ONA ROLL:Ellem Oval curator John Holmes checks the progress of his preparation of the Ellem Oval wicket.
ONA ROLL:Ellem Oval curator John Holmes checks the progress of his preparation of the Ellem Oval wicket.

It?s down to business

By TONY WHITE

THE pitches are rolled and ready, bats oiled, whites pressed and players champing at the bit as the 2005-06 Bananacost Community Credit Union Premier League cricket season begins today.

Despite East Royal Tavern's last-minute withdrawal in first grade, expectations are high for a bumper season.

East's decision to field only second and third grade teams has been disruptive, but the club was left with little alternative when a large number of first graders either retired, moved away or elected not to play this season.

Today Clarence River Cricket Association headquarters Ellem Oval will host the Premier League clash between G I Hotel Tucabia-Copmanhurst and last year's semi-finalists, Harwood Hilton.

At McKittrick Oval South Services take on Brothers.

Premiers Westlawn Grafton Hotel have a bye.

A mix of talented youngsters coming into first grade and others who experienced the top level first time last season, should hold particular interest.

Tucabia, captained by Damien Rouse, have lost lanky medium pacer Tim Gallgher this season, but have regained former player Graeme Egan and young Coutts Crossing opening bowler Aaron Amos and experienced CRCA representative player Bob McKenzie from Easts.

McKenzie should be a great plus for Tucabia, adding firepower to the top order.

However, Rouse said the club would be without nine regular first and second grade players including Chris Adamson and Jason Disson for the opening round match.

Harwood look to have built on player strength considerably during the off season.

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Young fast bowling gun Aaron Jones (Maclean), 15, Geoff Simmons (Iluka), former Westlawn player Greg Firth and allrounder Kane Alishman will bolster the club's depth.

Wily captain Tim McMahon said young players like Isaac Dufficy and Matt Peterie would also push for a first grade berth.

Prolific wicket taking opening bowler Dave Cowan has elected to play second grade for Iluka in the Lower River competition, but consistent opener Ed Munday and all-rounder Peter Hickey will pad up again this season.

Former East and CRCA representative batsman Ben Hill has been training with the club and expected to join first grade in the near future.

South have maintained a similar squad to last season.

The youngsters in the team who gained great experience last season like Zac Page, Ryan Lynch and Kroehnert brothers, Tom and Matt, are expected to play leading roles.

Stuart Jonker has also joined the club from Brothers and adds another dimension to the team.

Skipper Brett Woods and experienced Jason Thompson will lead the side with guile and fervour.

Brothers have gained Mitch Ware from Easts, cleared by doctors to play this season after a life-threatening head injury sustained during a football match.

Corey Bertalli has taken over the captaincy and his experience should prove vital to the young side.

Deputy Matt Ryan is an exceptionally skilled player with the ability to score heavily.

John Holmes is another talented Brothers player expected to figure prominently.

Westlawn have lost classy all rounder Tim Grosser to a knee injury and Mark Robinson to work commitments in Melbourne.

Wicket keeper Jason Rainbow, currently working in Brisbane, is also likely to miss the majority of the season.

Skipper Tony Blanch said up and coming star BJ Purser would be elevated to first grade this season.

His brother, Daniel, and Simon Wilson are also expected to press for first grade selection.

Blanch said the club's main motivation this year was to win a fifth consecutive premiership, South are believed to be the only other team to accomplish



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