Hamilton Star University of Waikato Cricket Club starts the new season with a former fast bowler at the helm and a Premier team captain with a couple of summers' experience to call on.
The university-based club's top team will this year be led by Elliot Santer, the young all-rounder's third season in charge.
A fourth-year engineering student, Santner says the club has recruited a number of bright prospects for the three upcoming Hamilton Cricket Association Premier competitions.
Santner has been part of the club's recent Richard Dodunski Trophy wins in T20 cricket, but says the pinnacle of Hamilton Premier cricket is to compete in the Howden Cup — a three-day final at Seddon Park which is the culmination of the Eddy Marr Bowl two-day round robin competition.
"I've been fortunate to win one Howden Cup — in 2013-2014. I got a score in the 90s to help us claim the title in a rain-affected match against Melville," says Santner.
"But we haven't been in that showpiece match for a couple of years and the guys are keen to make a statement this year."
The university club benefits from the Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Programme and this year's team will feature Hillary Scholars James Field and Caleb Boswell-Smith: Boswell-Smith hails from Northland, and has represented the district, but will play a reasonable chunk of the season for the university club.
Off-season recruiting has also secured the club age-group representatives from other parts of the Northern Districts Cricket Association catchment. Experienced Premier cricketers Arnie Yugaraja and Steve Rae will also play for the club's top team again this season.
Both featured in the club's two T20 wins on the opening day of the season last weekend — wins over Old Boys and Melville.
The club will field its usual four teams in Hamilton's club cricket competitions, and new president Greg O'Carroll — a former Premier fast bowler who debuted for the club in 1990 — says the HSUCC has aims to grow in women's and junior cricket areas.
"We want to see the club members enjoy their cricket and play it in the spirit it is meant to be played — competitive but fair," says O'Carroll, who also works at Waikato University. "Obviously the ultimate is winning titles, but if we can play competitively and in the right spirit then we will be doing a lot right.
Drawing on students, the club's rich and varied mix of cultures and backgrounds and O'Carroll says should be celebrated.
"Inclusiveness is important to us," he says. "In recent years we've had a lot of guys from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan play for us, plus recruits from other cricket nations like England, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the West Indies.
"We want to be the cricket club of choice for University of Waikato students."
HSUWCC has a focus on player development and pathways — including co-ownership of a three-net covered facility on the university campus — and celebrate the success of any who go on to higher honours.
The club is also working to further develop its relationship with the University of Waikato, with the ultimate aim of establishing a quality home playing ground on the university campus.
Interested players are always welcome, and can find the club's group page on Facebook — or email cricket@HSUCC.co.nz