NEWCASTLE'S representative cricket squad will welcome some new faces when they launch a bid to claim five straight NSW Country Championships in 2023-2024.
Belmont captain Luke Muddle, Cardiff-Boolaroo opening batsman Joe Merlino, City spinner Callan Fowler and Wallsend premiership winner Daniel McGovern all join the 23-man squad, with training to start this weekend.
Ten Newcastle players from the most recent NSW Country Championships final, a dramatic win over Central Coast at No.1 Sportsground in December, continue this summer including Bush Blues crew Nick Foster, Jeff Goninan, Logan Weston (Stockton), Josh Bennett (University) and Aaron Bills (Wests).
Daniel Arms, Daniel Bailey (Charlestown), Ben Balcomb (Hamilton-Wickham), Adrian Chad (Stockton) and Aaron Wivell (Wests) are all back again alongside Pat Magann, a NSW Country debutante who missed the decider through injury.
Belmont's Joseph Gillard (Sydney) and Waratah-Mayfield's Josh McTaggart (Perth via UK) have now relocated.
Young paceman Daniel Williams (CBs), Charlestown pair Matthew Bench and Daniel Chillingworth, experienced batsman Rhys Hanlon (Hamwicks), Stockton duo Jake Hainsworth and Nathan Hudson, Wallsend skipper Jacob Montgomery and teammate Callum Gabriel plus Waratah's Josh Claridge stay in the mix.
Newcastle will start an unprecedented four-time title defence in Tamworth in November (16-19) with the carnival expanding to four days, now incorporating a stand-alone T20 element after the Regional Bash was scrapped.
The change may see an extended group named to play across the largely 50-over tournament or T20 specialists only featuring on the Thursday.
Australian Country Championships are locked in for Newcastle in January, given the nod to house the annual event after Barossa Valley became unavailable.
A trial match has been scheduled between Newcastle and Sydney club Manly at Stockton's Lynn Oval on September 9.