With Northland premier grade cricket set to make its return today with the first round of the 2019/20 Lion Red Cup, Northern Advocate sports editor Adam Pearse takes a deep dive into this year's teams who will challenge the grade's three competitions.
Premier grade formats:
Lion Red Cup (LRC): 50-over
Oxford Trust two-day (OT2): two day
Kensington Tavern Onerahi Central CC:
Coach: Dean Potter, Sam Walker
Captain: Todd Beehre
Overseas player: Ben Allcock (England), Jack Ellis (England)
2018/19 results: T20 (3rd), LRC (5th), and OT2 (2nd)
Onerahi are in a similar spot to most teams this weekend with a couple of key players yet to return from overseas and other commitments. However, coach Dean Potter is optimistic ahead of the season considering the success of the club as a whole.
"It was definitely a bit of a rebuild for us last season and I think they went pretty well," he said.
"We've now got about 10 junior teams and looking like we are going to have a couple of reserve teams so we've got a good base to create good competition for spots and hopefully that will show on the park."
With a strong collection of shorter format players, Potter hoped this season's team would be able to improve on their third-place finish in the T20 competition last season.
FMG Northern CC:
Coach: Harry Darkins
Captain: Luke Trigg
Overseas player: Nick Hammond (England)
2018/19 results: N/A
Northland's premier cricket scene will see some new faces this season with the creation of a new club, the FMG Northern Cricket Club. After Whangarei Boys' High School (WBHS) decided it would no longer field a team in the premier grade, Northland Cricket Association approached former City captain Harry Darkins to head this new club.
The team will feature about six players from WBHS, a couple from Kerikeri High School, Darkins, an overseas pro and a selection of older players.
"I'm pretty pumped, just to coach these boys and develop them to be the best cricketers they can be," Darkins said.
"The boys are excited to be involved in a new club and a mix of experienced players and youth will bode well."
Darkins, who will act as vice-captain and coach, said he hoped to achieve well in the shorter formats. With no history to be judged on, Darkins said the team posed a threat to the rest of the competition.
"[Other teams] can't really do much research on us, we are a new team, a new club, we are going to be founders of this new team so it's a really unique opportunity."
Kaipara Flats CC:
Coach: Brendon Bracewell
Captain: Rory Christopherson (returns in December)
Overseas player: Jack Beaven (England)
2018/19 results: T20 (2nd), LRC (2nd), OT2 (1st)
Making three finals and losing two wasn't a pleasing result for the boys from Kaipara Flats and with a number of players unavailable, sick and injured for this weekend, the start of the 2019/20 season will prove testing.
Despite the hurdles, coach Brendon Bracewell said his team was ready to put last season's disappointment behind them and to focus on success across the three formats.
"We were disappointed having got to the finals and not winning, but the consistency throughout season and winning two-day competition proved that we are a pretty good premier club, so hopefully this season we will continue that legacy," he said.
"Obviously the 50-over competition is a really good one to do well in to advance to the national championships, so that is definitely in our sights as one of goals of season but we need to play it game by game."
Duracrete City CC:
Coach: Scott Galloway
Captain: Stacy Hyndman
Overseas player: Scott Galloway (Scotland)
2018/19 results: T20 (1st), LRC (3rd), OT2 (3rd)
A formidable team across the three formats, City's premier side was looking to improve on last year's T20 competition win. The team, which will be led in all competitions by Stacy Hyndman, will play an informal four-team T20 competition this weekend in Auckland to prepare for their first Northland game next weekend.
Hyndman, who would be taking over as captain from current Northern Cricket Club coach Harry Darkins, said this season would be a learning curve for him and he hoped this weekend would prove valuable to the squad.
"We've got an exciting group this year with a couple of new faces and a couple of guys coming back who have been away, so it's a good all-round team," Hyndman said.
"We'll be away as a group [this weekend] so there'll be goals set over the weekend and a fair bit of cricket in between which is quite nice."
Motel Sierra Kamo CC:
Coach: Sam Sweeney
Captain: Ben Hyde
Overseas player: Sam Sweeney (England)
2018/19 results: T20 (4th), LRC (1st), OT2 (5th)
Kamo's form peaked last year in the 50-over competition and it showed in their finals win over Kaipara in the Northland competition before falling just one step shy of the national club championships.
With a few injuries and players unavailable, the first few weeks of this season will be tough for Kamo, but captain Ben Hyde said some fresh blood would carry the team through.
"We've got some new guys into the team which will be a really good learning curve and we'll hope to be better off for it, and see some success in the one-day competition."
Hyde hoped new coach Sam Sweeney, who had played for Whangārei Boys' High School's first Xl for the past two seasons, would have a positive impact on the squad.
"[Sweeney] has been here [already], he knows what the cricket is like up here, so his experience is the main thing and he offers a bit of both with the bat and the ball."
Westech Automotive Maungakaramea CC:
Coach: Neal Parlane
Captain: Neal Parlane
Overseas player: Mark Andrianatos (South Africa)
2018/19 results: T20 (5th), LRC (4th), OT2 (4th)
With a solid team this year, Maungakaramea will count themselves among the strong contenders going into the 2019/20 season. Last season didn't quite go to plan, with Maungakaramea finishing outside the top three in all competitions.
Captain and coach Neal Parlane said he was looking forward to a big season which would hopefully include a couple of trophy challenges.
"I'm sure we have learnt from last season's disappointment and will use it to play some good, intelligent, aggressive cricket," he said.
"We have an experienced squad mixed with some very good up-and-coming cricketers which has created some competition and some depth."
Today's fixtures (50-over/12:30pm start):
Maungakaramea v Kamo at Maungakaramea Domain 2
Kaipara Flats v Onerahi Central at Bourne Dean Domain 1A
City v Northern Cricket Club - postponed