READY TO RUMBLE: Having honed their abilities in the lower grades, Tobias Nugter, Braydon Armstrong, Oliver Schmidt and Robin Liney will feature as the Thunder return to IWMCA’s top flight.
READY TO RUMBLE: Having honed their abilities in the lower grades, Tobias Nugter, Braydon Armstrong, Oliver Schmidt and Robin Liney will feature as the Thunder return to IWMCA’s top flight.

See why Thunder set to fire up in first grade

THE return of the Marburg Mount Crosby Thunder is set to strengthen the Ipswich West Moreton Cricket Association first grade competition next season.

IWMCA senior co-ordinator Eleesa Lewis confirmed the amalgamated Tivoli-based side would be back in 2020/21.

"We will be doing everything we can to help the Thunder and ensure they have a smooth transition back into first grade," she said.

The joint club withdrew three seasons ago after a group comprising either ageing or inexperienced players struggled to compete and lost enjoyment after repeated hidings. It was decided to drop back to second grade and allow time for the brigade of talented youths to develop. With the team impressing to top the second grade premiership, officials believe the time is right for it to re-enter the first tier.

President Troy Schroder said the comeback was a long time coming.

He said it was fantastic for the IWMCA competition and the rapidly-growing club, which now possessed great depth in its junior ranks.

"We have finally decided to get back in there," he said.

""We're doing really good. We have a strong junior base We've won the junior club championship three years in a row and our seniors have had time to mature and are ready. Everyone is pumped. We can't wait. It's a new challenge. They know it might be a struggle at first but the more you face the better bowlers, the more you improve."

Schroder said players averaged 17 and many had been together since the age of 12 under the watchful eye of coach Jimmy Wilson, who will continue to guide them forward.

He said the club had also recruited old heads in Kevin and Ricky Palmer, and Darren Mitchell to provide leadership and was confident of becoming a force in seasons ahead.

"They are an awesome bunch of kids," he said.

"They have stepped up and are performing consistently. It is really encouraging. That's what I wanted to see. We're also looking to get some of the old boys back and welcome new players, especially now we're back in first grade. The players want to be a powerhouse and it is great to hear that kind of talk. They are keen to stick together. Hopefully, we can wrap up the second grade premiership and go into next season confident that we can compete."

Importantly, the Thunder's addition takes the number of teams lining up from five to six, including Laidley, Centrals, Brothers, Northsiders and the South East Redbacks.

Lewis said the extra side was great for the game because nobody wanted to play in a competition with a bye.

"It is hard, especially at this time of year with the two-day games, if you have the bye you can lose momentum," she said.

"The players hate byes, so getting rid of that is a positive."

The Ipswich competition had entered into a successful arrangement with Toowoomba to offer sides more games and greater variety, with a chance to test their skills in an array of conditions against different opponents. The initiative has been popularly received and is expected to continue. The IWMCA also partnered with Premier Grade club the Ipswich Logan Hornets. Under the affiliation, high performing local talents have an opportunity to earn a promotion to the Hornets. Conversely, injured or out-of-form Hornets can recover or regain touch with their Ipswich club.

Two weeks ago the system could be seen working as it was intended when Northsiders' Toby Kerswell received a call-up to Ipswich Logan's second grade after taking a glut of wickets for the Tigers.

Lewis said the formation of a clearly visible development pathway had been overwhelmingly positive for the game in the region.

"I think it has been very positive for all of Ipswich cricket," she said.

"There is a more defined way of getting into premier grade and vice versa. More locals are being given opportunities. Players are also going back to strengthen the local Ipswich clubs, so we are only seeing positives. The clubs feel the same way. It is only bolstering them."

Schroder said the Thunder would wait until the finals wrapped up before preparing for next season with the guidance of the IWMCA.