GOLDEN Gully will face a tough start to its Emu Valley Cricket Association premiership defence in Saturday’s opening round of one day matches.
The Cobras, who broke through for their maiden flag win in 2016-17, face a strengthened Sedgwick.
Sedgwick finished last season in fourth place but has recruited as well as any team, luring premier all-rounders Greg Thomas, from Golden Gully, and Simon Marwood (Emu Creek).
It will be a baptism of fire for first-time coach Thomas, whose first game will be against his former side.
Thomas, who will line up in a Bendigo Amateur Soccer League grand final for Eaglehawk on Sunday, said he was confident of an improved showing from the Rams this season.
“I’m sure we’ll be quite competitive – we’ve recruited quite well and I’d like to think we’ll be up there at the end of the year,” he said.
“The first goal is to make the top four and then we’ll see how we go from there.
“I’m sure with the guys who have come over, we have strengthened what was an already strong side.”
Thomas himself is coming off a stellar season in which he scored 665 runs at an average of 44.3 and claimed 16 wickets.
The Rams have also lured former Sandhurst player and Huntly-North Epsom coach Quinton Bentley.
Marwood’s defection follows Emu Creek’s decision not to field a top division team.
Thomas said first-up assignments came no tougher than the reigning premiers.
Meanwhile, new captain-coach Tom Wilson makes his debut for Marong against Spring Gully.
Wilson joins the Panthers from Upper Loddon club Newbridge, where he took 28 wickets last season, and looms as a key in the Panthers push to return to the finals for the first time since 2012.
Mandurang will look to put the memories of last year’s grand final loss to bed quickly when it hosts Maiden Gully.
The Rangas boast a wealth of talent and are sure to again figure highly in premiership calculations.
United starts its campaign against West Bendigo, which is looking to bounce back from an eighth place finish.