Leadership change for Hawke Cup campaign
Jason Domigan has taken over the Southland cricketing reins as he and his team-mates begin their quest for Hawke Cup success this weekend.
Southland coach Steve Jackson has named his team to open their 2012-13 campaign, against Otago Country in Alexandra, and included is a new captain in the form of Invercargill-Old Boys' Domigan.
Domigan has previously captained Southland in Shaun Fitzgibbon's absence, but he will now take over the duties on a full-time basis.
Fitzgibbon had been set to head overseas mid-season, which meant Jackson needed a new captain.
However, in what is a huge boast to Southland's chances, he has decided to stay on, but the plan to bring in a new captain stays.
"Shaun has got the mindset that it's probably Jason's time and time for a change," Jackson said.
"Jason had captained us last year when Shaun had been unavailable for a game and he had done a very, very good job.
"His understanding of the game and the contribution he makes on the field is huge anyway, he's a natural leader."
Fitzgibbon will be a key figure in the Southland batting lineup this season.
Albion's Michael Grattan and Invercargill-Old Boys' Ryan Meyer will make their Hawke Cup debuts this weekend after being named in the team for the first outing.
Grattan and Meyer are the new faces in the Southland team looking to defend their Southern Zone Hawke Cup title, which they won last season to progress to a Hawke Cup challenge against holders Hamilton.
Grattan is a top-order batsman and off-spin bowler and his selection in the season-opener is reward for some good club form.
"He's obviously been performing well the past couple of seasons and we've given him a couple of opportunities this year and he's taken them both," Jackson said.
"He's been training and he's worked hard on making sure technical changes to both his batting and bowling, which shows he wants to improve."
Former Australian under-19 squad member Ryan Meyer is in Southland working for the Southland Cricket Association and also trying to enhance his own playing options.
He is in Rangiora playing for Otago A against Canterbury A, as is fellow Southland player Ryan Duffy.
Meyer is a left-arm wrist spinner and will also bat in the top-order for Southland as they go in search of run-scoring options this season.
It was his batting which Jackson said gave him the edge over his Invercargill-Old Boys team-mate, former Indian under-19 spinner Khanin Saikia, for the overseas spot in the team.
Hawke Cup rules means teams can field only one international player in their 12.
Southland have plenty of wicketkeeping options in the squad in the form of Hamish O'Brien, an Otago under-19 wicketkeeper, Ryan Duffy, the Otago A wicketkeeper and Shaun Fitzgibbon, previously wicketkeeping for New Zealand under-19.
It will be the youngster O'Brien who will take the gloves in Alexandra, leaving Fitzgibbon and Duffy to concentrate on their batting.
The two-day game this weekend will be played at Molyneux Park in Alexandra and will be Southland's sole fixture before Christmas.
They will play other Southern Zone games against North Otago, Mid Canterbury and South Canterbury after the Christmas-New Year break.
Otago Country will be missing a couple of experienced players in this season's campaign. All-rounder Brendon Domigan is overseas and wicket-keeper-batsman James Pyle is unavailable because of work commitments.
Long-serving Otago Country player Fraser Wilson will also be missing from this weekend's game as he struggles with a back problem, although coach Andy Sainsbury said he may still be a chance to play at some stage this season.
Sainsbury said they had a relatively young team this season, but was happy with their build-up and confident of their chances.
Otago Country has been playing in the Dunedin club cricket 50-overs-a-side competition as they build up to the representative season.
Southland: Jason Domigan (c) (Invercargill-Old Boys), Mark Beer (Metro Tigers), Hamish Cooke (Metro Tigers), Ryan Duffy (Metro Tigers), Shaun Fitzgibbon (Marist), Michael Grattan (Albion), Jonathan Hodson (Invercargill-Old Boys), Cullum Johnstone (Appleby), Ryan Meyer (Invercargill-Old Boys), Hamish O'Brien (Metro Tigers), Rhuebyn Prattley (Albion), Simon Wadworth (Invercargill-Old Boys).
Otago Country: Eric Stanfield (c), Scott Paulin, Brayden Hill, Jonathan Homer, Jared Andrew, Cameron Rutherford, Liam Crowley, Blair Bennington, Sam Blakely, Sean Moran, Bradley Frost, Sean Windle, Mark Phillips.
The Southland Times