New format has NSW eyeing national crown

On target: Southern ACT paceman Djali Bloomfield will play for NSW Country in the Australian Country Championships which begins on Tuesday.

On target: Southern ACT paceman Djali Bloomfield will play for NSW Country in the Australian Country Championships which begins on Tuesday.

NSW Country coach Jeff Cook says a change in the playing format will make the Australian Country Championships more even as the Bush Blues chase their first national crown since 2012-13.

  Six teams will compete over nine days from Tuesday in the mens competition with seven teams including debutants NSW in the women’s comp from January 6.

The two-day format has been scrapped and replaced by 50 over and T20 matches only, with all teams to  meet one another in both formats.

 South Australia are the defending men’s champions after a thrilling final day in which four states including NSW Country were title contention.

But NSW Country didn’t play the weaker East Asia Pacific in a two-dayer last year and missed out on the chance for a possible outright which would have been crucial in the final standings.

‘’This time with only T20s and one-dayers for everyone it is a more equitable,’’ Cook said.

‘’We are on on a level playing field and playing only the shorter forms of the game should make it exciting and bring the teams closer together. Everyone will fancy their chance of beating one another which will mean very competitive cricket every day.’’

  Wollongong are hosting the championships for the first time with Figtree Oval, North Dalton Park, Keira Oval, King George, Hollymount Park and Uni Oval to hold mens matches, while Ziems Park and Judy Masters at Balgownie will also hold women’s games.

 No Illawarra player was selected in the NSW Country squad following a winless NSW Country Championship, but former Oak Flats stars Kieran Gray and Ben Mitchell are in the Bush Blues 14-man squad.

 ‘’Kieran is a very accomplished batsman who will get his chance, while Ben’s left arm spin will be important throughout the tournament,’’ Cook said.

‘’With just one rest day in nine days we’ll need to rotate the squad.’’

 Cook won two Australian Country Championships in his time with the Bush Blues, with the Tamworth based batsman a highly experienced player having played many seasons in English County Cricket.

  He took up coaching with Tamworth at the end of his career and brings a wealth of first class experience to the role.

The Bush Blues have six debutants and face Western Australian Country in the opening one-day round on Tuesday at North Dalton Park.

The first round (T20s) of the women’s comp is on Friday January 6 with NSW  taking on Queensland at Uni Oval No 1 from 6pm.

NSW Bush Blues squad: Peter Gallichan (capt, Central Coast), Tom Allen (Newcastle), Djali Bloomfield (Southern ACT), Pat Darwen (Newcastle), Nick Foster (Newcastle), Kieran Gray (S-ACT), Tom Groth (Central North), Kaine Harmsworth (C Coast), Jarryd Hatton (Riverina), Ben Mitchell (S-ACT), Jordan Moran (Western), Jonathan Nicoll (Riverina), Joe Price (Newcastle), Cameron Suidgeest (S- ACT).

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