It’s very exciting. I know what Nic and Ben are both capable of, having watched them for the past couple of years. They’ve progressed very well and achieved very high representative status.
“Going up into an open age class I have no doubt they will handle it well. Bathurst should be proud of these two young fellas and the way they handle themselves.
“There’s different pitches up here where I feel like the blokes from Bathurst will handle it well. The ball does a bit … and the boys shouldn’t have trouble adapting to that with the bat.
“There’s some exciting young players from Dubbo coming through as well, like Brock Larance.
“There’s Matt Corben from Orange as also Daryl Kennewell. He’s 39 but with the enthusiasm that he shows he will be fine.”
Western will be familiar with their first opponent, North Coast, who they took down in the opening round of last season’s edition.
Saturday’s meeting with Central Coast shapes up as the danger game.
Central Coast have made the past two grand finals and will be hungry to try and bring down Western after their 2016-17 decider defeat.
Central Northern will be Western’s last opponent of the pool stage – another team Western brought down in the previous Country Championships.
Newcastle go into the championships as defending champions.
First place in the pool will qualify for the final on November 25.