Standing outside the Don Tallon Pavilion at Salter Oval, Mayor Jack Dempsey said it's fantastic the Country Challenge Cup is being held in Bundaberg.
He said the high-profile cricket competition would showcase some of the best up-and-coming regional cricketers and give them an opportunity to play on a higher level.
“Go Wide Bay! We are certainly proud to have the opportunity to have this carnival here and we need the community to get out and support the magnificent event,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“There will be sixes and people smashing balls all around the field, come and enjoy the beautiful weather and see the best talent.”
Mayor Dempsey said the Country Challenge Cup was a cricketing opportunity of a lifetime and he encouraged all of the community to go along and watch the players' dreams being fulfilled, with some to be given the chance to play at the Gabba.
“Wide Bay all the way, if there is ever a chance to get a team into the finals it’s now on home ground,” he said.
Mayor Dempsey praised Bundaberg Cricket for all its effort in getting the Bulls Masters competition to be held in Bundaberg after previously being played in Mackay.
“It’s a great credit to the volunteers from Bundaberg Cricket and its only the start of the journey to make Bundaberg a welcoming place for cricketers from all around the world,” he said.
“We need the community to support it and it also means other opportunity of other infrastructure opportunities to make sure that we can retain this particular event in years to come.”
He said there was support for all the younger players from the whole community and the games would be an opportunity for them to perhaps become the next Don Tallon.
“I’m sure there’s going to be lots of youngsters here and if we can get the next Don Tallon coming of Salter Oval here it would be a fantastic achievement,” he said.
“They are only going to do that if they know they have the power of the community and the support behind them.”
Wide Bay hope to win Country Challenge Cup
Wide Bay mentor Carl Rackemann is excited to mentor the host team, and said they’d put on a good show and get through to the final at the Gabba.
Carl said there were eight mentors from all over Queensland that were ready to help the younger players take to the pitch and take on the challenge.
Carl said the Wide Bay team was a certainty for the Gabba but he's wary of the competition.
“There are some good sides coming – I hear that Toowoomba are sending a really strong side and Central Queensland will be tough, everyone will be tough and that’s the competitive side of it and it’s a great thing for the guys involved and a great thing for country cricket,” Carl said.
“Isn’t it great that all over Queensland is coming to Bundaberg!”
Carl said for some of the cricket players taking to the Salter Oval pitch it would be the pinnacle of their career.
“It’s something they thought may have never happened – that they are playing in a competition like this, and for others perhaps some of the younger players it could be a stepping stone to who knows what – it means different things to different people but a great thing to be involved in,” he said.
He said the Wide Bay players had all been picked for a reason and that was because they were good players to be in the team and he’s advice to them would be to “trust yourself” and take that on to the field by knowing what their strengths were.
Wide Bay Flames says it’ll be tough competition
Wide Bay Flames batsman Brendan Handley will take to the field for the Wide Bay team and said he expected the games to all be tough, especially since he had come from the Central Queensland team originally.
“It’ll be a great challenge, we all know that CQ has been very successful in the last couple of years and the pinnacle of country cricket at the moment,” Brendan said.
“It will be a tough game … our team has changed slightly, and I am very happy with our professional preparation this year.”
He said it was important to remain positive through the games and take home the win.
Being selected for such a unique event, Brendan said it was a highlight for any player taking to the field.
“This could be the best cricket a number of players will ever play, this weekend,” Brendan said.
“People are really keen to play and that means it will be a high level of competition and quite a challenge.”
He said with mentors like Carl, who is an ex-Australian test player, it would be beneficial for the whole team who would be able to bounce ideas of him and delve into his experience.
Defending champions hope to win Country Challenge
Nathan Hauritz will mentor the Central Queensland team, who are the defending champions.
Nathan said the support from Bundaberg Regional Council to bring the Bulls Masters Cup to the region, and he was looking forward to the next three days of “hard cricket”.
He said the T20 cup was a great initiative that gave regional cricketers a chance to play at the Gabba, which was always exciting, and this event was imperative in building a stepping stone for country kids.
“As a young kid growing up you the Gabba’s, you know something you always want to play at and as a curtain raiser to the Heat game there is no greater feeling than having the crowd there,” Nathan said.
“Country kids there’s a lot of talent there that sometimes gets unnoticed… getting everything back in for the country kids and getting them involved – I think is outstanding.”
The Central Queensland mentor said it there was an opportunity like this when he was younger, he would have been a better T20 player.
“I think the most important thing is to have a good time,” Nathan said.
“Queensland Cricket has always been built on strong country cricket so it will be great to see some guys put in some great performances over the next three days – you just never know who will pop up, young kids or even an older male playing, moving forward and getting to the State.”
Nathan said with the format of the game being a T20 was a lot of fun as players wouldn’t have to stand in the field for 50 overs or longer.
“It’s a three-hour game and people can come and watch – when we play our Bulls Masters games, we always get good crowds and Bundaberg and the Regional Council here have been fantastic and great supporters for a long time,” he said.
Looking forward to watching the Central Queensland team, Nathan didn’t shy away from saying it was a bit of a shame he wasn’t looking after the Wide Bay team instead.
“It would have been nice, it will be a bit of a mixed feeling tonight when Central Queensland win, but that’s just part of the game!”
The Country Challenge Cup will start Friday night and continue through until Sunday.