HOWZAT! 53 Gympie faces play for cricket glory this summer
OPINION: The quote "a true sports fan never has an off-season” rings so true in my life.
The weather is heating up so, as many of you will know, that means one thing - a summer of cricket in Gympie.
The season starts today with a two games at One Mile Oval and one out in Murgon.
Many sports fans will agree, you want to know how your team is looking going into the season.
The Gympie Times has spoken to each of the captains from the Gympie teams - Harlequins, Valleys, Wests and Colts - to give you their season outlook.
There are also details of the new recruits, young guns, players who have left and also individual photos of the players for every team.
The reigning premiers will be looking to go back to back, and with a similar line-up to last year's they will be the team to watch.
Despite taking the title last year, Colts did not have a single player make a century and captain Guy Preston said the team was not going to let that happen this season.
"We failed with the bat dramatically. Last season one made 80 or 90, I got 70 and a few made 40s or 50s,” he said.
"We always tried to bowl first so we knew what we were chasing.
"Pre-season training and now season training we have been in the nets practising our batting and the bowlers practising their techniques.”
A fierce bowling attack will be Colts' strength again this season.
"We have the likes of Chris Hughes, Anthony Smerdon, Sam Lang, Dean Chandler and Chappy (Andrew Mallett),” Preston said.
Despite a strong tail-end, the batting line-up will be strengthen by two Gold players for the first couple of weeks.
"Lewis Waugh and Nathan McClintock will be handy for the first two weeks,” he said.
"It will be a big loss when Lewis and Nathan go back to Gold duties, but we have Brandon Sauer and Shane Schmidt that will fill their shoes.
"Shane and Brandon contributed well with the bat last season and they will look to do it again this year.”
Colts take on Kenilworth in the season opener today and there will be a bit of friendly competition.
"Matt Tramacchi and Jye Robinson have left for greener pastures at Kenilworth,” Preston said.
"It will add a bit of rivalry on the field but you know whatever happens in the middle will play out.
"Kenilworth will produce a strong team. They have a few Nambour players for a few weeks to boost their squad. It will be a strong contest.
"It would be good to start the season off with a win. We have a strong game plan in place to execute today which will get us the result.”
Kenilworth v Colts at Kozminsky Oval, One Mile at 12.30pm.
The self-acclaimed friendliest club in town will be anything but on the pitch this summer.
A few new recruits will strengthen the Harlequins' bowling attack and president and captain Shaun Ringuet said there would be no excuses not to make finals.
"Our batting is usually our strength because we can bat from one to 11. Even our bowlers are bowling all-rounders and if one of us up the order fail we have others that can stand in place,” he said.
"In previous years our bowling has been a weakness but this year we had a few bowlers come to the club rather than just relying on our part-time bowlers to get us through the overs.
"There will be no excuse not to make finals.”
After finishing third last season, the aim will be playing finals again and there are a few young guns pushing through the order.
"Matthew Stevens has stepped up. He played pretty consistently in the trial game against Kenilworth last weekend, notching up 20-odd runs,” Ringuet said.
"He is an upcoming batsman, bolstering the batting. He is more of a big hitting batsman.
"Nathaniel Bailey has stepped up with his bowling. He has been working hard in the nets, he is one we are looking at to move up to A-grade.”
Harlequins head west to play Murgon today, the younger players taking on extra duties.
"Nathaniel will play today, so it will be good to see how he goes. Stevo (Matthew Stevens) is more of a boundary hitter which will be handy in the one-day format and today.”
Murgon District v Harlequins at Murgon Sports Ground at 12.30pm.
Wests' biggest strength is also their biggest weakness this season.
The club finished last for the 2018-19 season.
"When I was still new to Gympie, Wests were contending for finals but about five to six years ago it has fallen away and it is about time we get back to that,” A-grade captain Grant Weller said.
"We have brought up some experienced players from reserve grade and the aim is to compete for finals.”
The strength of the club is the number of all-rounders in the 11 but Weller said it could be the club's weakness.
"We have strong all-rounders and have good depth because of that,” he said. "We don't have set batsmen and bowlers and that gives you more flexibility but on the flip side we don't have genuine batsmen.
"There is not a strong batting line-up with a batsman that can make 100.”
With the club losing a couple of young guns it has brought experienced players into the A-grade XI.
"We lost our main left-arm spinner Mathysuthen Velmaran and good paceman Lachlan McIntosh - both leave a big hole in the team,” Weller said.
"We have a young player, my son Callum moves up from reserve grade. Experienced senior player Rod Cartwright, we are hoping to get more out of him.
"Graeme Bembrick is an experienced batsman, but we want him to make a bigger impact this season. He knows how to pace an innings and is one of our key batsmen.
"Another player is all-rounder Anthony Brogden he is ... one of our lead wicket takers and contributes with the bat.”
Wests take on Valleys at Spencer Oval, One Mile at 12.30pm.
The Gympie Valleys have gained two players during the off-season to boost their strong bowling attack.
Valleys finished fourth on the ladder at the end of the regular season and their race for the premiership was brought to an end by Harlequins.
The strength of the team is their bowling and as their bowlers, who will be looking to rip in this summer.
"One young fella coming through, Emerson Powell looks like a fairly decent bowler but I haven't seen him bat yet,” president/bowler Brad Brigg said.
"He looks pretty handy with the ball and hopefully he comes along alright.”
The Valleys XI will welcome the return of all-rounder Wade Wust. "He is keen again and he is a good all-rounder,” he said.
"Hopefully he can come good for us this season.”
Despite the holes in the batting line-up Brigg said he was hopeful depth will come as the season plays out.
"It would be nice to have a bit more depth but that will come,” he said. "A bit of training and a few more blokes hitting the ball alright.”
Brigg said there were not any players which left the club and the push would be to play finals.
"We have a pretty similar side to last year, so hopefully we can get there again this year,” he said. "We will be looking to push a bit more towards the end of the season. "Last year we were really strong until about Christmas and then we lost a few players and we went off the boil especially with the bat. We we can continue right through to finals we might give it a good shake up.”
Valleys have produced another gun bowling attack and Brigg said the other sides should be worried.
"We pride ourselves with our bowling and hopefully we can all gel together,” he said.
Good starts and a strong middle order is the focus for Valleys this season.
"Early wickets killed us last year,” Brigg said. "Hopefully this year we can string a few good partnerships together up the top order and get the strong middle order batters later on in the innings so they can play their natural game.”
Valleys v Wests at Spencer Oval at 12.30pm.
To stay up to date with the cricket season, visit gympietimes.com and see results in print every Wednesday.