by Jim Timberlake
After a long winter losing sleep watching the World Cup and Ashes, players and fans can finally get their daylight fix as cricket returns to local ovals this weekend.
Geelong Cricket Club had a particularly restless winter following last season’s agonising grand final defeat to Carlton.
They will be chomping at the bit to go one better this season.
They will do so without the services of veteran paceman Jake Reed, who has departed Kardinia Park to try his luck at rival club Footscray.
The Cats have been able to cover for him during his long injury stints in the past though, and have a number of eager young bowlers looking to fill his spot.
Geelong will look to the same group of batters that saw them progress so far last year, with Eammonn Vines ready to cement his spot as one of the elite batsmen in the state.
A one-day game at home against Camberwell is scheduled for tomorrow, and the Cats should get off to a winning start.
Geelong Cricket Association had a somewhat tumultuous off season, with last season’s board facing a challenge from a rival faction at the AGM in July.
Following a tight vote, former president Barry McFarlane was ousted by the incoming Rob Vines.
Colin Dempsey was replaced David Yelland as treasurer, after an outstanding 27 years of service, while Peter Edwards took over as secretary.
While the new board moves forward with gusto, the contribution of those they replaced should not be understated, as the competition is far richer for their efforts.
To the cricket though, and division one will commence tomorrow with a round of one day games.
Geelong City was relegated at the end of last season, which means Murgheboluc returns to the top flight.
After winning the last two premierships East Belmont look like the team to beat again, although their depth will be tested following the departure of Englishman Alex Willerton, while Jack Sing medallist Sean O’Neill will have a delayed start to the season as he recovers from a nasty wrist injury.
The usual suspects will be nipping at their heels though, with Grovedale looking to recharge and go again.
Perennial finalists St Josephs will be thereabouts, while Newtown and Chilwell have been building nicely the past couple of seasons, and will be hoping their young squad can start to perform in finals.
Bell Post Hill could be a real smoky, after appointing champion all-rounder Glen Talarico as coach.
While work commitments may hamper his availability, if he can get a few games in and help develop their young squad, they will challenge a lot of sides this season.
Selections in bold: Leopold v BELL POST HILL, LARA v Murgheboluc, GROVEDALE v South Barwon, EAST BELMONT v Newtown & Chilwell, ST JOSEPHS v North Geelong
In division two, Geelong City goes in as raging favourite. The club was very competitive in division one in recent seasons, and were probably the victims of a tough draw when they were relegated.
Superstar import Richie Oliver returns after another fruitful English summer, while gun recruit Pat Richards crosses from Leopold.
With an experienced squad raring to go, the Sharks will take some beating in all grades.
Bell Park have recruited a number of players, including Steve Kelly from Guild, and will be one of the challengers.
Last season’s premier Marshall have a knack of getting the job done when it counts, while Torquay will be hoping the pain of last season’s grand final defeat can spur them to go one better.
Meanwhile, newly-promoted Modewarre look well-equipped to not only survive in this division, but prosper. They came up at the expense of Thomson.
Selection in bold: St Peters v TORQUAY, Highton v GEELONG CITY, MARSHALL v Modewarre, Manifold Heights v BELL PARK.
In division three Teesdale has succumbed to a serious lack of numbers and pulled out of two-day cricket for the foreseeable future.
Lethbridge will take their spot in the First XI, while Meredith will fill the gap in the Second XI fixture.
Alexander Thomson has been building over the past few seasons, and will be up there at the business end.
Bannockburn also looks like a contender, after getting a feel for what it takes last season.
The premiership race is wide open though, and an intriguing season lies ahead.
Selection in bold: ALEXANDER THOMSON v Corio, Waurn Ponds Deakin v ST ALBANS BREAKWATER, Lethbridge v BANNOCKBURN, Guild Saints v GEELONG WEST, Thomson v NEWCOMB & DISTRICT.