Newcastle will begin its title defence of the McDonald’s NSW Country Championships this Friday as the tournament moves to Shoalhaven from Friday to Sunday.

The defending champions are one of four teams in the Southern Pool which, will play in Nowra and Berry. ACT Southern Districts, Greater Illawarra and Riverina are the other three sides.

A repeat of last season’s deciding match may be possible after Central Coast finished top of the Northern Pool last weekend and progressed to the final on November 25.

Captain of the victorious NSW side at the 2018 National Indigenous Championships, Nathan Price, will skipper the defending titleholders over the course of the three days.

Price was among the five leading run-scorers during the Country Championships last season with 154 runs to his name at an average of 38.5.

He also led the Newcastle Blasters to the Plan B Regional Bash title last season and was the leading run-scorer in that competition with 158 runs at a tick under 40.

Classy batsman Jed Dickson, fiery right-arm quick Brett Aldous and, Player of the Year in the Newcastle District Cricket Association last season, Adrian Chad, will also be crucial to the title defence for the Novocastrians.

ACT Southern Districts have named a young squad in its quest to make the final for the first time since 2015/16 when known as Southern/ACT.

Eight members of the ACT Southern Districts squad are under the age of 23, including Daniel Leerdam and Jordie Misic, who represented ACT/NSW Country at the Under 19 National Championships last season.

Experienced bowler Djali Bloomfield was also an integral part of the NSW side that took out the National Indigenous Championships last season. He claimed 11 scalps at 10.55.

Fast bowler Cameron Suidgeest will be crucial to the prospects of Riverina. The paceman led the wicket takers at the Toyota Australian Country Championships last season with 20 dismissals.

He was crucial to the success of the NSW Country Bush Blues who emerged victorious at those national titles.

Braydon Ambler will join Suidgeest in the squad for Riverina. The aggressive top order batsman impressed during the recent Plan B Regional Bash.

He scored an important 59 from 48 balls for the Wagga Wagga Sloggers in one of their two wins for the tournament.

Greater Illawarra veteran Graeme Batty, who has represented NSW Country several times, will be key for the South Coast side in the Southern Pool.

Exciting batsman Tom McDevitt is another important player for Greater Illawarra.