Best of the boys battle it out

THE best junior cricketers in the North East and southern Riverina will compete in the time-honoured Junior Country Week Carnival from today.

Twenty teams will fight for shields in five age divisions, from under-17 to under-13.

Once a tournament based in Benalla, country week will have games in Albury, Wodonga, Yarrawonga, Tallangatta, Wangaratta and Benalla this year.

Tournament co-ordinator Neil Gregg said it was the pathway to higher honours.

“Certainly, you already have players who are at the highest level of their club competition, whether that be Provincial cricket here in Albury-Wodonga or A grade in Wangaratta,” he said.

“They are playing the best in the region and, with the inclusion of teams from Wagga in the past two years, the quality of cricket continues to rise.

“There are some handy cricketers involved in this, is the only age rep cricket that we play.

“We have two players who are already in state squads, Wangaratta’s Brad Melville and Fraser Ellis.

“These carnivals are a place where selectors assess who can take the next step and so they are highly competitive.

“It’s the pathway to the state under-14, under-16 and under-18 squads and quite a few of these boys will be headed to the national championships.”

Gregg said three days of competition would be broken by a rest day on the Thursday before the finals.

“The Thursday is also there in case we need an extra day’s play to finish the round robin tournament,” he said.

“It has rained in the past but last year we had to cancel one game because of the extreme heat.

“The weather forecast looks much kinder and we are hoping we won’t have to use it.”

Gregg said the inclusion of the Murray Cricket Council has added a pathway to representative cricket.

“With the likes of Wagga and Cricket Albury Wodonga on board, it is also used to identify those juniors who will filter into the NSW junior development system,” he said.