A week ago the closest that Josh Claridge, Adam Winchester and Luke Hitchcock had come to the Big Bash League was spectating.
But on Thursday afternoon this talented Charlestown junior trio will trial for a rookie training contract with the Sydney Sixers at No.1 Sportsground.
They were three of 14 players from Newcastle District Cricket Association invited along to participate in the session, overseen by Sixers head coach Greg Shipperd, with one spot on offer to join the franchise for a week leading into Christmas.
The deal includes training with the Sixers for a week from December 18 while attending fixtures with the squad against reigning champions the Sydney Thunder and the Hobart Hurricanes.
“It’s a good opportunity to prove ourselves at the next level,” 15-year-old right-handed batsman Claridge said. Fellow willow-wielder Hitchcock, 16, agreed and said it was also a chance to “get your name out there with selectors”.
Cricket NSW northern NSW pathway manager Mark Cameron reckons the connection being made between the Sixers and Newcastle in 2016-2017 could be beneficial for summers to come.
“It’s an outstanding opportunity, not only for the players selected but long term for Newcastle cricket,” Cameron said. “The Sixers are a leading franchise in the cricket world and for Newcastle to have a rookie player selected is fairly special.”
The former Australia A, state and Merewether paceman helped pick the triallists, who hail from seven district clubs and range in age between 15-year-old Belmont leg-spinner Toby Gray and Newcastle colts such as Peter McCredie, Andrew Somerville and Ryan Van Kemenade.
“We’ve selected kids we believe could be potential first class or Big Bash players in the next five-ish years,” Cameron said. “They are in the pathway and are trying to make their name in cricket.”
Meanwhile, Charlestown will rely on early wickets to defend their 120 this Saturday on day two of their third round encounter at Waratah Oval. The undefeated home side resume at 3-73 with Charlestown chasing their first win of the season.
Claridge, Winchester and Hitchcock are part of a younger, new-look first grade line up at Charlestown.
“It’s about building the future of the club and being exposed to a higher level of cricket,” 16-year-old all-rounder Winchester said.
In terms of other commitments all three represented Newcastle at last month’s Under-19 Country Championships, finishing second on quotient despite winning both matches. Claridge also has Bradman Cup (under-16) on home soil early in the New Year.
SIXERS TRIAL: Toby Gray (Belmont), Glenn Winsor, Josh Claridge, Adam Winchester, Luke Hitchcock (Charlestown), Ben Balcomb (Hamilton-Wickham), Ryan Van Kemenade, Sam O'Sullivan (Newcastle City), Andrew Somerville, Griffin Lea, Logan Johnson, Peter McCredie (Toronto), Liam Wilson (Waratah-Mayfield), Tom Allen (Wests).