Dean Merola takes the experience of almost two decades in Illawarra first grade into the role of senior representative team head coach this season.
The Balgownie stalwart and Cricket Illawarra committeeman takes over from Steve Davies, whose tenure was highlighted by Illawarra winning the prized NSW Country Championship in the 2011-12 season.
Merola will be supported by former Corrimal batsman Paul Cram for what is shaping as a big season for Illawarra cricket, with the association joining the Sydney Twenty20 competition.
Illawarra and Newcastle have been added to the Sydney T20 comp with Illawarra hoping for one home game at Dalton Park as part of three pool games in late October to early November.
Illawarra will also be keen to win their pool and reach the final of the NSW country championships with the pool round in Orange in mid-November.
New Cricket Illawarra president Mark Johnston said the appointment of Merola and Cram to the key coaching posts would continue the resurgence of Illawarra rep cricket over the past couple of seasons.
‘‘I am extremely confident that Dean and Paul will ensure Illawarra is well prepared for this vitally important season for our representative program,’’ Johnston said.
Illawarra will play a 50-over trial game against Campbelltown on September 8 and T20 trials against Sutherland and Campbelltown in October.
Finally, at last weekend’s NSW Country Cricket Association annual dinner in Gerringong, Illawarra skipper Graeme Batty, along with Tim Laws, Dale Scifleet and Andrew Hicks (absent) were presented with awards for helping NSW win the Australian Country Championship last season.
Mark Waldock collected the under-16 Bradman Cup trophy as coach of the first Illawarra team to win that Country trophy in almost two decades.