Brothers bowler Ian Botha will be in the mix.
Brothers bowler Ian Botha will be in the mix. Mike Knott

Injury rules out Lowe

COUNTRY/Wests have suffered a major blow in their quest for the Bundaberg Division 1 Premiership, with pace spearhead John Lowe ruled out for the rest of the season with a fractured leg.

Captain Phil Proctor said they would also be without batting powerhouse Steve Nichols for "personal reasons" for their clash with the hot and cold Brothers when fixtures resume after the Christmas recess at Salter Oval tomorrow.

Also vastly experienced valuable all-rounder Damien Shield is unavailable due to work commitments and Proctor admits they are three big losses, but he remains confident of victory.

"J-Lowe bowls a lot of overs for us but I expect Andrew Gear and 'the Stallion' Kyle Stallan to step up and shoulder the work-load - Geary has been bowling well and batting well too," Proctor said.

"Steve has been pretty valuable for us again this season and there's a loss there as well, but Scotty Irwin has also been in very good form."

Country broke a six-match losing streak against Norths in the last round before Christmas, and with several high-class players, Proctor said it was "hard to put it down to one thing" why they lost so many games in a row.

"It was a combination of poor batting or bowling and players being unavailable, but that win will definitely give us some confidence for the New Year and the rest of the season," he said.

"Also we had good sessions this week on Tuesday and Thursday and if we all play well, there's a good chance we will win."

When the two sides last met, Nichols scored 98 in a total of 9-238, but Brothers cruised to victory with seven wickets in hand on the back of a rock-solid foundation from opener David Turich and good knocks also from Josh McLean, captain David Boge and Matt Turich.

McLean will also miss the match as he is currently playing for Queensland at the Australian Country Championships in Geelong, while they will also be without all-rounders Ashley Helmore and Warren Shipley and big hitter Chris Anderson.

Second place on the ladder is on the line, with reigning premiers Across The Waves (ATW) a clear leader on 36.44 points, but little separating the remaining three sides, Brothers 22.76, Country 21.77 and Norths 17.99.

Meanwhile, fresh from their NewsMail Cup final victory before Christmas, ATW should prove too strong for Norths in the other top grade match of the weekend.

There should also be an epic showdown in the Wide Bay Australian Under-19 Shield final at Salter Oval on Sunday with the unbeaten Bundaberg taking on the also very strong Gympie.

The Bundaberg team includes Australian Schools 15 years representative batting sensation Matt Fulton and will be captained by Country's Daniel Faulkner.

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