No fear for young Bulls
CRICKET: Queensland wicketkeeper Chris Hartley says the Bulls' run to the Matador Cup final is an indication the team will be right up there when the chocolates are handed out at the end of the Sheffield Shield season.
The 34-year-old will start his 14th Shield campaign at the Gabba today in a pink-ball day-night clash against a strong New South Wales outfit headed by Test stars Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood and said a Queensland team filled with youth and experience would be a match for anyone on its day.
The Bulls lost in the final of the one-day competition to NSW but Hartley said that momentum would be good to carry on into the four-day game.
"We think we can win any competition we play in,” he said.
"So we will be pretty much expecting to be somewhere near the top of the table at the end of the season and hopefully contesting a final.
"But if there was any doubt, I think the Matador Cup campaign the boys had will put those to rest.
"It doesn't matter that you've got some young players in the group and a few older guys, if the talent is there and they're performing, then any given day we can match it with the best in the competition.
"So I would expect us to be right at the top of the tree in the Shield this season.”
Hartley, who won the Ian Healy Medal last season after scoring 529 runs at 44.08 and taking 35 catches, said the Blues would provide a tough start to the Shield campaign but said the Bulls had players who would rise to the occasion.
He praised Marnus Labuschagne, who won the player of the tournament for the Matador Cup, leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson and opener Matthew Renshaw and said while the opening game would provide its challenges, he expected them to rise to the occasion.
"I often think that playing against the stars of the game often brings out the best in some players,” he said.
"I know our young players will be keen to test their mettle against those better players.
"The best way to develop and improve your game is to be put into hard situations and we will certainly face that against the Blues.”
Hartley said facing a NSW attack comprised of players who have all played for Australia would be tough but said the team would be ready for a battle.
"The boys are going to have their work cut out,” he said. "But to challenge yourself against the best players in the game is what every player wants to do.
"It will be the first time we have kick-started the Shield season with a pink-ball game, but there is a first for everything.
"Players these days are prepared for all different sorts of situations, so they would have done plenty of work with the pink ball going into this match.”
Two more Shield pink-ball games begin today, with Victoria taking on Tasmania at the MCG and Western Australia hosting South Australia.