Wanganui Vet Services Marist have named a stable squad as their defence of the Coastal Challenge Cup begins tomorrow against Property Brokers United when season 2019-20 puts down stumps at Victoria Park.
There has been a slight change in personnel among the ten Premier 1 club teams from Whanganui, Horowhenua-Kapiti and Wairarapa.
Wairarapa United CC have left the competition, and been replaced by Lansdowne CC's Senior Men's team.
They join Red Star CC as Wairarapa's representatives, while once again the Horowhenua-Kapiti teams got their season underway a week early last Saturday - playing part of what will be a split round, as the other sides face each off on January 25.
Paraparaumu, the former two-time Cup winners who lost the 2018-19 final to Marist by just three runs in February, got off to a winning start with a three wicket victory over local rivals Weraroa CC.
It was the first time the sides had met since the controversial February 17 game where there was an on-field brawl between the two clubs.
Weraroa therefore will not have Caleb O'Connell, after he was suspended for the season by NZ Cricket's independent commissioner, while team mate Jack Culleton cannot play until January 1.
Paraparaumu are likewise without Dale McNamara for the first four weeks of this season, while batsman Jacob Ross did play last Saturday after he was censured and given a warning from the February incident.
In the other derby match, Levin Old Boys, who finished third last season, picked up a comfortable eight wicket win over Kapiti Old Boys.
But the Whanganui teams will be thinking of nothing else but tomorrow, as Marist and United meet in the derby match, while Whanganui Collegiate 1st XI host Weraroa at the school grounds, and inaugural Cup champions Tech Old Boys head down to Paraparaumu.
Under captain John McIlraith, Marist have lost opening batsman Michael O'Leary and fringe player Michael Engelbrecht, but have made some good pickups in former Wanganui batsman Hamish Harding from Marton Saracens, and last season's representative bowler Hadleigh O'Leary (Collegiate).
In addition, Junior Cricketer of the Year and Central Districts Under 17 captain Sam Sherriff will be the latest Collegiate to Marist transfer after Christmas.
Current Stags professional Ben Smith remains on the books, although subject to availability for club matches, while Nick Harding will join the team after his rugby season concludes, currently in Paeroa preparing for today's Meads Cup semifinal.
"[Mark] Fraser will be doing his best impression of Mark Boucher behind the stumps," said McIlraith.
"[Zac] O'Keefe will be a player to watch again for Marist as he was the MVP for the side last season with batting up the top of the order and bowling his off-spin.
"The veteran trio of Fraser, [Chris] Stewart and [Dominic] Rayner will be key up the top of the order with their wealth of experience and over 45 years of club cricket experience between them – Rayner a new father trying to set a legacy of Coastal championships his son can emulate down the track."
"Overall, the club has great numbers this season and depth in all areas."
It is a good news-bad news situation for United, who have twice been runnersup in the Coastal Challenge, while finishing fourth last year after being eliminated in the semifinals by old nemesis Paraparaumu.
Spokesman Stephen Holloway said former Wanganui captain Greg Smith has returned from England to be the overseas professional, while they had also been joined by Marton Saracens regular and another former Wanganui representative in Trey Bidois.
But departed are opening batsman Matthew Boswell and reliable spinner Dylan Martin, who had a breakout season last summer when he finally cracked the Wanganui squad and took eight wickets on debut against Wairarapa.
The side has retained young Wanganui representatives Chris Sharrock and Matthew Simes, the latter having carried their batting last summer, and pace bowler Ryan Slight, along with their core group of veterans.
"To provide an environment where players do not just win, but can do so while having fun regardless of age or sex," said Holloway regarding the club's overall goals for the summer.
"We are the only club to have both a P1 and P2 team and the only club to also run a growing junior programme.
"This is something we are looking to build on in the coming years and help grow the sport as a whole.
"We back ourselves to provide something to everyone regardless of what your skill level is. All you need is a good attitude."
Still in the market for a naming rights sponsor, Tech are also going through a few changes, as they have assembled a very handy looking squad, but the issue is between international players, football commitments and other events, they will be a little light for a few weeks.
"We've got a squad of about 24 players. [But] tomorrow, I won't lie, there's 14 players unavailable. Early season problems," said manager Andrew Lock.
The big pickup is, of course, former Sri Lankan Twenty20 bowler Vikum Sanjaya.
From Collegiate comes Wanganui representative squad member Kashish Nauhria, while 2017 player Tim Roebuck, brother of Sam, comes back to the club.
Departed are Tyler Lock, brother of captain Dominic Lock, and Indian-Canadian import Harkaran Mann, while the last-wicket batting hero Chris Friedel is stepping back from active competition, becoming the team's official coach.
After playing the GT20 for the Edmonton Royals, Akash Gill is back for another season, as is his countryman and 2018-19 Wanganui squad member Akhil Kumar, who played for Canada Under 19's this year.
Linchpin fast bowler Ross Kinnerley celebrated his birthday yesterday and will keen on another big season both for club and Wanganui, while the regionally-travelling Trent Hemi comes back after a summer of pitching softball and then rugby in Taihape.
Having had an excellent 2018-19 of schoolboy cricket, including winning and then defending the prestigious Heathcote Williams Shield, the Collegiate 1st XI under second-season coach Warren Herbert will look to continue to use Premier games to prepare themselves for the big traditionals fixtures in the New Year.
"Looking to rebuild the team and compete at men's level," said Herbert.
"Strong youth coming through with experience in Joel Clark and Sam Sherriff."
The spinner Clark played for Wanganui, Central Districts Under 17 and NZ Maori Schools last summer.
While the side will miss Hadleigh O'Leary and eventually Sherriff after his school commitments finish in the first half of the summer, newcomers like Adam Beard and James Craig will pick up the baton.
All Coastal Challenge Cup games start tomorrow at 12pm.
The club wider squads are
John McIlraith, Mark Fraser, Chris Stewart, Dom Rayner, Craig Thorpe, Zak O'Keefe, Nick Harding, Hamish Harding, Sam Beard, Angus Dinwiddie, Sam Sherriff (after Christmas), Ben Smith, Sam O'Leary, Nic O'Leary, Connor O'Leary, Hadleigh O'Leary, Raponi Tofa, Andy Manousos, Thomas Redpath, Hadleigh Reid and Kent Darlington.
Andre Canderle, Ben Toyne, Brendon Walker, Chris Sharrock, Gerard Hobbs, Greg Smith, Harpreet Binning, Martin Pennefather, Matthew Simes, Ritesh Verma, Robbie Power, Ryan Slight, Simon Badger, Stephen Holloway, Tom Lance.
Adam Gill, Akash Gill, Akhil Kumar, Bevan Hunter, Cameron Mackintosh, Dominic Lock, Fraser Kinnerley, Hunter Morrison, Jessica Watkin, Jordan Healy, Kane Watkin, Kashish Nauhria, Matthew Benett, Peter Czerwonka, Quinn Mailman, Ross Kinnerley, Tim Czerwonka, Trent Hemi, Tim Roebuck, Devon Purvis, Din Bandara.
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The big news for the newcomers to cricket in Whanganui for season 2019-20 is Tech Old Boys receiving the services of former Sri Lankan Twenty20 international Vikum Sanjaya.
The 27-year-old, whose full name is Jayasundara Ranasinghe Mudiyanselage Vikum Bandara Sanjaya, played eight T20 games for Sri Lanka in 2017 – taking nine wickets with his right arm fast-medium deliveries.
He has played 32 first class games in his homeland, taking 58 wickets at an average of 34.89 and an economy rate of 4.28.
"He really wants to move to New Zealand and live here," said Tech manager Andrew Lock.
"So it's a long process, you have to do many, many [formal] things for six months etc.
"So he's going to come over here and see what it's like, and if he doesn't like it, I guess he'll knock this off his list of possible places.
"He's very keen to move on from Sri Lanka."
Sanjay's clubs have been Burgher Recreation Club, Colombo CC and Seeduwa Raddoluwa CC.
He was the surprise inclusion in the Sri Lankan test squad that toured South Africa in December-January 2016, although he did not play in the test matches or One Day International (ODI) games.