NORTHERN Raiders' quest for success in their first division one season has received a boost with an experienced duo committing for the 2022-23 Warrnambool and District Cricket Association summer.
Former Cobden leader Johno Benallack has signed as playing coach while Jake McKinnon returns to the club as joint captain.
Benallack, 24, said he was excited to lead the Raiders - elevated after back-to-back premierships in division two - in a top-quality competition.
"I have been thinking for the past 18 months about having a crack in Warrnambool," he said.
"It's obviously a better standard of cricket. I played junior cricket (via the Western Waves) with (joint skipper) Joey McKinnon so I was speaking to him a bit and he talked me into it basically.
"It's a big opportunity and they're an up-and-coming club too so that excited me a bit. It is a bit of an unknown what we're going to be like."
I really enjoy the challenge of trying to get the best out of blokes.- Johno Benallack
Benallack, a carpenter by trade, will carry leadership experience from his time in the South West Cricket competition across to the Purnim-based club.
"I have done it for the past six or so years at Cobden and I really enjoy the challenge of trying to get the best out of blokes," he said.
"I was thinking I have got the most out of blokes at Cobden I could get so to get a new group and have a crack at the top level (around here) really pushed me to push myself."
Benallack, a top-order batsman who scored three half centuries for Cobden last summer, said it would be special to be part of Northern Raiders' first division one campaign.
"It is a bit of an unknown how we're going to go in the top grade but going in we've got the form so I think we'll really give it a shake," he said.
"It would be really good to push ourselves. The boys really want to push themselves and have a go at the top level."
McKinnon, 27, will share captaincy duties with younger brother Joe.
"Hopefully I can achieve something special with Joe before I finish cricket," he said.
"I will probably bat in the top order and do what is needed, bowl when needed."
McKinnon, who works as a plumber, returns to the field after a year off, having played for Northern Raiders in their inaugural WDCA season in 2020-21.
"I have a young family and we just built a house so I was trying to get the backyard done, so I didn't play at all last year," the father-of-two said.
"I reckon I played division one nearly 10 years ago when I was at Woodford before I moved to Melbourne and I always wanted to have one more crack at division one before I finished up.
"When they got into division one it made the decision a lot easier."
McKinnon, who played Victorian Premier Cricket with Essendon before a stint with Melbourne-based club Glenroy, said he wanted to repay his junior club.
"It means a lot (being in division one) and there's been a lot of people who have done a lot more work than I have, especially off field," he said.
"I played juniors at Purnim (a precursor to the Raiders) and they did a lot for me so to help them out now is pretty rewarding."
Russells Creek is the reigning WDCA division one premier.
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