Central Norths coach Aaron Mahony believes he has a team capable of breaking the zone's 12 year Bradman Cup drought this summer.
Central Norths start their 2023-24 Bradman Cup campaign in Kempsey this weekend with seven Maitland players including five form Northern Suburbs in the team for the annual NSW country Under-16 competition.
Norths players Keanu Botha (captain), Harry Dunn (vice captain), Sam Holz, Stirling Strachan and Jacob Cowan will be joined by City United's Rhys Tyrrell and Thornton's Thomas Long.
All the Norths contingent play either first or second grade, Tyrrell is a regular in seconds and Thomas is establishing himself at No.4 in the Thornton first grade team.
Botha and Holz both represented the Hunter in the NSW CHS Championships and Botha was selected in one of two NSW Country teams at the U17 State Challenge.
The pair along with Harry Dunn all play in the Greenshield competition in Sydney, considered by many at the strongest under-16 competition in the world.
Dunn was recently named the NSW Combined Catholic Schools captain.
"It's one of the most exciting groups I've worked with. If we can put it together on the day we might be able to have a better result than we've had in a little while in Bradman Cup," Mahony who played Bradman Cup for Central North in 2008-09
"I'm feeling quite confident. They have all been part of a NSW Academy over the off-season which I ran with Luke Knight who is the assistant coach.
"Really promising, the boys are working really hard and they are really excited."
"I think we are a good chance if we put things together up there to be honest."
Central North last won the Bradman Cup in 2011-12 when Mitchell Fisher, the Western Suburbs skipper and Mahony's premiership teammate, was part of the team.
"That was a very good team, and we've had some pretty good players represent Central North since but we haven't gone close to winning it since Mitch's team," Mahony said.
Central North will be in action on Saturday, December 2, with Twenty20 clashes against North Coastal and have a one-day game against Central Coast on Sunday, December 3.
The competition then heads to Wollongong from January 8 to January 11 when they will play one-day games against the four other country zones Riverina, Southern Districts, Greater Illawarra and Western.
Mahony said it was an exciting time for the players who were aware they were basically playing for a spot in the Under-17 NSW Pathway program.
"Selectors will consider how they go at club and grade level, but their form at this event will be a major consideration," he said.
"A lot of the boys have been noticed already and it's just another case to showcase how good they are at that level. It's the biggest showcase for an under-16 country player."