Sounds of summer coming soon
By GREG WHITE
THE sound of willow bats on cork and leather balls returns to an oval near you from 12.30pm today.
Old rivalries, tensions, friendships and feuds will be re-ignited as six clubs commence battle in another summer of Coffs Harbour District cricket.
Since Sawtell won a third straight title earlier in the year Bellingen and Nana Glen clubs have dropped back one grade with Dorrigo and Northern District promoted to replace them and premiership-winning skipper Chris Neal believes this leaves the competition wide open.
"The new clubs are an unknown quantity and anything could happen until things settle down," he said.
"It puts the pressure on us all to perform right from the start and while I don't want anybody going overboard talking up our chances, we'll be there again.
"We're proud to have six teams in the four grades and while that means a quantity of players, there's plenty of quality."
The premiers have lost Dave Kennedy (to Newcastle) and the unpredictable raw talent of Todd Gill but have picked up former Nana Glen captain Matt Andrews, representative fast bowler Chris Lawry from Urunga juniors and highly-rated Blair Craddock from Camden.
"Blair has a reputation so we've wasted no time introducing him to first grade," Neal advised.
"Long term we'll only be missing two from last year as a couple of blokes we thought mightn't be available will get back shortly.
Lawson Jarman almost has his house built, Jeff Butterworth is returning full time, Brad Lewis' knee reconstruction has been successful and Ben Andrews who broke his arm during footy season will be back in mid-November.
Adding to the talent the club will put on the park is their attitude toward professionalism and the clear guidelines laid down for club players, especially the wearing of the club cap on the field.
"All we ask is six hours of commitment and that the cap be worn with pride when representing Sawtell Cricket Club," Neal said.
"It's a visible symbol and while we want everybody to enjoy themselves, some things mark you as different and tell everybody else what you are about."