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Captains give their outlook on country week as the tournament begins on Sunday

Victor Tanti & Jake Santa Maria Geraldton Guardian
Jai Russell will lead the A-section side for a second straight year.
Camera IconJai Russell will lead the A-section side for a second straight year. Credit: Jake Santa Maria

Country week captains Jai Russell and Aaron McAuliffe have high hopes as the competition begins on Sunday.

Geraldton has A-section and B-section teams with the top side to play Bunbury at Kingsway Reserve while the B-section side faces Great Southern at Iluka.

Both teams lack dominant batting but have depth with most of the tailenders capable of making runs.

“Poor batting is probably a theme with all country week sides — we need to focus on batting our 60 overs and results will take care of themselves,” A-section captain Jai Russell said.

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“In Geraldton, we haven’t batted well as an association, but we have had some pretty green decks and we do play T20 cricket, which probably doesn’t help statistically.

“A-section is the pinnacle of country cricket and the final is at the WACA which itself is a massive prize.

“We have a great mix of attacking and grafting batsmen and eight of our team were in last year’s semifinal loss so I hope we’re hardened by that.”

A boost for Geraldton is the Australian Country Cricket Titles are held concurrently in Canberra and that five-time winner Peel is no longer part of country week.

Peel’s participation was always divisive as most of their players were metro-based and many played grade cricket for Rockingham-Mandurah.

“Effectively 12 of WA’s best country cricketers are away but Bunbury has a massive population to draw from and some teams could be topped up by Peel players,” Russell said.

“We’ll see but I’m happy with the balance of our attack even though we don’t have a frontline spinner and rely on Ringo McKenna to lead our attack, though I’ll be mindful of his workload.

“I’m hoping for a big week from Clayton Bruce-Cherry, he missed WA country selection and is hungry, while for me, getting closer to the end of my time, it’s a week I cherish a little bit more.”

Geraldton finished fourth last year after losing their semifinal which Russell described as par but has set a higher target this year.

“I’d like to think we’re a chance of making a final,” he said.

“I think the opportunity is there, we’ll no doubt meet a good side in the semi if we make it and it all comes down to the back end of the week.”

Seconds captain Aaron McAuliffe is pleased with his team’s preparation.

“The majority of my 13 men have been to most if not all training sessions and we have a good blend of experience and youth,” he said.

“Sixty-over cricket is a test for country cricketers but I think if we play our roles we’ll win some cricket and have some fun.

“I’ll have the support of ‘spin king’ and country week legend Daniel Welsh who’ll help me with on-field decisions and plans on how to beat the opposition.

“Two out of the three teams (in the qualifiers) are their association’s best so it’s going to be tough but looking forward to the challenge.”

A-section games: Jan 15 v Bunbury at Kingsway Res; Jan 16 v Eastern G’fields at Tompkins Res; Jan 18 v Albany at College Pk. Jan 19 and Jan 20 games depend on results in qualifiers.

B-section games: Jan 15 v Gt Southern at Iluka; Jan 16 v Albany (2) at Sutherlands; Jan 18 v Sth Midlands at Charles Veryard. Jan 19 and Jan 20 games depend on results in qualifiers.

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