The state’s most promising young cricket stars are set to make their way to Armidale early in the new year with two junior representative carnivals set to get underway.
The town’s annual under 15 Walter Taylor Shield will commence on January 2 followed by the under 14 Kookaburra Cup on January 8.
It is the 26th time the Walter Taylor Shield has been played out on Armidale’s cricket grounds and eight teams will be vying for the trophy named after one of New England’s greats.
Penrith will be aiming to secure their third Shield on the trot while West Pennant Hills-Cherrybrook, Hunter Valley, Tamworth, Lismore, Ballina and two Armidale teams – an under 14s and under 15s – will strive to knock them off their throne.
According to carnival convener Andrew Page, one of the two host sides could threaten Penrith’s winning run.
“I think our 15s are in a really strong position,” he said.
“They are all high rep players, all Northern Inland or higher, I think they are in with a real shot this year.
“Tamworth has a pretty good side as well, they have a number of Kookaburra Cup players in their side.”
The under 15s already have a wealth of Walter Taylor experience under their belts with the majority turning out for Armidale in the 2017 tournament.
Even though it wasn’t a successful carnival for them, Page believes it was a vital learning curve as they compete for the 2018 title.
“I think the younger players were a bit overwhelmed last year so they will certainly be at the top of the tree this year,” he said.
“They have done Northern Inland things and Central North things [since].”
In an new and exciting addition to the 2018 carnival, four teams will have the opportunity to play under lights.
“The teams coming are looking forward to the opportunity to play day-night cricket which we are hoping to provide for four teams but we will make that decision depending on rainfall for the week, we don't want to schedule night games if it is stormy because then they just miss out on games,” Page said.
“On the Tuesday and the Wednesday we are hopefully going to have day-night cricket at the Sportsground under lights.
“We are going to try and get the visiting teams to play those games as a bit of a goodwill gesture for travelling six hours.
“They don't get an opportunity at any other carnival to play under lights.”