Central Highlands will field an experienced team in the Youth Premier League under-18 titles next month.

The tournament, formally known as the Cricket Victoria under-18 male state championships, will include the best cricketers of the state.

The Highlanders side will again be coached by Karl Mayne, with Damien Bonner as assistant coach.

Mayne said he was happy with how preparations had gone so far.

“We had a practice match and it came down to the last ball,” he said. “We had a five-run win over the North West Wizards, who are a traditionally strong team and have a number of players playing Premier Cricket.

“It was played at Greenvale, where the tournament is being held, so it was good to go and see the facilities.”

Mayne said the squad had a number of top-age players, with eight of the team who played earlier this year at the championships returning.

He said Cameron McClure, who performed well in the practice match, would be a player to watch.

“He is a tall fast bowler and he had a fantastic performance, with plenty of bounce and pace.”

While the Highlanders have an evenly- balanced squad, Mayne said the middle order was likely to lead the way.

Former Rupertswood player Emerson White, Darley’s Joel Cadman and former Gisborne player Riley Vernon are expected to be among the runs.

“They’ve got some runs on the board this season,” Mayne said of the trio.

“Emerson made a 100 for Essendon’s fourths and is now playing in the thirds. Riley has put three 50s together as well.

“A number of others have [Premier] experience.”

Other locals in the squad include Gisborne’s Joel Garbutt, Riddell’s Ben Radford and Bacchus Marsh’s Jacob Pawlowicz.

As well as a new name, the tournament format has changed, with matches to be played as T20 games, instead of one-dayers.

Mayne said it was the ideal time for young players to play T20.

“It’s a great fit at this age, where some players need to get experience in the T20 format,” he said.

“We’ve been doing a bit of practice of power hitting and working on 360 degree hitting.

“The bowlers are working hard on plans to execute at different times.”

Mayne said the game plan is to get momentum early on.

The Highlanders play two games on January 14, with seven games played within four days.

The final will be played on January 18.

The Highlanders under-17 and under-14 girls sides will resume their Youth Premier League campaign on January 7. Both teams lost their first match to Northern Rivers earlier this month.

The under-16 and under-14 boys teams will play their second round this week.