The best cricket teams from regional Queensland will fight for the Country Challenge Cup and the chance to play on the Gabba at Salter Oval this weekend.
Eight zones from across the state will compete, with the top two teams playing the grand final to be held at the Gabba as a curtain-raiser to a Brisbane Heat game later in the season.
Central Queensland won their maiden title last year to continue the Northern team’s dominance of the event in recent times, but with the event moving south to Bundaberg, the Southern Queensland zones will be keen to prove they’re not just making up the numbers.
Wide Bay and Darling Downs are the only sides that have never made the final at the Gabba.
Bulls Masters managing director Jimmy Maher said hosting the event would certainly be a boost to Wide Bay players.
“This is such an important event for Regional Queensland cricketers and we’ve seen with the previous hosts, Mackay (Mackay/Whitsundays Nitros) who made it to the final at the Gabba for the past three years, it can bring a lot of excitement and energy to the host town,” Maher said.
“This event means so much to the players, the associations, the towns and the mentors so we’d like to thank the Bundaberg Regional Council and all our sponsors for making the Country Challenge happen this year.”
Excitement for the competition is building locally with the Wide Bay Flames team paired with Bulls Masters mentor Carl Rackemann.
Each team will be paired up with a former Queensland Cricket legend from the Bulls Masters to mentor their side:
Wide Bay – Carl Rackemann
South East Qld – Dirk Tazelaar
Darling Downs – Gavin Fitness
Gold Coast – Brendan Creevey
Central Queensland – Nathan Hauritz
Mackay/Whitsundays – Mick Polzin
North Queensland – Luke Feldman
Far North Qld – Jimmy Maher
The teams will be split into two pools of four and the top two sides in each pool after the group rounds will play off in a semi-final with the winners making the final at the Gabba
Darling Downs Suns
Central Queensland Seamers
Wide Bay Flames
Far North Qld Fusion
North Qld Monsoons
Gold Coast Thunder
Mayor Jack Dempsey said it was a coup for the Bundaberg Region to secure the Bulls Masters Country Challenge for the next three years.
“Mackay has done a terrific job of hosting this event over the last seven years but we’re very excited that it is now the Bundaberg Region’s time to help this event shine,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“We look forward to hosting this event in Bundaberg for a number of years going forward.
“It’s great to see the best of the best from regional Queensland coming to Bundaberg to battle it out.”
The Bulls Masters provide all of the team kits, travel and accommodation for each Regional Queensland zone which enables all of the best players to make themselves available for the event.
Wide Bay Flames team list
Joe Laffey (coach)
Troy Ignatenko (manager)