AUSTRALIA'S next generation of cricket stars are set to converge on Bendigo as the city hosts School Sport Australia's national 12-and-under championships.
About 150 of the best young players in the country are taking part in the week-long carnival, to be launched on Friday at an opening ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Oval from 5pm.
Matches begin at 9am next Saturday, as Victoria's boys face the Northern Territory at White Hills and the Victorian girls taking on South Australia at the North Bendigo ground.
Girton Grammar School student Kate Douglass is among the talented juniors eager to don her whites and set foot on the pitch, having been selected in Victoria's female squad.
"I'm very excited, but a little bit nervous at the same time," said the 12-year-old all-rounder, who will be presented with her state cap at the Boxing Day Test Match at the MCG today.
Kate has been preparing for the carnival by spending time in the holidays with the woman who introduced her to cricket, former Australian Test player Annette Holmes, who taught her in year one at Girton.
"I'm very proud of Kate. We used to have cricket skills in year one and I saw her potential then," said Holmes, who also played women's cricket for Melbourne University and Victoria.
"She had the most beautiful cover drive and was a natural bowler, too."
The pair caught up several times in recent weeks for some coaching tips and skills work, including a session at the Garden Gully nets.
Holmes said she was looking forward to watching her young protege in action during the championships.
The event will be a boon for Bendigo, as every player will be accompanied by family members as well as team officials and other supporters. It is expected to attract up to 600 visitors to central Victoria.
Each state will play a round-robin game every day except Monday, which is a rest day, and Wednesday, which is set aside for an excursion to the Central Deborah Gold Mine and a ride on Bendigo's famous talking tram.
The male and female teams on top of the ladder at the end of play on January 10 will be declared the 2013 national champion (despite it being the new year).
Victorian will field an invitational squad in the girls' division and it includes Macey Brereton, from Gunbower Primary School, and Imogen Barlow, from Sacred Heart College in Kyneton.
Sam Ramsay, from Gisborne Primary, will line up for Team Vic in the boys' competition.
The draw is:
Saturday, Jan 4:
Boys: Vic v NT at White Hills; NSW v ACT at the QEO; and Qld v SA at Huntly.
Girls: SA v Vic at North Bendigo; NSW v Inv at Weeroona; and Qld v ACT at Eaglehawk.
Sunday, Jan 5:
Boys: SA v Vic at Tannery Lane; NSW v NT at Harry Trott; and Qld v ACT at Bell Oval.
Girls: Vic v Qld at Golden Square; NSW v ACT at the QEO; and SA v Inv at Kangaroo Flat.
Tuesday, Jan 7:
Boys: NSW v Vic at Eaglehawk; Qld v NT at Weeroona; and SA v ACT at North Bendigo.
Girls: Vic v Inv at White Hills; SA v ACT at Huntly; and NSW v Qld at the QEO.
Thursday, Jan 9:
Boys: Qld v Vic at Kangaroo Flat; NSW v SA at Strathfieldsaye; and NT v ACT at Golden Square.
Girls: NSW v Vic at Eaglehawk; SA v Qld at Harry Trott; and ACT v Inv at Bell Oval.
Friday, Jan 10:
Boys: Vic v ACT at the QEO; NSW v Qld at Weeroona; and SA v NT at North Bendigo.
Girls: Vic v ACT at Harry Trott; NSW v SA at Golden Square; and Qld v Inv at Bell Oval.