THE next generation of Australian cricketers will take their first steps towards the baggy green over the next month.
Boys and girls at local primary schools will receive visits from Cricket NSW promotion officers inviting them to join their local MILO in2CRICKET centre during summer.
The scheme was successfully launched in 2010 and the pre-competition program for children aged 5-9 years promises to be bigger and better in 2011-12.
North Coast Regional cricket manager David Szumowski said 10 cricket clubs would offer the program in the Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley areas.
"The launch last season created a lot of interest in cricket," he said.
"We hope to build on that success and help all girls and boys on the North Coast to have a positive first experience with Australia's favourite sport.
"With a new generation of players coming through in both the men's and women's teams at international level, a sharp focus is being put on encouraging the next generation of cricket heroes through the ranks and this is the natural starting point."
Australian captain Michael Clarke is one who can vouch for the impact a program like this has, being a graduate of the system.
"As a young kid I participated in a community program and have continued my involvement through roles with Cricket Australia," he said.
"I can highly recommend the program as not only a way to learn about cricket but more importantly for girls and boys to have fun and keep active."
Apart from Clarke, the program has high profile ambassadors in Commonwealth Bank Southern Star Ellyse Perry, retired cricketing great Adam Gilchrist and television personality Nicky Buckley. Any parent or child looking for their nearest MILO in2CRICKET centre for the upcoming cricket season can do so at www.in2CRICKET.com.au
Meanwhile, the rain-delayed Phillip Hughes Shield series gets under way this Friday from 9.30am at Bellingen, Macksville, South Grafton and Yamba.
Bishop Druitt College and Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Macksville, Kempsey, Melville, Grafton, South Grafton and Maclean high schools will participate under the Twenty20 format in two age divisions.
Finals will be held in Macksville on September 15.