The stakes have been raised ahead of the inaugural season of the Goulburn Valley Bush Bash League.
Zimbabwean international player Tarisai Musakanda will play in the regional franchise cricket venture after signing as one of Cobram Panel Works Panthers’ marquee stars.
Musakanda, 25, has 22 caps for his country across all forms of the game.
The big hitting batsman is in the region, playing for New City Cricket Club in the Cricket Albury-Wodonga competition, with the highlight of his season thus far an unbeaten 139 against North Albury last month.
It was partly that knock — which included two sixes and 14 fours coming in at first-drop — which caught the eye of Panthers coach Matt Jaensch.
‘‘When I heard that Paulo (fellow franchise coach Paul Newman) had signed the two district boys (Tom Donnell and James Nanopoulos) I thought, ‘how could we go bigger?’,’’ Jaensch said.
‘‘I knew that Tarisai was over in Albury and he’d just made a big ton, so I asked him and he said yes.
‘‘He’s excited to be involved, he wants to be playing as much cricket as he can while he’s over here in Australia.’’
The international signing by the Panthers is sure to set tongues wagging and encourage more players to put their hand up for the inaugural Crane Aid GVBBL draft at the Sherbourne Hotel on December 1 before nominations close on November 28.
But Jaensch is also hoping it helps light a flame under cricket in the Murray Valley region as a whole.
‘‘Definitely from a Murray Valley cricket perspective it’s something we’ve needed for a while, a bit of a spark, something to get people excited and get more people involved in cricket,’’ he said.
‘‘As soon as it was announced that I was coaching, people were saying how excited they were and asking how they sign up, it should be good.’’
The Panthers will wear a distinctive uniform for their clashes, spawning a further nickname from Jaensch.
‘‘We’re going to be wearing Sydney Sixers colours, so the magenta and black,’’ he said.
‘‘It will make us the Pink Panthers.’’
And any player drafted to Jaensch’s squad will not have to worry about slumming it in a team bus to games, with Cobram Panel Works owner Mark Haberfield already looking forward to rolling out a limousine for his charges.
‘‘Mark’s an absolute legend, when he was on board I was on board,’’ Jaensch said.
‘‘He does a lot for local sport in the area and it will be good to have his business involved.’’
As for the draft itself, Jaensch will be keen to try his hand at building a franchise squad from almost-scratch.
‘‘It’s definitely going to be a big job,’’ he said.
‘‘But this is where it all starts, so it is exciting to be involved.’’