Melbourne Country Week preview

By Tyler Maher

Cricket Shepparton has announced a Melbourne Country Week squad stacked with talent as the association searches for an elusive promotion back to the top level of the competition.

This will be Shepparton’s fourth consecutive season in division two of the tournament and after just missing a grand final berth last year will be raring to go at least one better this time around.

Mooroopna’s Will Hale and Old Students’ Nick Breslin have taken up roles as co-directors of the squad and are excited about the supreme stars at their disposal for the event, which begins next week.

‘‘The aim this year is to return to the provincial grade after coming ever so close last year,’’ Hale said.

‘‘We really have a good blend of experience and youth.

‘‘It has been a great reward to a number of players that have worked really hard throughout the season thus far.

‘‘It is a pretty good side on paper, so hopefully we can win a few games and get promotion.’’

Shepparton has again landed in the Green section of division two this season and will start proceedings on Monday with a clash against Ballarat Cricket Association.

Fixtures against Latrobe Valley and Leongatha District will follow on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, before semi-final action begins on Thursday.

By that stage of the tournament Shepparton could find itself in a regional derby against either Murray Valley Cricket Association or Goulburn Murray Cricket, with those familiar foes in the Gold section of the division.

Friday’s final will be at Noble Park Reserve.

Melbourne Country Week veterans such as Dwain Vidler and Brendan Scott will provide plenty of support in the leadership department for Hale and Breslin, while the excitement rising stars such as Jayden Armstrong, Mitch McGrath and Sam Nash will bring to the squad is sure to be palpable.

‘‘We did pretty well last year and were pretty unlucky in the semi-final losing the toss and being sent in,’’ Hale said.

‘‘The wicket just got flatter as the day went on, but hopefully this year we can go one better.

‘‘We’ll be quite flexible depending on the situation.

‘‘We’re looking forward to it and hopefully we can put on a good show down there for the association, it’s a big thanks to them for supporting us.’’

For GMC, which is fresh from a successful Bendigo Country Week campaign, proven performers such as Paul Newman and Daniel Kent will lead the way for the large 18-man squad announced at the weekend.

Half of the Bendigo Country Week grand final winning team will go around again at Melbourne, with a clash against Bendigo first on the agenda.

Murray’s squad has not been announced yet, but the outfit takes on Wangaratta District on Monday before resuming its rivalry with GMC on Tuesday.

Melbourne Country Week squads

Cricket Shepparton

Will Hale (c), Roman Walker (Mooroopna), Luke Nolan (wk), Scott Richardson, Corey Hickford (Katandra), Joel Brett (Northerners), Michael Eckard, Dylan Grandell (Numurkah), Sam Kershaw, Dwain Vidler (vc), Sam Nash (Shepparton United), Brendan Scott (Central Park-St Brendan’s), Michael Archer, Jayden Armstrong (Tatura), Mitch McGrath (Karramomus), Nick Breslin (Old Students), Narelle Claney (team manager, scorer), Ashley Brown (coach), Ian Fitzsimmons (assistant), Nathan Hedges (bus driver).

Goulburn Murray Cricket

Paul Newman, Daniel Kent, Marx DeVilliers, Dale Shaw, Brodie Unwin (Kyabram Fire Brigade), Vib Yadav (Rochester), Anthony McMahon, Alistair McCann, Jordan McGregor, Jack Russell, Darcy Elliott (Moama), Luke Deeprose, Greg Pearse, Josh Wood (Bamawm-Lockington United), Matt Hinks (Echuca), Darin Ohlsen, Callum Clayton (Tongala), Brad Power (Cooma), Lawrie Casey (team manager), Russell Barrett (scorer), Peter Raglus (bus driver), Vin Jensen (physio).