The Renegades and Stars will take their KFC BBL rivalry to the Top End with the Melbourne-based clubs unveiling academy teams bolstered by a raft of experienced campaigners to play in next month’s TIO Strike League T20 tournament in Darwin.
In addition to a number of up-and-coming talents pushing their case for contracts in BBL|11, the influx includes former Australia representatives Nathan Coulter-Nile (Stars) and Cameron Boyce (Renegades).
The Renegades squad also includes Victoria’s Mackenzie Harvey, Jake Fraser-McGurk and Zak Evans as well as veteran left-arm seamer Josh Lalor, while the Stars’ academy squad features Victoria keeper Seb Gotch and is boosted by BBL players Nick Larkin, Tom O’Connell and Clint Hinchliffe.
And the Strike League competition provides newly appointed Renegades coach David Saker an opportunity to cast an eye over some of his personnel ahead of the summer as the BBL|08 champions look to haul themselves from the foot of the ladder.
Saker and assistant coach Mick Lewis will take charge of some of the brightest prospects from the last summer’s Victoria Premier Cricket season such as Brayden Stepien and Nick Ross (Carlton), Kyle Williamson (Melbourne), Tom Jackson (Geelong) and Fergus O’Neill (Melbourne).
“This is a great opportunity for our squad to get some competitive T20 match experience at a time of the year they would otherwise be confined to the nets,” Saker said.
“There are a number of players with first-class experience featuring across all teams in the tournament so our players will get a lot out of it.
The Stars outfit will be overseen by stand-in head coach Clint McKay, and the first intake of their new academy program also features prominent Premier Cricket performers James Seymour (Essendon), Damon Egan (Prahran) and Tom Rogers (Ringwood).
“The work NT Cricket has done to bring the Strike League to life in recent years and give southern states the opportunity for quality competition during winter is a fantastic outcome,” Stars interim general manager Blair Crouch said.
“It’s a great chance for some of our guys to get white-ball game time during winter and it also gives us a chance to have a look at other players who might be in the mix in the future.”
The T20 tournament – which runs from August 15-27 under lights at DXC Arena – forms the final element of Cricket Northern Territory’s inaugural Cricket 365 program designed to provide Australia with year-round top-level competition.
The Melbourne BBL academy teams will pit themselves against the four NT outfits currently contesting the TIO Men’s One-Day Series in Darwin – City Cyclones, Desert Blaze, Southern Storm and Northern Tide.
That one-day competition features a number of Marsh Sheffield Shield-capped players, including Chris Tremain, Jason Sangha, Arjun Nair (New South Wales), Tom Andrews (Tasmania) and Conor McInerney (South Australia).
And when the T20 leg begins next month, the complement of interstate representatives will swell to include ex-Australia Test batter Kurtis Patterson, explosive Adelaide Strikers opener Jake Weatherald and allrounder Beau Webster, who will play for Southern Storm.
Other state-contracted Shield or BBL players from last summer who have signed up for the T20 Strike League include Mac Wright, Ryan Hackney, Matthew Gilkes, Henry Hunt, Lloyd Pope, Keegan Oates, Jarrod Freeman, Liam Guthrie, Lachie Hearne, Corey Rocchiccioli, Jack Edwards and Hayden Kerr.