Why winning captain has changed clubs
SEEING the name Ben O'Connell in the Laidley first division cricket side this season might surprise some people.
Given he was last season's premiership-winning captain of Centrals and Laidley were regular arch rivals, such an observation is understandable.
However, the Australian Country allrounder has moved for family and sentimental reasons rather than anything sinister.
O'Connell, 32, is returning to the club where his high quality cricket career began 20 years ago.
"In under 12s, I started playing at Laidley when I lived at Fernvale,'' he said.
"Then I played under 15s as well so I played all my junior cricket at Laidley.''
With a young family and school commitments at West Moreton Anglican College, the classy left-handed batsman and spin bowler welcomed a return to the Bluedogs.
"I probably just wanted to have a chance to play with some of those guys that I started off playing with all those years ago,'' he said.
"I'm not sure how much longer I'll be playing for.
"So I thought if I wanted to return to where it all started, this is probably the year for it I'd say.''
O'Connell opened the batting for Laidley in last weekend's season-opening victory over defending champions Wests.
Although he only made 16, O'Connell felt comfortable at the top of the order with left-handed opening partner Jason Cubit who cracked a decisive century.
"I'm happy to bat wherever,'' he said.
He praised Cubit for his commitment in tough conditions in Toowoomba due to weather interruptions.
Preparing for Saturday's second game against South East Redbacks at Bichel Oval, O'Connell was happy to have a season surrounded by other experienced players and without the captaincy role.
"They've got some good players out there at Laidley and they've had them out there for a while, which is fine, so I'm just happy to fit in where I can and contribute where I can really,'' he said.
"It's good having a lot of senior players there so everyone has got a chance to step up with the bat or the ball or in the field.''
O'Connell was yet to commit to any representative teams this season.
"I haven't put anything firmly down yet,'' he said.
"It was a bit of a delayed start to cricket this season. I didn't really have a pre-season because I was doing a lot of work stuff and rugby (at WestMAC).
"I'll just sort of see where I'm in the next few weeks I'd say.''
As for last season's victorious team Centrals, O'Connell wished them well.
"It's a great club there and we had a fantastic group of guys all together to get that maiden premiership,'' he said.
"I still keep in contact with them.''
Centrals host Wests at Mark Marsh Oval on Saturday.
Centrals beat Highfields Toowoomba in their opening game with Wests keen to hit back after losing to Laidley.
The other match in Ipswich on Saturday is Brothers playing Northern Diggers at Amberley.
First round losers Northsiders travel to Toowoomba to face Metropolitan Easts.
Saturday's first division matches (all scheduled 10am starts) in the Harding-Madsen Shield one-day competition.
Laidley District v South East Redbacks at Bichel Oval, Laidley.
Central Districts v Western Districts at Mark Marsh Oval, Limestone Park.
Brothers v Northern Brothers Diggers at Ivor Marsden 2, Amberley.
Northsiders v Metropolitan Easts at Harristown Park, Toowoomba.