NSW batsman/wicketkeeper Ryan Carters says the importance of having the ACT Comets in the Futures League cannot be understated as the Canberra product makes a brief stopover at Manuka Oval.
Carters will play the opening two days of the second XI encounter, starting on Monday, before he flies to Perth in preparation for NSW's Sheffield Shield encounter with WA at the WACA from February 14.
The 25-year-old was 12th man for last week's historic shield match in New Zealand as Test gloveman Peter Nevill slotted back into the Blues side to warm up for the two-Test series with the Kiwis.
Carters started the domestic season in dynamic fashion with a double century in the tour match against New Zealand in Blacktown in October.
However, he had limited opportunities in the Big Bash League with the Sydney Sixers, playing just three games, before returning to red-ball cricket.
He scored 43 in a Futures League game for NSW against Victoria at Blacktown last month and knows how vital the competition can be for developing young players.
The Futures League has this season been expanded from four games to six, providing players with 24 days of cricket to improve their skills and help with the transition from the club scene to the first-class arena.
The Comets will field a largely youthful team including Australian under-19 representatives Henry Hunt and Ben Taylor, south coast product Matt Condon, who plays for Easts in the Sydney grade competition, and exciting Wests/UC batsman Blake MacDonald.
"The best talent in ACT cricket should have the chance to be showcased against the best young players from around the country," Carters said.
"We've seen some great players start at the Comets and end up at first-class or Test level, so there is evidence there that the pathway works.
"Ben Taylor, Matt Condon, Blake MacDonald, they're all talented youngsters from the ACT, so they'll be keen to perform in the next couple years and see how far they can take it."
Carters said he was disappointed to have missed out on the shield side for the game in New Zealand, but eager to get another hit at Manuka Oval before heading to Perth.
"I'm looking forward to getting back for the rematch against WA at the WACA and the Futures League at Manuka will be a good hit-out to prepare for that," Carters said.
"Futures League is a very good standard of cricket coming up against some of the best bowlers from the ACT and NSW."
Carters will be replaced for days three and four by Newcastle teenager Jason Sangha, who will become the youngest NSW player in a Futures League or second XI game at 16 years and 155 days old.
The Comets have made four changes to the team that lost to Western Australia.
Aiden Blizzard returns to captain the side, which also features Jono Dean, spinner Shane Devoy and fast bowler Mitchell Phelps.
Monday: ACT Comets v NSW second XI at Manuka Oval. Play starts at 10.30am.