Reigning champions WETHERBY are expecting a gripping title race in their final year in the Wetherby League, according to new captain Tom Hudson.
Last year’s summer signing Manny Hussain has departed Grange Park for Old Modernians and spinner Saeed Ahmed is also an absentee.
The champions will also be without an overseas player as they start preparing for life in the York Senior League from 2016.
And Hudson, who has just returned from a winter ski-season, believes it will be a year of development on and off the field.
The skipper said: “It will definitely be a challenge to win it again. Quite a few teams have strengthened, and everyone will want to beat us.
“This year we are trying to do a lot more off the pitch to get the set up right and get the club in a stronger position.”
Thomas Hudson, Wetherby captainIt will definitely be a challenge to win it again.”
Glory-hunting BARWICK-IN-ELMET were the team to beat at the end of last season as 24-year-old captain Garry Bettison led them on an incredible unbeaten streak to mount a title challenge.
That run included victories in the Fred Fleetwood Cup and the Evening Cup, and the skipper is confident his young charges can have similar fortunes in 2015.
Overseas ace Matty Prosser is back for a second bite at the cherry after collecting the league’s best batsman prize last year.
Bettison said: “Matty was massive for us last year. We weren’t sure how he was going to perform in England but as the stats show, he performed very well. He’s a good influence on the team and he wants to win.”
Andy Styan and Chris Harrison have finished university degrees to add more strength to the line-up, however Andy Bryant and Jamie Swales won’t be available.
SCARCROFT labelled Barwick and Wetherby as their main challenges, with bullish skipper Damian Aston promising an attack-minded approach. Fellow Australian Ben Doyle is in as the club’s overseas, with Aston “very excited” to see the fast bowler arrowing in at batsmen during the summer.
A couple of other recruits could join before the window of activity finishes on Friday, with Aston’s eyes channelled on top prize.
On winning the league, he said: “This is what we want to achieve. That’s why we are playing this game.
“We have been trying hard for many years but normally we have had a run of bad form that has cost us. It will be about winning the crucial games and ending a few of the hoodoos that have developed over the last few years.”
Under Andy Walker, BILTON-IN-AINSTY achieved above expectations last year and the skipper remains in charge for another assault at the higher regions of the table.
Australian Tom Reece has returned after a prosperous summer last year with the bat, and Walker has snapped up the signings of big-hitter Pete Hughes from Nidderdale side Darley. Cameron Black and Luke Sands have also arrived on Wetherby Road
“We are after another top three finish. If we perform as well as last year, we will be in with a good chance of winning it. We just hope the weather will be more in our favour than last year.”
Walker tipped Tim Lambert and Phil Schofield to have major parts to play on the prime batting deck groomed by groundsman Rob Wilson.
KIRK DEIGHTON had a year to forget in Division One last season, but skipper Rich Ward feels he has recruited well to swerve a repeat.
New Zealand batter Max Mills is the club’s overseas while Ward welcomes top Sicklinghall batsman Jamie Crooks and Spofforth’s Ross Atkinson into his squad. Rohan Eivajoti has also returned to the club he played junior cricket for.
Deighton have also secured sponsorship with local horse racing trainer Richard Guest - a deal which captain Ward reckons to have created a buzz at the club.
“Last year was a bit of a shocker so hopefully we will have an improvement,” said Ward.
“We have definitely strengthened the side but we’re not putting any pressure on ourselves. Hopefully we will be up there.”
With Brooks gone, SICKLINGHALL look set for a season of struggles under the guidance of Yorkshire Over 60’s and Wetherby League chairman Zai Ali.
The club have again decided to compete without overseas help and signings have been thin on the ground. Sicklinghall have folded their second string, and Ali expects that to lead to a tough season battling at the lower end of the table.
“We’re relying on the players from last year to carry on the good work that they have done,” said Ali. “It’s going to be a tough old year for Sicklinghall. We will see if we can survive in Division One.”
Dan Holmes is one reason to be cheerful for the village side, though, as Ali predicted the talented youngster will develop into a star of the league.