WARILLA junior Nic Maddinson has left the door open to play in the Sheffield Shield match in Wollongong, even after being picked to play in a Futures League match in Perth.
It was initially expected Maddinson would only play in one of the two four-day matches next week, but he could yet fly back to Sydney after two days of play in the second-tier match.
The scenario would allow Maddinson time to join the first team in Wollongong, when they take on Tasmania at North Dalton Park, starting next Saturday.
After the rollercoaster ride of being selected for Australia and then dropped after three Tests, the big-hitting left-hander will be out to regain confidence in the domestic second tier.
Maddinson met with Blues coach Trent Johnston, a Dapto junior, last week to discuss a pathway back into the Shield team.
He made just 27 runs in three matches at the top level and lost the Big Bash final with the Sydney Sixers, before Maddinson opted to take a break, missing the Shield draw against Queensland.
As he flies to Western Australia on Saturday, teammate Nick Larkin, the NSW opener from Taree who has represented Ireland, returns to North Dalton Park with unfinished business.
The 26-year-old has only spent four days at the Towradgi headquarters of Cricket Illawarra, but he knows the batting surface as any local amateur player.
In November, Larkin piled on 210 runs from 324 balls in a seven-hour innings which pushed the Blues Futures League team to the brink of an extraordinary win.
Larkin was eventually bowled, by South Coast product Nathan McAndrew, playing for the ACT, with 44 runs still needed for victory.
In the end, NSW, needing 479 to win, finished six runs short and their Canberra opponents needing two wickets.
In cricket’s quirky way, time won out.
Larkin’s double ton was followed by 210 against Victoria in the domestic second-tier, to force his way into the Sheffield Shield line-up.
After failing to convert previous opportunities against Western Australia and Victoria, Larkin made 86 in last week’s match against Queensland, showing he’s ready to step up to regular first-class cricket. And yet, his run onslaught this season might still not be enough.
As ever, the famous NSW playing depth leaves him on the fringes, especially with Maddinson poised to return.
Ex-Test bat Ed Cowan smashed a double ton of his own against Victoria, so too captain Moises Henriques against Queensland.
Dan Hughes and Kurtis Patterson are perhaps the other two to come under selection consideration to make way for Maddinson’s return.
Larkin is confident about playing and making another big score next week.
“It was nice to have some success at the ground in the past and to get back out in the middle (on Thursday) for a (centre wicket) hit,” he said.
“I’m excited to play come next weekend.
“The guys win games for you and the guys who turn their starts into big scores, the way Ed did in Melbourne and the way Moises did in Sydney.
“As an opening batsman in junior cricket, my thing in the team was to make big scores, I did that at a young ago, so I’m hoping I can conver that for the Sheffield Shield side as well.”
Dapto’s own Trent Johnston, another with Irish international experience, will announce the final team next week.
Such is the high standing NSW officials hold North Dalton Park, the venue would play host to the Sheffield Shield final, if the Blues could pull off a minor miracle and finish on top of the ladder.
However, three outrights – starting against Tasmania in Wollongong, then a date with South Australia at the SCG and finishing with a trip to Perth next month – may not be enough to catch Victoria.
Still, the Shield match, starting next Saturday, is the crowning glory of a golden summer for the region.