They didn't make the New Zealand men's team to the ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales but four Central Districts Stags are out to showcase their skills after they were named in a New Zealand XI squad to play their Australian counterparts in Brisbane early next month.
Doug Bracewell, William Young, George Worker and Blair Tickner started training at a Black Caps camp at Lincoln, near Christchurch, yesterday before they jet off in three weeks to play 50-over matches on May 5, 7 and 9.
"We'll be in camp every Monday and Tuesday until we go to Australia," said Tickner, of Napier.
The Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay premier men's club cricketer said he hadn't rolled his arm over for the Gary Stead-coached Black Caps in one-day internationals so it didn't come as a shock to him that he wasn't going to the world cup from May 30 to July 6.
However, he believed Bracewell, who had handed Tickner his Black Caps debutant's cap in Hamilton during a Twenty20 match against India in February, and Young would probably have felt the impact of missing out on the world cup the most among the CD players.
"They were very close [to selection], those two, so they'll be very proud of themselves so I think a lot more opportunities will come for them," he said.
Black Caps wicketkeeper/batsman Tom Latham is assuming the mantle of captaincy of a cast of current Black Caps, World Cup stand-by hopefuls and some familiar old faces in the New Zealand XI squad.
Nine World Cup squad members are competing at the lucrative IPL T20 competition in India while New Zealand Cricket has released Stags veteran batsman Ross Taylor to represent English county side Middlesex in the lead up to the world cup.
NZ Cricket sees the 35-year-old's short-term contract with the London-based franchise, who play their homes games at Lord's, as an ideal bedding in time for the world cup.
That means the Black Caps great, who is attending the first training, will miss the remaining two sessions at the Lincoln camp as well as the New Zealand XI games.
"Every player in the squad, apart from Will Young, has played for the Black Caps and we're backing them to give a good account of themselves," said NZ Cricket convenor of selectors Gavin Larsen.
For Tickner, it will be like a home away from home when they jet off on May 3 for Brisbane. He had spent a decade in the Gold Coast after his family emigrated there when he was a youngster.
He returned to the Bay late in 2015 after meeting fellow CHB cricketer Angus Schaw while the pair were playing against each other in Cambridge, England.
Over a few beers Schaw convinced the former Taradale Cricket Club age-group player to return to his birth region to turn out for CHB.
"It's good to go back [to Brisbane] because that's where I had played all my junior cricket," said the bloke who had a meteoric rise in the Bay from club cricket to the international arena.
Tickner said he had played and trained a lot in his competitive years at the Allan Border Field in Brissy.
"A lot of my family are still at the Gold Coast so it'll be nice to go see them again and let them see some cricket."
He said the Brisbane weather would be ideal for cricket and the wickets would offer seamers some pace, swing and bounce.
CD fast bowler Adam Milne, wicketkeeper Tim Seifert and Corey Anderson were not considered due to injury although Milne is training with the Black Caps in Lincoln this week.
"He's at the camp now and I think he's trying to get back into bowling slowly," Tickner said of Milne, who has grappled with his share of injury demons in the past couple of seasons.
Tickner said it was good to be around the New Zealand XI squad, catching the eye of the national selectors.
"It also another opportunity to go somewhere else to play some cricket against good opposition who will test your skills so being around the group is always good and exciting to do that."
The 25-year-old right armer said the Stags' presence in the New Zealand XI equation was, no doubt, the result of the structure and intellectual investment outgoing coach Heinrich Malan had implemented over several summers.
"I'm happy to be around all the boys in a good environment here."
Tickner said it wasn't about the end-of-season CD awards, staged at the Old Church restaurant in Meeanee on March 22, but the collective drive to clinch results that culminated in the Burger King Super Smash T20 and Plunket Shield victories in the domestic men's competition in 2018-19.
"It was pretty special, especially that we were able to give him [two championships] on his way out with us," he said.
Tickner said Malan, who is tipped to replace outgoing Black Caps batting coach Craig McMillan after the world cup, appeared sad to end his tenure with the Stags but was happy to have added value to the major association team.
"He's developed a lot of players and helped us win a lot of cricket games so it was pretty exciting."
At the awards, CD Cricket lit candles, in the shape of a heart, in memory of the Muslim victims during the Christchurch shootings. Black Caps test spinner Ajaz Patel usually worships at the mosques when playing there but had missed the cull to play Bangladesh.
Stags first-class captain Greg Hay and record-breaking Hinds wicketkeeper-batsman Natalie Dodd claimed the top individual honours at the CD awards ceremony.
New Zealand XI: Tom Latham (c), Todd Astle, Hamish Bennett, Tom Blundell (wk), Doug Bracewell, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Hamish Rutherford, Blair Tickner, George Worker, William Young.
The 2019 Central Districts Cricket Association awards staged at the Old Church restaurant in Napier on March 22:
Age group and development:
U17 player of the year: Sam Ferguson (HB).
U19 player of the year: Thomas Zohrab (Nelson)
U21 player of the year: Rosemary Mair (HB).
Chapple Cup player of the tournament: Mason Hughes (Manawatū).
Hawke Cup player of the year: Matthew Thomas (Taranaki).
Super Smash player of the year: Hannah Rowe (Manawatū).
Hallyburton Johnstone Shield player of the year: Natalie Dodd (Taranaki).
Emerging player of the year: Claudia Green (Nelson).
Player's player of the year: Claudia Green (Nelson).
Player of the year: Natalie Dodd (Taranaki).
Super Smash player of the year (joint winners): Tom Bruce (Taranaki), Blair Tickner (HB).
Ford Trophy player of the year: Dean Foxcroft (HB).
Plunket Shield player of the year: Greg Hay (Nelson).
Player's player of the year: Greg Hay (Nelson).
Player of the year: Greg Hay (Nelson).
Umpire of the year: Glen Walklin.
Scorer recognition awards: Bev Baker, Duncan Mitchell.