A mixture of top and bottom-age players will hopefully hold the North West Wizards in good stead come January’s Cricket Victoria under-18 state championships.

The Wizards, who had a strong championship campaign early this year, are hoping they will again have a successful tournament, with a number of talented players in their squad.

Wizards coach Dervis Duradbegovic said there was a lot of talent in the north west metro area, not just at under-18 level.

“There’s a lot of talented juniors in the area,” he said.

“I’m a firm believer of succession plans and giving as many bottom-age players an opportunity as possible.

“The talent pool is deep and so is the skill set. It’s looking positive from an individual and team basis.

“We’ve got a really deep list and expecting a lot of things from the group.”

He said the talent in the north west area had been highlighted with five players from this year’s under-16 squad named in the initial Vic Metro under-17 squad and another five named in the initial Vic Metro under-19 squad.

Essendon’s Patrick Willach is expected to be the key in the batting order for the Wizards.

He scored two 100s and averaged 126 in this year’s state championships.

Greenvale Kangaroos’ Jordan Buckingham will spearhead the bowling attack. Duradbegovic said Buckingham, who had made his premier cricket first XI debut, had made really big inroads in the past 12 months.

“Last time he was bottom-age and it was his first year in the pathways,” he said.

“He got into the initial under-19 Vic metro squad as a bottom-age player. He will head up the bowling.”

Bottom-age players Stephen Mihelakos-James, who was player of the tournament in the under-16 championships earlier this year, and Kyle Novacek are expected to be among the other players to watch for the Wizards.

Other players in the squad are Will Thompson, Fergus O’Neil, Ravi Fernando, Corey Baker, Angus Price, William Blair, Charlie Winchester, James Deasy and Josh Docking.

Duradbegovic, who is also involved at Greenvale Kangaroos, said all the players would benefit from the experience, on and off the field.

Duradbegovic said while they would love to make finals, the main focus was getting the most out of the experience.

Last time round, the Wizards’ championship run was ruined by rain. The Wizards made it through to the semi-finals undefeated, but missed out on playing in the grand final on percentage when the semis were washed out.