TAREE United captain Josh Ferris is confident his team will boast a strong batting arsenal when all the players are available for the tier 1 Manning cricket competition.
United played their first game of the season last Saturday after two previous washouts and downed Gloucester in a low scoring game on a field at Taree Recreation Ground that could have done with a mow.
However, United had a number of players unavailable, including Ferris. He's hoping most will be back tomorrow for the top-of-the-table match against Great Lakes at Tuncurry. Co-captain Tom Burley is one confirmed absentee due to illness.
A newcomer from Newcastle, Joshua Hardy, makes his tier 1 debut for the club tomorrow.
"Apparently he bats in the top order, so we'll give him a start there,'' Ferris said.
Bit hitting Josh Meldrum also had his first game for United last week.
"Josh missed out last week, but we know what a quality batsman he is,'' Ferris said.
Throw in proven performers Burley, Ricky Campbell, Matt Collier, Laurie Weeks, Murray McCartney and Ferris said United has the batting capability to get among the runs this summer.
"If a few of us older blokes can chip in with a few runs it will help out,'' Ferris added.
Opening bowler Jackson Witts also made a comeback week and he'll share the new ball duties with Justin Boyd. United will have Campbell and Meldrum to to bowl spin, although Campbell had to bowl medium pacers last week against Gloucester as a number of front line trundlers were out.
Great Lakes bettered United in last season's second grade grand final - this competition having basically morphed into tier 1 this year.
"They've won their two games, so they must be getting a pretty strong team out there,'' Ferris said.
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"That's good for the comp and shows they probably could have been in first grade a few years ago.''
With just six games to go before the start of the semi-finals, Ferris is tipping a close competition.
"I don't think there's been much between any of the five teams,'' he reasoned.
Great Lakes has won two from two and will have the home ground advantage tomorrow.
Gloucester has the bye.
STRUGGLING Taree West faces a must-win game against Wingham in the Manning tier 1 cricket clash at Cedar Party Reserve tomorrow.
In what has been a delayed and stop-start season caused by wet weather and COVID-19 restrictions, the West are in last place on three points, trailing equal fourth placed Wingham and Gloucester both on nine.
Wingham has one win from two matches, downing Gloucester before losing to Great Lakes. Wingham had the bye when play resumed for 2022 last weekend so will be eager for a hit out.
Taree West came agonisingly close to upsetting competition front runners Great Lakes last weekend when finishing at 9/129 in reply to 136. West were down a place after two withdrawals that morning and skipper Gus Gregory said that played a major part in the downfall.
However, he added that all teams are struggling at the moment with players away along with dropouts due to COVID-19 isolation.
Gregory said there were some positive sides for the West, but agreed they will have to get a win on the board soon if they are going to challenge for a finals berth.
Counting tomorrow there are only six games scheduled before the start of the playoffs.
A win will ensure Wingham stays in the hunt for a top two berth for the finals to start on Saturday, February 26.
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