ONE of the most enjoyable aspects of having events like the School Sport Australia 12-and-under Cricket Championships in Bendigo is getting a firsthand look at the next generation of first-class cricketers.
Roaming around the venues this week I couldn't help but be impressed by the standard of play in boys and girls matches.
The great unknown is you just don't know where some of these young players could end up.
About a decade ago David Warner was playing cricket in Bendigo in a junior cricket carnival.
Attached to this column is a picture supplied by Kevin Crawford of Warner bowling leg-spin in a match at Ewing Park.
Little did umpire Crawford know that day that the talented leg-spinner rolling his arm over in front of him would one day be opening the batting for Australia.
The SSA 12-and-under Cricket Championships have been the starting point for many future Australian players.
Current Australian coach Darren Lehmann and Australian skipper Michael Clarke represented South Australia and New South Wales respectively at the titles.
Mark and Steve Waugh, Steve Smith, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Slater, the Lee brothers and Phillip Hughes all represented NSW at this level.
Craig McDermott, Michael Kasprowicz and Ian Healy headlined Queensland teams many years ago.
As little as eight years ago, Mitch Marsh was the third-highest run scorer for the tournament.
Current first-class players Ryan Carters, Tom Triffitt and Peter Handscomb all played in the same tournament.
This year's championships in Bendigo is bound to produce another sprinkling of first-class talent.
Here's some names to lock away in the memory bank.
1. Josh Hoffman (SA) - Tournament best 206 runs, including 79 against Victoria. Had a lowest score of just 17 in five hits.
2. Fergus O'Neill (Vic) - captained Victoria to championship glory and performed strongly with bat and ball. Led the Vics with 165 runs and he claimed three wickets at an economy rate of 2.88.
3. Alex Sidhu (NSW) - 45 overs, 10 maidens, 11 wickets for 125 runs - exceptional figures for a 12-year-old spinner, particularly at that level.
4. William Fort (NSW) - made the second most runs for the carnival (190) at an average of 47.50. The most impressive part of his tournament was he made scores of 53 and 70 against high quality opponents Victoria and Queensland.
5. Rachel Trenaman (NSW) - the Blues' skipper was the standout performer with the bat for the carnival in the girls' division. She scored 134 runs in three innings and wasn't dismissed. She was also the second-leading wicket-taker for the carnival with six.
The great unknown is you just don't know where some of these young players could end up