It will be the youngest Air Chathams Cricket Wanganui Men's representative team in terms of the average age in several seasons when captain-coach Charlie Hartley leads his team onto the field in Napier tomorrow.

Over half the playing 12 chosen have yet to see their 20th birthday ahead of the opening Furlong Cup against Pay Excellence Hawkes Bay, erroneously but perhaps not inaccurately called "Par Excellence" in the Cricket Wanganui press release – given how the Napier-based team traditionally dominates minor association cricket.

Coupled with this is the changing of the guard at the top with former captain Simon Badger and allrounder Ross Kinnerley now the entirety of the veterans group, with Greg Smith having gone home to England, batsman Mark Fraser unavailable, Dominic Rayner still making his way back from North America and Craig Clare literally only just having finished his rugby season.

Making their debut will be Collegiate players Sam Sherriff and Joel Clark, with Sherriff having had a taste of higher honours as part of the Central Districts Under 17's squad.


Their schoolmate Ben Kelt made his debut for Wanganui in the last Furlong Cup match of the 2017-18 season against Wairarapa in Masterton, of which there are now only three survivors in himself, Kinnerley and top order batsman Thomas Walshe, given Badger missed the game to attend a wedding, one of several diverting nuptials last summer.

But perhaps the clearing of the decks will be good for Hartley, who looked to impose his philosophy on the predominantly young group during the two indoor sessions and three outdoor sessions in which he has had them.

It has not been ideal buildup in terms of pitch time, given club cricket and a scheduled practice game with Wellington A were rained out over the last two weekends, with the exception of the three Watsons Tech players in Kinnerley, Dominic Lock and Akash Gill, now free of any overseas illegibility issue, getting a rain-shortened match in Masterton last Saturday.

But when some players showed up five minutes after his deadline for the first training session, Hartley promptly sent them off on "suicide runs" and other hard cardio workouts.

"The next session, they were on time," he said.

"The training's been good, I've tried to put more of a professional aspect into it.

"It's not just laughing about. It's not club cricket.

"I've been brought over here to do a job and that's to provide as much of a professional culture as I can."

Charlie Hartley
Charlie Hartley

Regarding the absence of players in their 30's, Hartley draws on his experience of the game in England to point out that sometimes a "large age range" can be detrimental, as the youngsters have to do what is dictated to them by a small group of much older seniors, who may not have the team's best interests at heart.

The coach has also gotten the team to underscore their commitments, literally, in the form of spread sheets where they have indicated they are available on the weekends of representative fixtures.

Professional Ben Smith, away on Central Districts Stags duties, is the only exception.

Hartley even had to negotiate Sherriff's debut as it appeared initially that he would be required for a prizegiving at Collegiate.

It's all part of the Englishman's determination to address "lack of clarity when it came to attending games", one of the achilles heels last summer.

"Whether it was weddings or whatever, it's not going to be like that with me around, you either commit or you don't," he said.

"I've been impressed with Sam Sherriff's attitudes and his taking to the squad."
Clark is in the same boat.

"I think he's got skills, he's got a lovely [bowling] action," said Hartley.

"He's got good temperament and as a spinner you have to be.

"He's either going to do well or learn."

Matt Simes has returned from university to join the training group and is only unavailable for this weekend, while Hartley has no information on the likes of Matthew Boswell or Ryan Slight.

Under coach Dave Castle, Hawke's Bay did get in some representative cricket last weekend, hammering Manawatu by 105 runs in a 50-over match at Nelson Park.

Todd Watson top scored with 53 runs as the hosts posted 234-8, while his Napier Technical clubmate Matt Edmondson made 43.

Captained by the experienced Jacob Smith, the bowling group then did their work with spinners Jayden Lennox and Angus Schaw performing well, as did pace bowler Liam Dudding.

Hawke's Bay will be eager to regain the Furlong Cup after slipping up in their final game with Manawatu last season, losing first innings points, which when coupled with the new bonus-points system meant Taranaki was able to slip past them despite having been beaten by Hawke's Bay on first innings earlier in the summer.

Nonetheless, Hartley has faith that his men can compete.

"I'm not bothered at all, unless they turn up with Trent Boult, Ross Taylor or Todd Latham or something like that, who are they going to turn up with? [Just] good club cricketers."

"We're going to break it down into sessions, six of them, the aim is to win three of them.

"We just have to get in and get out of each session."

Team manager this summer is Andrew Lock, who previously held the role in the 2012-13 summer, and made a successful application again on the back of his managing experience for the Namibia and Sri Lanka teams on their tours to New Zealand.

Play starts today at 10.30am.

The Wanganui team is
Sam Sherriff (WCS); Thomas Walshe (Marist); Dominic Lock (The Watsons Tech); Charlie Hartley (captain); Akash Gill (The Watsons Tech); Simon Badger (Property Brokers United); Ross Kinnerley (The Watsons Tech); Ben Kelt (WCS); John McIlraith (Marist); Chris Sharrock (Property Brokers United); Angus Dinwiddie (Marist); Joel Clark (WCS).

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Air Chathams growing influence on local sport continues to bear fruit as the airline has been announced as the new sponsor for the Wanganui representative team for the 2018-19 season, with an annual renewable option.

Cricket Wanganui general manager Dilan Raj said while the airline has already sponsored flights and supports for the Wanganui Rugby Football Union, this is the first time in 30 years they have gotten behind a cricket team.

"We believe that sport provides a way for social, physical and health benefits to our population," said Raj.

"Our cricketing community participates in various cricket programmes from five years to 50 years of age."

The Air Chathams Wanganui team plays their first match tomorrow against Hawke's Bay in Napier.

Air Chathams have signed up to sponsor the Wanganui Cricket Men's Representative side for the next season with an annual renewable option.
Air Chathams have signed up to sponsor the Wanganui Cricket Men's Representative side for the next season with an annual renewable option.