THE 2008-2009 cricket season begins on Saturday with the first round of the senior competition for the Daily Freightways One Day Trophy.
Celtic are defending one-day champions, while in November Timaru will begin their defence of the Tweedy Cup when the two-day competition commences.
A new Twenty20 competition has been introduced this year and is scheduled as an all-day extravaganza at Aorangi Bowl on December 20.
The competition will feature combined club teams and an invitation side which should provide a high standard of entertaining cricket all day.
The one-day senior draw sees some great match-ups in the first round with trophy holders Celtic playing last season’s runners-up Timaru at home on ‘The Rock’.
Two-day finalists Temuka will square off with Waimate at Knottingley Park and Star travel to Geraldine to take on a new-look home side.
The off-season has seen most clubs strengthen their teams while Timaru have probably been hardest hit with the loss of their captain Hitesh Angrish, but all-rounder Kris Howes is available when work allows.
This will add some pressure on to the batsmen and bowlers, but expect Andrew McLachlan, Tim Mackle, Robbie Rankin and the old firm of Hayden and Chris Leonard to step up.
Celtic, and South Canterbury, has lost Jeremy `Lethal’ Liddy who has stayed in England but the return of Ryan de Joux full time will help compensate in their quest to return all the trophies to the clubrooms.
The promotion of Canterbury under-17 representative Sam Carlaw, under-19 Kelvin Emmerson and the addition of Tim Leonard and Jared Woolfindon to more regular starts in the team will certainly keep the Celtic team strong when representative players Dan and James Laming, Luke Taylor and Craig Davies are away.
The services of Celtic’s top bowler from last season, Ants De Joux, will be curtailed as he moves toward retirement and spending more time playing cricket alongside his son.
Geraldine could be the team to be reckoned with this season with the addition of two English imports, Matthew Barnes and Chris Esh.
The return to regular play of Guy Metcalf and Hamish Drennan will also help.
Captain Stephen Pagan will be hoping the extra depth and form of himself and Ben Millar with the bat continues, while the experience gained by Phil Lill and Tom MacKnight last year will hopefully produce improved results this season.
In Waimate, while one family loses a member from the team with Jimmy Devlin in Australia, another family gains one with Jason Sew Hoy back on a regular basis.
The return of Reuben Allen should help shore up the batting – a part of the game Waimate regularly struggle with when having to bat twice.
Hayden Matthews will want to have an even more successful year than last with the bat, and to show younger brother Jared, who joins senior ranks, how it is done.
Alan Reid will again shoulder much of the attack while Sam Devlin needs to confirm the promise he has shown for some years.
Temuka will be struggling for numbers in the early part of the season with Ritchie Preston and Paul Coles still involved in the South Canterbury rugby side.
Vaughan Tarrant is overseas but, led by Kevin Teahan, the best senior bowler for the last two seasons, and backed up by stalwarts Hayden Broker, Adrian Cunningham, Robbie Barry and Robbie Histen, last season’s round robin winners will again be a force to be reckoned with.
Star will be looking to avoid “the one that got away” tag, after they were handily placed to make the final of the two-day competition last season but choked going into the last day.
They will expect new skipper Phil McGregor, South Canterbury captain Todd Elliotte, Paul Arkinstall and board member Andrew McRae to score heavily, supported by Tim Butler, Mark Evans and Julian Blanchard (after the election).
They all bowl and will expect Jeremy Lane to contribute heavily alongside Craig Hinton with the ball.
South Canterbury Cricket are also pleased that the lower grades have had more entries this year, negating the need for a bye in senior reserve and second grade, which will please many.