MORTLAKE captain Todd Lamont is confident the Cats can defend their South West Cricket division one title.
But don’t expect the reigning premier to produce its best cricket early in the season.
Lamont said yesterday Mortlake would be without six players from its grand final team for the season opener against Simpson on Saturday.
The omissions, which include opening rock Josh Barr and experienced pair Craig Fowler and Neil Kelly, mean the Cats could take a few rounds to fire.
“Hopefully the team will be pretty similar to last year. We haven’t recruited anyone at all,” Lamont said.
“There are a couple of division two players that have come back to the club but they probably won’t be playing A grade.
“The first four or five weeks we’ve got quite a few players out through work and weddings and that sort of thing.
“We might have a different-looking team to start with until November. Hopefully after that we should be back to full strength.”
Lamont said he was confident Mortlake would be around the mark again.
The Cats have been a South West Cricket force since making their first grand final in more than a decade in 2008-09.
They have missed the decider once in the past five seasons and have won the past two flags, against Noorat and Pomborneit.
“It’s hard this time of year to get everyone motivated. They’ve just finished footy and had a break,” Lamont said.
“Towards December and January is when everyone is pretty fired up and ready to go. Everyone is keen to try and do it again. We all enjoy winning.”
Lamont said the Cats’ batting depth was one of their strengths — the majority of their frontline bowlers are also capable with the willow.
He expects the 10-team division to be close, like it was last year when the grade featured solely 50-over, one-day matches for the first time.
Simpson and Woorndoo have been promoted to the top grade while Camperdown has dropped back to division two.
“It’s disappointing Camper-down dropped out,” Lamont said.
“But with that happening, it’s evened up the draw. There are no byes and everyone plays each other, which is a positive out of it. I know Pombo have recruited well and Terang have a couple of recruits. It should be a good year again and another challenge.”
In other South West Cricket round one matches, Pomborneit hosts Bookaar at Pomborneit Recreation Reserve.
Cobden takes on Noorat at Cobden Technical School, while Heytesbury Rebels welcome Terang to Timboon Recreation Reserve.
Woorndoo will make its top-grade debut at home against Boorcan. Division two and three kick off on October 19.