Blues boost batting bank
Brad Haddin's elevation to the Australia Test squad has forced New South Wales to boost their keeping stocks by picking up Peter Nevill from Victoria. The arrival of Nevill, who was behind Adam Crosthwaite and Matthew Wade in the Bushrangers' plans, will push Daniel Smith for first-team appearances as Haddin steps up following Adam Gilchrist's retirement. Smith played three Pura Cup matches last season as cover for Haddin, but he has also played as a specialist batsman.
The Blues handed a deal to the fast bowler Burt Cockley who, like Nevill, is aged 22. Cockley made his Pura Cup debut in February after impressing in the Sydney grade competition. Craig Simmons, Tim Lang and Martin Paskal were left off the 19-strong full-contract list. With ten other Blues players on Cricket Australia deals as well, the state list has been afforded a strong emphasis on youth, with seven rookies also in the fold.
Rookies Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Stephen O'Keefe, Steven Smith and David Warner were rewarded with full contracts after strong seasons. Hughes averaged 62.11 in seven first-class matches, including his initial century in the successful Pura Cup final. He was vice-captain of Australia's Under-19 World Cup side this year and won the state's rising star award.
Khawaja, a left-hander, was the leading run scorer at grade level, making 1134 runs at 59.68. On Pura Cup debut he made a mature 85 at home in February against the eventual finalists Victoria. Smith, a leg-spinning allrounder who was also in the national Under-19 squad this year, has the chance to further push his claims for a regular spot after debuting in both Pura and FR Cups last season and impressing in the Twenty20 competition.
Josh Hazlewood, the 17-year-old fast bowler who was the youngest member of the Australia Under-19 World Cup squad this year, earned a rookie contract, as did Daniel Burns, a left-arm orthodox bowler who was also at the youth World Cup, and former junior internationals Sam Robson, a legspinning allrounder, and Mitchell Starc, a left-arm fast bowler.
James Crosthwaite, Adam's brother and like him a wicketkeeper, also picked up a deal after representing Scotland and ACT. Joshua Lalor, a left-arm fast bowler, and the left-hander Scott Henry complete the rookie set.
The New South Wales chief executive David Gilbert is happy with the depth of the squad but warned that every player must play his part. "The absence of our Australian players will make the 2008-09 season a very challenging one," Gilbert said, "so it will be imperative that the younger players rise to the occasion."
The Blues have lost three players from their 2007-08 group. Matthew Nicholson announced his retirement earlier this year while Aaron O'Brien and Tom Cooper have both transferred to South Australia. The Redbacks were also chasing Greg Mail and Grant Lambert but both decided to stay in New South Wales for study or family reasons.
Squad Aaron Bird, Mark Cameron, Burt Cockley, Ed Cowan, Scott Coyte, Peter Forrest, Nathan Hauritz, Moises Henriques, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Grant Lambert, Greg Mail, Peter Nevill, Stephen O'Keefe, Ben Rohrer, Daniel Smith, Steven Smith, Dominic Thornely, David Warner.
Import Peter Nevill.
Rookies Daniel Burns, James Crosthwaite, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Henry, Joshua Lalor, Sam Robson, Mitchell Starc.
Players on the transfer list Craig Simmons, Tim Lang and Martin Paskal.