Decks recover as first round begins
Despite setbacks to wicket preparation across the district, batsmen in the LJ Hooker League should still prosper if theyre patient this weekend. The late and wet end to the soccer and AFL season have caused some damage to pitches and most of the local decks are still a few weeks short of prime condition. The wet winter has also produced lush outfields so batsmen will need to work hard for their runs.
Souths, who lost last years final by only a few overs, are perennial favourites, due mostly to the natural talents of the Nind brothers and their difficult and disciplined bowling attack. They start the year playing Marist Brothers, who begin their campaign under the wily leadership of Craig Hamshaw, on Nesbitt Park. Nesbitt Park was top dressed only two weeks ago but has a decent grass cover and under the knowing care of curator Craig Goldsmith, will get plenty of heavy rolling over the next two days. Despite that I expect it will still play a bit slow and take spin almost straight away. So to some degree this game could be determined by the performance of the opposing off-spinners, Marists Dominic Marsh and Souths Paul McLean. This match will probably go down to the wire.
Casino Cavaliers have been given a big boost for their match against Worker Club at Queen Elizabeth Park with Slammin Sam Irvine deciding to remain in the Hooker League competition for another year. Representative junior talent Myles McDowell will debut and well be watching his progress with interest. Workers Club also have a pair of young left arm speedsters, Jason Caught and Jeremy Cowan, who learnt a lot last year about bowling to quality opposition and have stopped over pitching (searching for that easy wicket) and are now content to close down their opponents and wait for the error. The pitch looks a bit patchy as it is yet to fully recover from the SAFL semi finals which were played in the wet. This match could well define each of these teams seasons.
Nielson Park pitch was only top dressed last week and looks a bit patchy for the Easts vs Ballina Bears game this Saturday. Even with a good session of heavy rolling this pitch will still probably play up and down and lower and slower as the match progresses. Determined batting will be rewarded and this will test what are two predominately young teams.
Last years premiers, Tintenbar/East Ballina, start their season at home on the Kingsford Smith tarmac against an under-strength Lennox Head. Duncan Elphick always produces a real belter and this year should be no exception. The Bar will be hoping to turn this one into an outright win but if the young Lennox team knuckle down they will be hard to bowl out twice on the flat deck.
The last match of the round is between Alstonville and Norths/Goonellabah RSL at Hill Park Oval in Wollongbar. Curator Peter Bruggy has done a good job of getting a decent grass cover back on this pitch after the junior AFL finals were also played in the wet on the ground. Despite his efforts I expect this deck will play a bit slowly and take spin pretty early on. A real tester for the Hawks debutants, Josh Blackler and the Hellyer boys.
Lismore team selected
Lismores Webb Shield team was selected this week for this Sundays match against Tweed in Kingscliff. The team is Bruce Jobson (c), Ian Gregory, Dominic Marsh, Adam Thompson, Wes Koskela, Joel Parrey, Jake McKinnon, Daniel Rowlands, Luke Cleaver, Simon Milenko, Matthew German and Mitchell Pickford.