NSW Blues captain Peter Nevill believes it has been an encouraging season despite losing the JLT Sheffield Shield Final to Victoria at the Junction Oval on Sunday.
It was the Blues’ first Shield final in five seasons and came after significant rebuilding of the playing and coaching staff.
Confronted by Victoria’s Test class bowling attack, the Blues lost by 177 runs in a low-scoring five-day final that finished inside four days despite regular rain interruptions.
The Blues were bowled out for 210 chasing an unlikely victory target of 388.
Nevill praised the efforts of head coach Phil Jaques, bowling coach Andre Adams and batting coach Beau Casson in a new Blues set-up this season.
“Phil Jaques deserves a lot of credit for coming in and doing things his way. He was well supported by his staff,” said Nevill.
“Beau Casson and Andre Adams coming in and adding unique perspectives to their roles. They’ve been really embraced by all the players.
“It’s been great to see a lot of the senior players mentoring some of the younger guys.”
The Blues blooded six players in the Shield, with teenagers Jack Edwards and Jason Sangha playing all 11 games.
“That’s really valuable experience for some of our younger guys, particularly a Sangha and an Edwards to be exposed to that sort of pressure,” Nevill said.
“It’s going to help them understand what they need to do to improve and get better and hopefully in years to come to dominate Shield finals.”
Many players had their best Shield yet for the Blues, with Trent Copeland (52 wickets at 18.21) finishing the most successful bowler in the Sheffield Shield this season.
Fellow fast bowlers Sean Abbott (37 wickets at 22.29) and Harry Conway (22 wicket at 20.13) also set personal benchmarks.
Likewise with the batting Kurtis Patterson (724 runs at 40.22) made his Test debut, scoring a century in his second Test against Sri Lanka, while Dan Hughes (742 at 39.05) had his first 700-run Shield season as the Blues leading run scorer.
Nick Larkin blossomed and together with Moises Henriques had 650 plus run seasons.
“Kurtis is obviously a Test quality batsman,” Nevill said. “I’d expect him to start in the Ashes.
“The way he played today was outstanding. Unfortunately, Peter Siddle got the best of him.”
Coming to the crease at 1/12, Patterson made a counter-attacking 76 in a 120-run partnership with Hughes (41) to leave the Blues well placed at 1/132 before they fell away.
Earlier, Victoria resumed the day at 7/207 but were all out for 219 in less than half an hour of play.
Copeland finished with 3-52 to move top of the Shield wicket takers' list for the season, enhancing his chances as an Ashes bolter. Abbott claimed best figures of 4-82.