FOUR Murrumbidgee under 17s players have been selected in the Riverina representative squad for the NSW Country Championships despite a “diabolical” showing at the Gorrell Cup this week.
Top-order bats Connor Matheson and Toby Polkinghorne and pace pair Matt Peruzzi and Corey Graham are the only local players to have been given the nod.
Matheson and Polkinghorne were far from their best at the Gorrell Cup but were picked on “trust” for their classy technique, according to coach Jeff McKenna, while Peruzzi and Graham bowled their way into the side after some stunning hauls at the three-day tournament.
Graham was consistent, taking eight wickets in three games, while Peruzzi grabbed 6-27 off 10 overs against Northern Riverina on Wednesday in a spell that earned high praise from a veteran umpire.
“That umpire has been doing these tournaments for 19 years and he said Matt’s was the best spell of fast bowling he’d seen,” McKenna said.
“He bowled fast, accurate, straight, swung the ball both ways, he was nice and aggressive, and it was enough to get in the Riverina team.”
More locals would have been selected if not for Murrumbidgee’s winless campaign at Barooga, which prompted McKenna and co-coaches Ritchie Alvaro and John Munro to deliver a stinging broadside to the players.
Eight members of the 13-man Gorrell Cup squad are eligible for selection for Murrumbidgee in the under 16 Colston-Scammell Cup in three weeks’ time, but few did enough to earn a chance to make amends.
“I told them that and they’ll have to make a reassessment if they want to be there or not,” McKenna said.
“They’re disappointed. They know they let themselves down.
“Our boys played like they were young blokes who had just had a very good football season. They didn’t switch on, they didn’t do the little things and you get found out here.
“These are people we admire. We know they’ve got the skills but hopefully they’re mentally tough enough to put their hand up and do better in the under 16s, because we know they’re good enough.”
Murrumbidgee was comfortably beaten in all three matches against Murray, Southern Riverina and Northern Riverina.
But the match against Southern Riverina on Tuesday was by far the worst of the lot, McKenna said.
The side was on track for an easy win, having bowled Southern out for 130 and with Polkinghorne and Matheson cruising at the crease.
But once the latter was caught lbw for 27, Murrumbidgee was 3-76 – and proceeded to lose their next eight wickets for just 37 runs.
“It was poor batting, no application and there’s just no excuses for that. We should have won that game by seven wickets,” McKenna said.
“But having said that these teams all turn up, they’re dedicated, they’re switched on, they want to succeed, they play as a team, they’re very well-drilled and we were just out-enthused across the park.
“In the field they were on their heels, they didn’t build pressure bowling and they just batted so poorly it was inexcusable. That’s why we lost all three games.
“It’s cost some guys a chance in the Riverina team, but when you get flogged in all three games you can’t walk into the selection room and demand a spot.”