COACH: Dean Hawkins.
CAPTAIN: Tom Waller.
LAST SEASON: Premiers.
INS: Josh Freestone (returning).
OUTS: Alec Smith (university), Jack Young (year off), Casey Young (Melbourne), Mark Nutting (retired).
The Knights have lost their star batsman and two strike bowlers of last season, yet no-one is prepared to write off their chances of a three-peat in 2018-19.
The retirement of Mark Nutting and Alec Smith’s university commitments have ushered in a new era of leadership at the NTCA No.2, with Dean Hawkins returning to the head coaching role and wicket-keeper Tom Waller taking on the captaincy.
South has made two of the past three Greater Northern Cup semi-finals and more one-day success is Waller’s first target.
“Before Christmas is a really big one to get that momentum started, the one-day games are going to be vital I think,” the 24-year-old said.
“We’ve really got to focus on that first part of the season, check ourselves after Christmas and see how we’re going.”
One of Waller’s main challenges will be rejigging the bowling line-up in the absence of Jack and Casey Young, who combined for 63 wickets last season.
Young gun James Beattie is also expected to miss with Greater Northern Raiders duties, but the return of Ricky Ponting medallist Josh Freestone – who snagged 24 wickets in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons – will lighten the load on Jackson Young and Graham Donaldson.
Waller said he was still yet to finalise a battling line-up but was confident that the strength of the club’s second and junior ranks would cover over any cracks.
“(Alec) has played a pretty pivotal role in our side for the last couple of years and scored a lot of runs, but as captain I think I’ll be able to use some of his qualities but also put my own spin on that,” he said.
“Last year Jeremy Jackson had his best season, he’s really turned into a good class batsman and I think his leggies still have plenty of improvement to go.
“Patty Munnings is one who played a few games in the twos last year, Ollie Marshall might be another one and I think Jono Marsden is someone who could really work his way up.
“It’s going to look like a bit of a different side to last year but I think we’ve probably got enough depth in our grades to keep improving.”
COACH: Mathew Battle.
CAPTAIN: Richard Howe.
LAST SEASON: Runners-up.
INS: Ollie Wood (Riverside), Will Donald (England), Daniel Murfet (UK) Nick Spencer (retirement), Corey Briggs (Ulverstone), Tim Claxton (retirement).
OUTS: Jacob Kooran (moved away).
Westbury has recruited better than the defence force and looks the early front-runner for the 2018-19 flag.
Young all-rounder Ollie Wood has joined from Windsor Park, keeper-batsman Daniel Murfet has returned from the UK and brought import Will Donald with him, and star veteran Nick Spencer and Tim Claxton have come out of retirement.
The Shamrocks appear destined to be one of the Greater Northern Raiders’ prime feeders with four players named in the inaugural team, but skipper Richard Howe is confident his squad has the depth to mix and match accordingly.
“We’re going to lose a few to the Raiders I think but the pick-ups we’ve got have been really good,” Howe said.
“We’re pretty happy with our list at the moment and where we’re at as a cricket club, but I think we’ve won three out of the past seven grand finals so that’s probably not ideal - it’s showing that we’ve been up with the best for the past seven years but haven’t quite been able to get the job done.
“At the start of the year all you aim for is a top-three finish and nothing’s different this year.”
Ex-Ulverstone paceman Corey Briggs and spinner Alex Kerrison have both won Raiders selection but the Shamrocks should still have plenty of bowling firepower with Spencer, Howe and strike paceman Jonathon Chapman.
The role of frontline spinner will be up for grabs in Kerrison’s absence and the Shamrocks’ international import – who has already attracted plenty of intrigue – appears best-placed to fill the void.
“Will captains a team that a few of us guys have played for over in England, he’s only a young fella but he’s a left-arm spinner and a top-end left-hand batsman,” Howe said.
“He’s a very good player and he’s a got a good head on him for a young bloke.”
COACH: Alistair Taylor
CAPTAIN: Alistair Taylor
LAST SEASON: Third
INS: Jacob Morris (Cressy), Nick Hayden (Lindisfarne)
OUTS: Luke Badham (Queensland)
The Lions ended a four-year finals absence by making last year’s preliminary final and are out for further improvement this season.
Captain-coach Alistair Taylor has retained a settled list into 2018-19 and while he, frontline paceman Tom Gray and Lachie Newland are likely to spend time in the Raiders setup, the wicket-keeper is bullish about the depth of his side’s arsenal.
Taylor tipped left-hander Cameron Lynch, who has been chosen as stand-in skipper, to thrive under the pressure of leadership and said spin duo James Curran and Clayde White were looking as potent as ever.
“(Curran) is going to be a special player, he’s improved his batting a lot from last year – they’re two of the younger boys that are in the system that we’re really looking forward to watching this year,” Taylor said.
“They’re both really different leg-spin bowlers which is handy to have, then there’s Ben Humphries as well who can bowl some nice off spin and Cam Lynch, so the club’s blessed with how many spin options we’ve got.
“James batted down the order but I can see him batting higher up the order this year with the way he’s been going.”
The batting department looks set to be anchored by promising number four Zac Oldenhof in Taylor’s absence, while Tom Bennett will also be asked to shoulder more of the load.
“I think Zac could really start to tear the competition apart this year if he can find a little bit more consistency,” Taylor said.
“He’s made his 100 a couple of years ago and now I think he’ll start to kick on and be a really dominant player for us this year.”
COACH: Lyndon Stubbs.
CAPTAIN: Tom Garwood.
LAST SEASON: Fourth.
INS: Tom Lewis (Burnie).
OUTS: Ollie Wood (Westbury), Bailey Hunt (Melbourne), Michael Lidsey (UK).
The Blues will look to fast-track a promising batch of youngsters this season in what captain Tom Garwood called a “rebuilding stage”.
The departures of Ollie Wood, Bailey Hunt and UK import Michael Lidsey have stripped some of the experience from the top and middle order, but Garwood is already pinpointing possible long-term replacements.
“We’ve got quite a young group going forward so we’re really excited where the group’s going so far in the pre-season,” Garwood said.
“There’s a probably a group of six to eight under-18s that we’re nurturing through, plus you’ve got the older guys of myself, Lyndon (Stubbs), Pete (New) and Ramesh (Sundra).”
New will rejoin Garwood at the top of the order after a year floating at six, while Jesse Homan could be nudged up a few rungs after a solid pre-season.
“We probably had our best year two years ago batting together, and then it’s finding where is best for the young guys to bat,” Garwood said.
“We’ll play around with it a bit because senior cricket is a bit of a step up for them but there’s a couple of guys who have surprised with the bat – Jesse Homan has worked a lot on his batting this year so we’re expecting a few runs out of him.”
Stubbs is recovering well from an ankle injury and should be ready to lead a young bowling line-up featuring Homan, Luke Midson, Burnie recruit Tom Lewis and under-15 state players Sam Artis and James Simpson.
“Lyndon’s introduced a couple of techniques around training and how we go about training to already focus on two-day cricket, so red balls only and white tops and stuff like that,” Garwood said of his side’s new coach.
“The guys are bowling two-day stuff already so that’s really good.”
COACH: John LeFevre.
LAST SEASON: Fifth.
INS: Ben Spinks (Burnie), Ben Bodha (UK).
OUTS: Jono Jones.
The Eagles’ pre-season so far has centred around one-day cricket as coach John Le Fevre looks to make a bigger dent on the Greater Northern Cup.
The 2016-17 premiers won just four of their 10 one-day fixtures last season, but will take on this year’s competition with the help of top-order import Ben Bodha.
“We found a big deficiency last year in the middle overs - between overs 25 and 45 where at time we lost chunks of wickets and we were also a bit eager to hit boundaries,” LeFevre said.
“We’ve been working on alternative scoring shots and being able to score off good balls through that period and not panicking as a group.
“We felt our bowling stood up last year but we felt there was room for improvement particularly in that area of batting.”
Keeper Connor Lockhart and last year’s top run-getter Luke Scott will open the batting in both formats, with LeFevre and Rohan Pooley to provide cool heads through the middle order.
LeFevre said the introduction of the Raiders team would make for a more even competition than ever before and backed his side to jump up from its bottom-place finish in 2017-18.
“I reckon it’ll make it really interesting - we see ourselves as a chance of making finals, we’d like to think we’ll be able to finish somewhere between first, second or third to give ourselves that chance.
“Blake Cassidy showed last year – particularly in one-day cricket – that he’s one of the better bowlers in the competition and Sam Freeman’s an up-and-coming left arm off-spinner.
“With the addition of Ben Spinks, who’s a really tall young lad who’ll get pretty good bounce on the Invermay wicket... I suspect they’re capable of doing a fair bit of damage.”
2017-18 season top fives
1. Alec Smith (South Launceston) 857 runs at 71.42
2. Dane Anderson (Westbury) 544 runs at 38.86
3. Alistair Taylor (Launceston) 448 runs at 37.33
4. Richard Howe (Westbury) 400 runs at 33.33
5. Luke Scott (Mowbray) 360 runs at 27.69
1. Casey Young (South Launceston) 36 wickets at 11.03
2. Jonathon Chapman (Westbury) 32 wickets at 14.59
3. Richard Howe (Westbury) 30 wickets at 17.10
4. Jack Young (South Launceston) 27 wickets at 13.19
5. Thomas Gray (Launceston) 27 wickets at 17.22
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