GOULBURN Murray Cricket A grade kicks off tomorrow with local sides looking to lift their games and challenge two-time defending premier Rochester United.
Moama will look to return to the finals, while the other clubs will need to take down last season’s higher-ranked sides to end finals droughts.
Echuca South will look very different heading into their round one match-up with Kyabram Fire Brigade, with gun all-rounder Jayden Rosin suiting up for the Flames this season.
Rosin was South’s best player with bat and ball last season, ranking first at the club for wickets taken (14) and runs made (349).
In addition to Rosin, Kyabram has also lured Shannon O’Brien from the club, last year’s third most dangerous bowler.
“They’re big losses, two high quality players yeah, but we have picked up a few boys to hopefully improve our depth and bolster some numbers”, South coach Brad Jones said.
“We’re up and about and ready for round one, that’s for sure.”
But for any improvement to be made from last season, Jones has called for a lift from his top order batsmen, the focus at training on avoiding any more batting collapses.
With ball in hand, Jake Toll and Cameron Hay will have to step up to fill the hole in their bowling line up.
“We would love to play finals of course, but we know with losing some quality players that becomes harder to do,” Jones said.
■ HAVING finished 50 points off finals last season, former Echuca captain Brendan Prendergast said his side’s first goal for season 2017/18 was to play consistent cricket and close the gap between the side’s best and worst.
“A more consistent team across all facets, improving both our batting and bowling as well as that consistency will get us into finals this year”, he said.
Improvement will need to come within for these Bombers though, with no big imports to speak of.
Instead the side will look to young guns such as Matthew Hinks, Mitch Frew and Shaun Hon to take the green and white back into the finals.
“We really are going to play from within this season”, president Tim Hawker said.
“We hope to steadily develop our talent and continue to improve.”
Echuca faces Stanhope first up on the road before hosting the always-dangerous top-four side Cooma.
“(To win) we’ll have to be more consistent with bat in hand, bowl steadily and hold our catches, same as every other side would like to see happen,’’ Hawker said.
■SO CLOSE, yet so far away was the case for Moama last season, having fallen in the semi-final match up with eventual premier Rochester United.
But the Magpies have recruited well, shoring up their batting stocks Alastair and Lleyton McCann joining the side as well as another set of brothers from Shepparton.
They’ll have to make do without gun teen Todd Murphy, who has moved to Sandhurst in the Bendigo League.
“Although Todd was a big loss , our new sets of brothers coming into the side are exciting”, new coach Adam Luckman said.
“We’ll have a stronger batting line-up and probably even be better with the ball in hand too, which is good.”
Luckman is stepping up to coach this season and will put a focus on individualised training programs, believing the side can go one better than last year and match it with the best sides in the league.
“If individuals succeed and improve, then the team will succeed and improve, and only then can we win flags,” he said.
Flags definitely seem to be on the cards for Moama, Luckman labelling the situation exciting.
“I honestly do feel like I’ve been gifted with this opportunity to coach such a great team, even luckier with the coup of signing Paul Henry,” he said.
And a coup it sure is, Henry recently moving to the twin towns from Melbourne where he played in the Ferntree Gully League, taking the captaincy without having played a game for his new club.
“We do have some big improvers from what I can see at training so far too, guys like Anthony McMahon, Darcy Elliot and Jayden Dixon, who’ll potentially become the best keeper in the league this season,” he said.
■BAMAWM-LOCKINGTON United will be gunning for finals glory this Goulburn Murray Cricket season, having narrowly missed out on March action last season.
BLU even managed to fell premiers Rochester United during the season, showcasing the arsenal of firepower at their disposal.
That includes Greg Pearse, James McPhee and Josh Cairns, who all smacked more than 250 runs each last year.
“Before Christmas (last year) we matched it with the best, but some experienced players left after Christmas and all of a sudden we had a really young side”, skipper Cairns said.
“We’ve just got to keep our side together this year so our kids can continue to develop in other grades rather than rush them in.”
Development seems a theme though. Cairns said everyone from Jed Thompson, 15, to Greg Pearse, 46, has shown signs of major improvement this pre-season.
The club has also picked up two Englishmen, Cameron Sharpe and William McArthur, doing no harm whatsoever to their line-up.
“We hope they can bring some experience to the club and show us how they go about it, success is just a bonus really,” Cairns said.
The captain said the playing group was feeling positive heading into the season opener against the reigning champions, looking forward to some reward for a good pre-season.