TWO Axe Creek cricketers will be a part of the Victorian Vikings’ defence of their National Cricket Inclusion Championships in Geelong this month.
Zac Taig and Mitch Rabl have won selection in a 14-player state squad to contest the championships between January 20 and 27.
The squad, to be captained by Avoca Cricket Club’s Gavan Hicks, comprises a mix of city and country-based players.
Taig and Rabl, both all-rounders, were members of the Vikings team which won six of seven matches en-route to capturing last year’s championship in Geelong.
A highlight of Taig’s championship campaign was his first ever five-wicket haul, claiming 5-11 in a win against Tasmania.
Rabl played a crucial role with the ball in the grand final against South Australia, taking two wickets in an over to wrestle back the momentum for the Vikings.
The pair’s coach at Axe Creek, Rob Fisher, is the Victorians’ team manager.
He said the Vikings were intent on going back-to-back after winning the inaugural title in Geelong last January.
“We’ll definitely be favourites, but the interesting thing about this team is we have seven new players, so it’s a bit of an unknown for us” he said.
“But watching the guys train I am so excited about our prospects and I think we can defend our title.
“We have a well-balanced team – we’ve got some good hitters, some talented all-rounders, some really good pace bowlers and couple of spinners who really turn the ball.”
Fisher said the Axe Creek pair had emerged from last year’s championships with their reputations enhanced and bristling with confidence.
“Mitch actually got selected to play for Australia on the back of his performances at the carnival,” he said.
“He actually went over to England to play against South Africa and England in June.
“And it’s amazing to think that last year Zac took his first ever ‘five-for’ and it came playing for his state.
“Then he went on and in his very next match for Axe Creek he took another ‘five-for’.”
“It’s great that these sorts of pathways can lead to mainstream success for the guys.”
Hicks was the star of last year’s 12-run grand final win.
He smashed a match-winning 88 off 61 balls as the Vikings posted 9-143 off their 20 overs.
In reply, South Australia was left stranded at 8-131.
The National Cricket Inclusion Championships includes three divisions: blind and vision impaired; deaf and hard of hearing; and cricketers with an intellectual disability.
Bendigo’s Zac Sheehan, who represented Australia against England in 2016, has been picked in the blind and vision impaired team.