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Stewart plays it smart

RISING FAST: University’s Grant Stewart will make his Australian Country Championships debut next week. Picture: Josh CallinanTHERE are plenty of new things in Grant Stewart’s life.

The newbat he bought at Christmas,the newcap he earned for NSW Country selection, andthe new ball he may take at next week’s Australian Country Championships in Mount Gambier.

It is all part of a new experience for the Lorn21-year-old, who will leave the family turf farm on Friday to debut at the national titles in South Australia starting Monday.

The tournament spans eight days, encompassing five back-to-back matches separated by one rest day, and the University all-rounder said he was looking forward to the test.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m not really sure what to expect,” Stewart said.

“The closest thing would probably be junior carnivals over four days, but it will be a good challenge.”

Stewart will be one of the front-line bowlers in the squad, either opening or first change, and will bat aboutseven or eight after proving himself with a match-saving half-century for Newcastle in last month’s NSW Country Championship decider at No.1 Sportsground.

A maiden ton in Newcastle district firstgrade last start and a hat-trick earlierthis season also signal good form, but he knows he will have to step up again at the next level.

“I think I need to be a lot more consistent with the ball and be a lot more patient when I bat,” Stewart said.

“You are going to face a lot more good balls and you need to stick to your plans when bowling, not try to get a wicket every ball.”

Stewart’s rise,from Maitland first grade to NSW Country XI intwo years,hit home recently at a training camp in Sydney.

“We had been having a hit in the nets, and then we got taken out onto the Sydney Cricket Ground,” he said.“That’s where they presented us with our baggy blue caps, so it was a great experience.”

Stewart will be the first player from Maitland to represent NSW Country since Michael Eccleston almost two decades ago.Others from the town to reach that stage include Tony Fort, Paul Dyson and Geoff Cooke.

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