Same old South Australia or is the rebuild finally taking shape? Analysing the Redbacks’ 2022-23 squad

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It was yet another pair of bottom-two finishes in both the Sheffield Shield and One Day Cup for South Australia last season as the side continues to rebuild its squad after the retirements of several important players in past years.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Redbacks, recording just two losses in the Shield (the same number as eventual winners Western Australia), but it was their inability to finish sides off that saw them finish in last place yet again.

As the rebuild continues, will the Redbacks finally see improvement? Or will it be another season of languishing at the bottom?

Last season in numbers

Sheffield Shield: Sixth (1 win, 5 draws, 2 losses)

Leading Run-Scorers:
Henry Hunt (601 runs at 42.93)
Jake Carder (468 runs at 33.43)
Travis Head (440 runs at 44.00)

Leading Wicket-Takers:
Nathan McAndrew (27 wickets at 30.19)
David Grant (20 wickets at 35.45)
Brendan Doggett (17 wickets at 26.35)

One-Day Cup: Fifth (1 win, 4 losses, 1 washout)

Leading Run-Scorers:
Travis Head (306 runs at 76.50)
Alex Carey (258 runs at 64.50)
Jake Weatherald (184 runs at 46.00)

Leading Wicket-Takers:
Lloyd Pope (9 wickets at 23.44)
Brendan Doggett (5 wickets at 33.60)
Nathan McAndrew (4 wickets at 63.00)

South Australia 2022-23 Squad: Wes Agar, Jordan Buckingham, Alex Carey*, Jake Carder, Harry Conway, Brendan Doggett, Daniel Drew, David Grant, Travis Head*, Henry Hunt, Spencer Johnson, Thomas Kelly, Jake Lehmann, Nathan McAndrew, Nathan McSweeney, Ben Manenti, Harry Nielsen, Lloyd Pope, Liam Scott, Henry Thornton, Jake Weatherald, Nick Winter
Rookies: Kyle Brazell, Aiden Cahill, Bailey Capel, Isaac Higgins, Ryan King, Harry Matthias

*Cricket Australia contract

Ins and Outs:
Ins: Harry Conway (NSW), Spencer Johnson, Ben Manenti (Tasmania), Henry Thornton (Victoria), Aidan Cahill (rookie), Isaac Higgins (rookie), Harry Matthias (rookie)
Outs: Ryan Gibson (delisted), Corey Kelly (personal reasons), Sam Kerber (delisted), Joe Mennie (retired), Kane Richardson (Queensland), Daniel Worrall (Surrey)

South Australia’s interstate-recruitment drive continued over the off-season, recruiting former New South Wales products Henry Thornton and Ben Manenti from Victoria and Tasmania respectively.

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While the side’s recruitment strategy over the past couple of seasons has been to predominantly target fringe players from other states, the addition of fast bowler Harry Conway from New South Wales goes against the grain.

Arguably the highest profile move during the off-season, Conway makes his way down south in search of further opportunity and will be a solid replacement for outgoing pair Daniel Worrall and Kane Richardson. Young seamer Spencer Johnson has also been handed a contract after previously being delisted.

Joe Mennie officially exits the squad having retired last season, while Kane Richardson has relocated to Queensland. Ryan Gibson and Sam Kerber have been delisted after failing to make the most of their opportunities at state level, while promising all-rounder Corey Kelly has stepped away from the squad for personal reasons.

Squad Breakdown:
Batters: Jake Carder, Travis Head*, Henry Hunt, Thomas Kelly, Jake Lehmann, Jake Weatherald, Bailey Capel (rookie)
All-Rounders: Daniel Drew, Nathan McAndrew, Nathan McSweeney, Liam Scott
Keepers: Alex Carey*, Harry Nielsen
Fast Bowlers: Wes Agar, Jordan Buckingham, Harry Conway, Brendan Doggett, David Grant, Spencer Johnson, Henry Thornton, Nick Winter
Spinners: Ben Manenti, Lloyd Pope

Analysis: The Redbacks were competitive in many games last year, but lacked the quality to take games by the throat.

South Australian captain and Test incumbent Travis Head has shown he is elite at state level, and the side will hope to see the most of him, as he leaves a gaping hole in the middle order when absent.

Travis Head

Travis Head (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Henry Hunt’s emergence as a prolific run-scorer raised a lot of eyebrows in the media and at the national selection table, with the opening batter earning a place in the Australia A squad last season. Another big season from him will certainly take pressure off others in the top six.

The side will also need more experienced players such as Lehmann and Weatherald to lead the way, as they cannot afford another season of putting the burden on Head and Hunt.

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Carder showed promise in the top-order last season, whilst McSweeney will be hoping to nail down a spot in the middle order, particularly with young gun Thomas Kelly banging the door down last season, averaging a whopping 139.33 for Sturt in Premier Cricket last season.

Daniel Drew is in a similar boat to Kelly, having averaged 110.50 for West Torrens last season, and will be seriously considered for a spot in the middle order.

All-rounder Liam Scott made five appearances in the Shield last season, and while he failed to impress with the bat, he made good contributions with ball in hand, picking up 13 wickets at 20.15, including 5/46 against Queensland.

McAndrew failed to break through in his home state of New South Wales, but proved his worth in his first season as a Redback, taking 27 wickets in the Shield, second in the competition behind Queensland’s Mark Steketee, and made valuable lower-order runs on numerous occasions, averaging 22.70.

Australian Test and ODI wicket-keeper Alex Carey could be set to miss a decent chunk of the first half of the domestic season due to his involvement with the One-Day side, leaving the door open for Harry Nielsen, who has been a shining light in recent times with the bat.

Though the shoes of Richardson and Worrall will be hard to fill, the addition of Conway as a proven-wicket taker at domestic level will go a long way to filling the void.

The attack will likely be spearheaded by Conway and McAndrew, but the third seamer spot is up for grabs. Brendan Doggett showed his quality at stages throughout last season, and though Wes Agar failed to make an appearance in the Shield last season, he will certainly be pushing for the spot.

Thornton’s move from Victoria has gone under the radar, and it could prove to be a good one if he shows his potential. Winter and Grant are also solid options but will need to grasp any opportunity that is given to them if they are to hold onto a spot in the side, and may need to make a statement in the lower levels to put them ahead of the pack.

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Jordan Buckingham also made his debut in round eight last season against New South Wales, but faces stiff competition for spots, despite taking four wickets.

Lloyd Pope has failed thus far to cement his place as the side’s number 1 spinner, despite being the only specialist spin bowler in the squad in the past few years. Ben Manenti doesn’t possess the raw talent or x-factor of other up-and-coming spinners in the domestic game, but he is a good contributor with a point to prove.

Lloyd Pope bowls at the Under 19s cricket world cup

Lloyd Pope (Photo by Kai Schwoerer-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Made both his first-class and list A debuts last season for Tasmania as an uncontracted player, and has finally earned his first state contract with the Redbacks.

Manenti provides strong competition for Pope, and he can make the spot his if he wants it. Uncontracted cult hero Peter Hatzoglou could also be a left-field option in white ball cricket if his form is good.

Predicted Sheffield Shield XI:
H Hunt
J Weatherald
J Carder
T Head (c)
N McSweeney
J Lehmann
H Nielsen (wk)
N McAndrew
B Manenti
B Doggett
H Conway

Predicted One-Day Cup XI:
J Weatherald
H Hunt
T Head (c)
J Lehmann
H Nielsen (wk)
T Kelly
N McAndrew
B Manenti
H Thornton
B Doggett
W Agar

*Carey excluded due to national team commitments

How they’ll go

The Redbacks, unfortunately, go into another season facing a gap in quality, and though they will be competitive, the lack of elite talent within the squad will likely see them struggle to grind out wins once again.

It’s looking like the upcoming season won’t be much different to the previous two, and until they develop or recruit some top-of-the-line players, the side won’t see any major upturn in fortune any time soon.

Shield Prediction: Sixth.
One-Day Cup Prediction: Sixth.

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