WESTERN Zone will be out to show that last season's runners-up finish was no fluke when they start their NSW Country Championship southern zone campaign today.
Dubbo trio Jason Ryan, Jordan Moran and Greg Buckley, along with Nyngan's Declan Hoare, joined their teammates on the trip to Wagga Wagga yesterday, with the first match against Riverina scheduled to be played today.
The three-day tournament, made up of one day matches, will pit Western against Southern tomorrow before they face Illawarra in a re-match of last season's final on Sunday.
Such is the nature of the competition, Western switches pools each season and after qualifying from the northern division last year they will endeavour to do so from the southern pool this season.
Eight changes have been made to last season’s squad with Ryan admitting form played a big role in selection.
“In the past it probably would have been hard to change a squad that bonded so well and performed so well last year,” Ryan said.
“But the guys in this squad have been picked on form and it is good to see so many new guys pushing for places in strong rep sides.”
At 18, Hoare will lead a youthful bowling attack that features fellow quicks Liam Gough (Orange) and Joe Kershaw (Cowra).
But Ryan isn’t concerned about the squad’s ‘baby bombers’, admitting they will bring an enthusiasm to the field.
“Those guys are the form quicks in the region and if you’re good enough, you’re old enough I think,” he said.
“Declan did a great job last year and he will be able to help the new guys out if they have any problems.”
Rain in inland NSW this week is sure to have put some juice into the Wagga Wagga wickets, a far cry from the pitches prepared in the first month-and-a-half of the local Whitney Cup competition.
But with an experienced batting line-up to call upon, Ryan believes Western will cope well with whatever conditions are served up.
“We will have to adjust if they play that way but we have all played enough cricket to know how to do that,” he said.
“It’s good that we have Illawarra last because if the results go our way early, that match will be for the southern zone title.
“Western covers a large region and we always take a bit of time to gel together so hopefully by Sunday we will be playing our best cricket and also the wickets might have dried out a bit.”
WESTERN ZONE: Pat Rosser (Parkes, c), Greg Buckley (Dubbo), Trent Colley (Orange), Phil Dunford (Parkes), Liam Gough (Orange), Anthony Heraghty (Parkes), Declan Hoare (Nyngan), Joe Kershaw (Cowra), Stephen Knight (Mudgee), Jordan Moran (Dubbo), James O’Brien (Mudgee), Jameel Qureshi (Bathurst), Jason Ryan (Dubbo).