IT has been a long off- season with many changes but cricket is finally back in the south-west sporting spotlight.
Today marks the opening round of the Grassmere Cricket Association and the first chance to see recruits represent their new sides.
Killarney captain Brett Halliwell has handed the club’s coaching reins over to Peter Hickey but expects today’s match with Yambuk to be a close contest between two sides with fresh talent.
“Yambuk really recruited well over the summer and will be a great test for us,” Halliwell said.
“I think Panmure and Yambuk are going to be the two sides to watch for after a strong off-season.
“We’ve actually recruited OK ourselves so hopefully we’ll be thereabouts as well.
“We’ve matured a bit and picked up Joel Henry from Allansford as an opening batsman. Brad Leske will be here, originally an A grade cricketer from Port Fairy, and Kyle Buchanan is back after a couple years off.”
Now living in Ballarat, Halliwell said Hickey, who has been with the club for three seasons, was the natural replacement as Killarney’s coach.
“I can’t be down every week with work commitments but I think Hick’s played at the highest level in Mildura, so he’s harnessed the role and taken some pressure off me.
“It’s been really positive turnouts at training, with between 14 and 20 players training over the past six or seven weeks.
“The season can’t come quick enough for us. We’re pretty toey.
“We went through all year and lost one game, (but were) put out in the semi-final which was disappointing.
“It’s certainly going to be interesting this year.
“The old cliche game-by-game works for us. You can’t look too far ahead.
“The comp is strong this year and we know we have to play at our best to be somewhere up in the finals.
“We’ll probably hit our maximum level in round three or four when we have all our players available.”
Elsewhere in the GCA, reigning premiers Panmure Bulldogs host Grassmere, who will be looking to start the season strong in the replay of last season’s grand final.
Wangoom will travel to Purnim and Mailors Flat plays Hawkesdale at Winslow.