The serious work looms for a strong Central Districts Under-17 squad to represent the region at the fiercely competitive national championships at New Zealand Cricket's High Performance Centre in Lincoln, Canterbury, beginning Thursday.
The NZC National Under-17 Tournament is a development opportunity for the best young cricketers from all around New Zealand and, for many players, the championship is their first opportunity to test their skills at a national level against their contemporaries from other provinces.
CD last claimed the national title in 2014/15 and is out to break Auckland's stranglehold, the defending champions from the big smoke having made it two trophies on the bounce last summer.
Both islands and seven of CD's eight District Associations are represented in this year's CD U17 squad for the busy week of one-day matches — reflecting strong work at grass roots and development level and exciting emerging talents right across CD's extensive catchment.
Right-hand number four batsman Sam Sherriff, 17, returns to captain the side as one of two rising stars from Cricket Wanganui — alongside Joel Clark, with Wanganui Collegiate's Hadleigh O'Leary also having been selected as a non-travelling reserve.
Sherriff is in-form and fell agonisingly short of a century late Sunday afternoon for Air Chathams Wanganui as injuries to key players forced an already depleted side to scrap for a draw against Horowhenua Kapiti in a Furlong Cup match.
Sherriff was dismissed for 92 late in the final session after he had helped his side put an outright win beyond Horowhenua Kapiti.
Meanwhile, Hawke's Bay supplies four players to the travelling squad: vice-captain and top order batsman William Clark, Sam Ferguson, left-hand opener Brayden Hill and Harry Mowat, with fellow off-spinner Brandon Roberts also named as a non-travelling reserve.
The South Island districts of Nelson and Marlborough are represented by 16-year-old leg break bowler Finn Restieaux (Nelson) and Marlborough's Tom Sutherland, who opens the batting for Centic, and Wairau Valley paceman Joel Lavender; while left-hand top order batsman Dylan Reder flies the flag for Horowhenua-Kāpiti.
Taranaki's Jordan Gard, Sebastian Lauderdale-Smith and Manawatū's Thomas Kirk complete the 13, with Manawatū's Curtis Heaphy, who was named player of the tournament at last season's national NZCT Junior Secondary School Championships, a non-travelling reserve.
Along with new captain Sherriff, Restieaux, Reder, Hill and Clark all return from the CD U17 squad that placed third on the table in last season's championships.
The 2018/19 side is coached by Cricket Wanganui's Dilan Raj with assistance from Nelson's Luke Toynbee who will also manage the team. CD's Euan West has been appointed one of the tournament's six official scorers.
+ CD U17 SCHEDULE
10.30am Thursday, Jan 17 CD U17 v Auckland U17, Lincoln Green
10.00am Friday, Jan 18 CD U17 v ND U17, Bert Sutcliffe Oval
10.00am Sunday, Jan 20 CD U17 v Otago U17, Bert Sutcliffe Oval
10.15am Monday, Jan 21 CD U17 v Canterbury U17, Lincoln No.3
10.30am Wednesday, Jan 23 CD U17 v Wellington U17, Lincoln Green
Thursday, Jan 24 Finals day 1v2, 3v4, 5v6