SANDHURST Cricket Club has unveiled a new coaching panel that will place a strong emphasis on developing the club's youth.
The standing down of staff at Cricket Australia has opened the door for Craig Howard to return to the Dragons in an official role as the Head of Coaching.
Ash Gray is stepping up to the role of senior coach following the departure of Taylor Beard to Echuca, while Nick Scullie is returning to the Dragons as development coach after coaching rival BDCA club Strathfieldsaye last season.
Howard brings a wealth of experience back to the Dragons, where he previously coached for four seasons.
Howard's position with Cricket Australia as its head of spin had forced him to take a step back from the Dragons over the past two seasons.
But with his position at Cricket Australia on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has presented an opportunity to get back involved with the Dragons.
"We've got some excellent young talent coming through the club, so we'll be looking to provide some quality opportunities for them to really help them develop," Howard said on Saturday.
"Hence we've got Nick on board as a development coach. He has a real passion for developing young players, and so too has Ash as senior coach, so that will be a real focus of the club and, hopefully, winning becomes a consequence of providing a really good training environment."
Howard and Gray were both members of Sandhurst's drought-breaking first XI premiership side of 2017-18, while Scullie is in the Dragons' Hall of Fame.
The Dragons are coming off a 2019-20 season where they won just three games in the first XI and finished second-last, but Howard says he is buoyed by some of the youth who got an opportunity at the top level.
"I think Jack Ryan has the potential to be one of the better cricketers in the competition over the next few years with his development," Howard said.
"He's faster than medium-pace and is also solid with the bat, and Jasper Langley is a very talented top-order batsman as a 16-year-old, so he's a really exciting talent.
"Ben Evans is a talented young leg-spinner and my son Kayde is also coming through, so there's a good crop of talent at the club."
Depending on what happens with his role at Cricket Australia, there's also the prospect of Howard - a two-time BDCA Cricketer of the Year who has 4343 runs and 289 wickets across stints at Sandhurst and Strathdale-Maristians - returning to the field for the Dragons next season.
So too for the hard-hitting Gray, who didn't play any first XI last season due to a back injury, but in the season prior was a Victoria Country representative.
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