Former Blue Bagger Ed Cowan will return to familiar surroundings in coming weeks after signing to play with the NSW Blues in the 2015/16 season.

Cowan left NSW at the end of the 2008/09 summer to move to Tasmania. He went on to become one of the leading batsmen in the Bupa Sheffield Shield and played 18 Tests for Australia, scoring 1001 runs at 31.28 with one century and six half-centuries.

The experienced left-hander returned to Sydney recently for family reasons with no promise of a State contract. However impressive form last summer, which saw him score 815 runs at 47.94, has earned him a place in the NSW Blues squad.

He has previously played 21 First Class matches for NSW, scoring 992 runs at 26.10 with two centuries and four half-centuries.

Cowan is one of four new faces on the NSW Blues contract list for 2015/16 alongside off-spinner Wil Somerville and opening batsman Nick Larkin, both from Sydney University, and young Sutherland all-rounder Ben Dwarshuis.

Somerville made his First Class debut for Otago in New Zealand back in 2005 before making his maiden appearance for NSW at the start of last summer.

Larkin has been a consistent performer in First Grade and Second XI matches for the past two seasons. He also impressed selectors during his four Sheffield Shield appearances in 2014/15, scoring 258 runs at 36.8 with a century against South Australia in Adelaide.

Ben Dwarshuis has been promoted to the senior Blues squad after two years on a Rookie Contract. A left-arm swing bowler and a hard hitting lower order batsman, Dwarshuis has been part of the Sydney Sixers squad for the last two seasons.

Cricket NSW has extended the contracts of Steve Waugh Medallist Peter Nevill, Nic Maddinson, Sean Abbott and Kurtis Patterson for a further two years. These were key players for the Blues in both formats last summer and their long term commitment to NSW is a boost for the team.

Selectors have named five new Rookie Contracted players: Mickey Edwards, Henry Thornton, Daniel Solway, Jonte Pattison and Ryan Gibson.

Bankstown’s Solway (930 runs) and Campbelltown-Camden’s Gibson (835 runs) were amongst the top five batsmen in last season’s McDonald’s Sydney Grade competition, while fast bowler Mickey Edwards also impressed with 31 wickets at 17.90 for premiers Manly-Warringah.

Sydney University leg-spinner Jonte Pattison and Randwick Petersham fast bowler Henry Thornton are both products of the Cricket NSW Academy who have represented NSW and Australia at the U/19 level.

The full 2015/16 NSW Blues squad is:

Cricket Australia Contract:
Michael Clarke, Pat Cummins, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson

Cricket NSW Contract:
Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Carters, Trent Copeland, Ed Cowan, Ben Dwarshuis, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Josh Lalor, Nick Larkin, Nic Maddinson, Peter Nevill, Stephen O’Keefe, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer, Gurinder Sandhu, Wil Somerville

Rookie Contract:
Mickey Edwards, Henry Thornton, Daniel Solway, Jonte Pattison, Ryan Gibson, Harry Conway

In: Ed Cowan, Ben Dwarshuis, Wil Somerville, Nick Larkin, Mickey Edwards, Henry Thornton, Daniel Solway, Jonte Pattison, Ryan Gibson

Out: Jake Doran (Tasmania), Scott Henry (de-listed), Patrick Pisel (de-listed)

NSW Talent Manager and Chairman of Selectors, David Freedman, said: “There hasn’t been a lot of change to our squad from last season. We have a lot of very talented young cricketers, like Nic Maddinson, Sean Abbott, Gurinder Sandhu and Kurtis Patterson, who have now played a few seasons of First Class cricket.”  

“Coupled with the significant experience of guys like Moises Henriques, Peter Nevill, Stephen O’Keefe, Doug Bollinger and now Ed Cowan, the squad is very well placed to challenge for titles next summer.

“We have a very exciting group of Rookies. These are players who have caught the attention of selectors in Grade, U/19s, Futures League or Second XI cricket, and we will be monitoring their development very closely over the next 12 months.”

Cricket NSW Chief Executive Andrew Jones said: “Cricket NSW’s aim is to produce Australian players and win titles, and I believe that the 2015/16 NSW Blues squad is capable of achieving both of those goals.

“We are delighted to have Ed Cowan back. During his time in Tasmania, Ed has developed himself into an International player and we are very fortunate that he has chosen to bring his family home.

“I am also delighted to see the inclusion of Daniel Solway, Ryan Gibson, Mickey Edwards, Henry Thornton and Jonte Pattison. Their Rookie contracts are reward for some impressive performances in the McDonald’s Sydney Grade competition, and other pathway programs.”

The NSW Blues squad will commence their pre-season training for the 2015/16 season in June.