Phelps to open FNC Cricket season

Former Lismore and NSW player and newly appointed Country Cricket co-ordinator Matthew Phelps (pictured far right) will officially launch the LJ Hooker League two-day and Byron Private Life one-day competitions at the East Lismore Bowling Club next Tuesday, October 3, from 7pm.

The official opening is part of a larger program of training and promotion for the one time Richmond River High School student and classy top order batsmen.

Before the opening Phelps will be running an elite training program at the Goonellabah Workers Sports Club from 8.30-11am, before training at Fripp Oval in Ballina from 12pm and returning to Goonellabah at 3pm. On the Wednesday, Phelps will be at the Byron Bay Recreation Ground from 9am, offering helpful hints and training to aspiring young cricketers.

The rumour mill (alphabetical order)

Young players and fringe players should get a chance to play Hooker League and the newly named Byron Private Life one-day series this year thanks to what promises to be a harrowing schedule of matches. This year, in addition to the usual nine rounds of two day matches on Saturday afternoons, the top teams will also be required to back up for seven Sunday games or more should they make the finals.

The newly expanded season will be an extra challenge for Alstonville, who be without Jon Bruggy, Peter Weingarth, Gary Boyd, Troy Cook and Tony Arch, who are unavailable due to work commitments. The redsoilers will also lose Emu opening bowler Josh Murphy, who is planning to play in Brisbane this season, and classy left hander Greg Potter, who is taking a season off.

To make up this enormous shortfall Alstonville will be blooding a number of juniors, notably the hard hitting Paul Kenyon and all rounders Ryan Oxenford and Shaun Vidler.

Meanwhile the Ballina Bears, who have a younger and more university-based side, are happy about the increased number of one-day games. They will have a basically unchanged squad from last year, except for the temporary loss of wicket keeper Brendan Davis to university studies in November.

Casino have lost the core of their batting with Adam Sheilds retiring and Slammin Sam Irvine moving to the Gold Coast to play at a higher level. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they have some exceptional juniors coming through the ranks, notably the brilliant Myles McDowell, fellow batsmen Dylan Black and all rounder Josh Innes.

Eastern Districts, who are on the verge of establishing an excellent and complete club facility at Nielson Park, will be without adventurous all rounder Brett Ruttley due to family commitments. Fortunately for the Waratahs they are presently awaiting a mysterious 19-year-old Englishman to join their ranks, along with the return of the equally adventurous all rounder Jake McKinnon from injury.

Lennox Head, the only club to vote against the increased number of games and the only sensible club according to coach Glen Lewis, will be hard pressed to field a competitive side on Sundays as their team is made up of dads and pizza boys, with regular work commitments. Although they have lost big opening bowler Ben Legzdins to work, Todd Fisher to a horrific rugby injury (where he fell foul of a rogue surveyor peg), and spinner Jordan Waugh to Tintenbar, they are still keen to test themselves in the top flight.

The only significant change in the Marist Brothers line-up is the ascension of Craig Hamshaw to the captaincy, taking over from Stuart Fiedler. As Hamshaw is one of the shrewdest practitioners of the gentlemans game in the region they can only prosper with him at the helm.

Norths/Goonellabah RSLs Nathan Bonamy, though not exactly over the moon about the intensity of the schedule, was still happy to be playing more games, particularly after all of the washouts last year. The Hawks, like Lennox and Alstonville, and to a lesser extent Casino, are in a rebuilding phase and will be rotating a few of their young guns. Bludgeoning young batsman Josh Blackler, Mitch Wilson and the Hellyer brothers, Dimitri and Andreas, will all probably get a run.

Souths, renowned as the districts all-conquering Dads Army, will be pressed to use their up and coming juniors as well. Mitchell Pickford and Matt Parish are their stand out younger players but I expect a few bolters from their talented reserve grade line-up to make a name for themselves in first grade this year. Otherwise, the men in green and gold will at some stage lose the ever-slippery Craig Bateman to knee surgery and questions remain as to whether they will play Brad Lofts.

Last years premiers Tintenbar/East Ballina go into this years competition with an even more competitive line-up, if thats possible. Hard nosed opener Mick Warburon will return from England in November and orthodox left arm spinner Jordan Waugh from Lennox will provide the Bar with a spinner whos capable of tying down batsmen. They are also blessed with an array of talented juniors and this year they should get a chance to shine.

Workers, who are blessed with a host of good all rounders, like Jeremy Cowan and Jason Caught, are well equipped for the one-day series. That said, they may find the number and regularity of matches tests their depth. Its time that some of their young guns, particularly Josh Suffolk and Daniel Bruce, joined the battle in the biggest game in town.

The first round of the LJ Hooker League two-day competition is on Saturday, October 7, while the first round of the Byron Private Life one-day competition begins on October 21.

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