There will be plenty of interest in the fortunes of new club Heathcote when the first ball of the Northern United Cricket Association season is bowled in anger this afternoon.
Coached by Joel Condon, Heathcote is an unknown quantity, but with several talented sportsmen in the team, NUCA president Greg Hamilton expects the newcomers to be competitive.
“Heathcote Cricket Club is a welcome addition to the NUCA this season,” Hamilton said.
“It’s great for the NUCA to see some growth after a period where player numbers have been on a gradual decline.
“Fuelled by enthusiasm in their first NUCA season, they could make finals and put other clubs on notice.”
Heathcote makes its Northern United debut against Colbinabbin, which has lost key player Hadleigh Sirett.
Lachy Sirett has his brother’s big shoes to fill in the bowling department, while left-hand batsman Brian Dwyer will be looked to for most of the club’s runs this season.
After snatching victory on the final ball of last year’s grand final, Calivil is favourite to take the 2012-13 flag with an established squad which has good depth with bat and ball.
Top batsmen Billy Sexton and Garner Smith return for the club, while its steady bowling will be led by skipper Lauchy Ralphs, Phil Brown, Dave Dennis and all-rounder Anthony Dennis.
Calivil takes on Dingee, which missed finals last season after struggling to field a consistent team, in the opening round.
Multiple NUCA champion player Scott Lawry will be crucial with both bat and ball to Dingee’s hopes this season, while the club will hope to see more of Sam Barnes who can win a game with bat or ball in hand.
Runner-up for the past two seasons, Kamarooka will be challenged to make the decider without its opening batsmen from last season.
The Kings lost captain Jeff Blow halfway through last year and Rob Lowes has retired following the grand final defeat, meaning the Cails – Nathan, Heath and Nic – will need to shoulder more of the run-scoring load.
Bagshot faces the Kings today and will have a big hole in its batting and bowling ranks after club champion all-rounder Bruce Wallace decided to miss this season, while left-armer Bryce Millington has moved away.
Raywood and Goornong face each other today, with both clubs expected to field similar squads to last season.
Raywood’s Andy Maher and Dave Lawton combined for 64 wickets last season as the Foxes made it to the semi-finals, but batting is where the club needs to improve.
Raywood was heavily reliant on David Bish and will need a big contribution from Damien Tresize to challenge the top sides.
Young gun Corey Dickins could also turn a few heads this year with his aggressive shot-making.
Goornong’s Adrian Cronin was the top run-scorer in the NUCA last season with 393 runs and he will need to repeat that effort for the club to win more matches.
Bowling looks to be the strength of the young team which is supported by some more experienced players like Scott Whatley.
Nick Edwards took 30 wickets last season, while Cronin and promising spinner Dylan McNamara will lend support.
After failing to win a game last season and being thumped in most matches, Elmore is struggling for numbers.
Elmore has the bye in round one and has put the call out to any interested cricketers who want to play competitive one-day matches on turf wickets to contact the NUCA through its Facebook page.