Ex-Victorian spin bowler backs club
FORMER Victorian leg-spin bowler Craig Howard has thrown his support behind Bendigo's push for a Premier Cricket club.
Howard, a veteran of 16 first-class matches in the '90s and 14 seasons in district cricket before relocating to Bendigo, believes central Victorian cricket would reap the benefits from a push into the state's elite competition.
"I'm pretty sure that you would get buy-in from a lot of the areas around and you'd definitely get two teams," Howard said.
"Two teams wouldn't impact the area that much, even four teams - your bottom two teams would be all kids - but that's what your district sides are anyway.
"I think it should seriously be looked at."
Few people in Bendigo cricket are as qualified as Howard to speak on the topic.
Victorian wicket-keeping legend Darren Berry was in awe of Howard and would have named him in his all-time best XI team-mates but for Shane Warne.
Injury cruelly cut short Howard's elite career and he reinvented himself as an off-spinner in 12 seasons at Ringwood before moving to Bendigo.
In seven years at Strathdale, Howard played in three premierships and was the BDCA cricketer of the year in 2008 and '09.
Now in his first-year coaching Sandhurst, he says there's many Bendigo cricketers talented enough to play in the state's elite competition.
"There's been a lot of players who probably would have wanted to play that have decided that the travel down was too much," Howard said.
"It's a shame for them, with their family situation or life situation, that they haven't had the opportunity because the real benefit is the elite training environment."
Howard believes that environment could be created in Bendigo, given quality turf training wickets and coaches.
"It will actually improve the standard of training at the Bendigo clubs as well because those kids will go back and say 'this is how it's done'," he said.
And the 39-year-old, who coaches Test spinner Nathan Lyon, said he would be keen to help develop Bendigo's rising stars.
"I'd love to stay involved at that level, but that's one of the downsides of staying up here is not being around that elite level all the time," Howard said.
"(Bendigo) would be an incredibly competitive team, there's no doubt about it.
"What you've got here is blokes that want to be the best they can be.
"If we could get some support by the council for some quality turf training facilities, we've got the ground (QEO) and the back-up grounds as well.
"And I don't think the BDCA would suffer that much, because you'd find a couple of players would come back from Melbourne.
"You'd give the young kids some real hope and something to strive for."
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