Hillgrove and Guyra face-off in the opening game

NEW ROLE: Last season's top run scorer Matt Schaefer has taken over as the Hillgrove captain.

NEW ROLE: Last season's top run scorer Matt Schaefer has taken over as the Hillgrove captain.

Hillgrove are back to defend their title and take on an unknown quantity in first grade newcomers Guyra but a question remains over who is going to line up for the premiers. 

Last year’s captain Matt Baillie is set to depart early in the season, Adam Thurlow, Sean Skinner and Max Laurie are unavailable for the opening matches and Michael Cursons has left the club. 

Matt Schaefer took over as captain this year, a position he’s held in patches throughout his cricket career, and said despite the losses the reigning champions have added a couple of players to their roster as well as retaining some experienced troops.

“Andrew Brownlee, he's had a couple of seasons out but he was with Armidale City,” he said. 

“He was the captain of the Armidale representative side. He is a senior guy but will be valuable for leadership and in the top order batting as well. 

“We also have a young guy back, Will Archer, he played with us a couple of years ago.  

“He played the first half of the season and has been at training a couple of times and looks pretty good, a left-handed bad, a bit of offspin and I think he played pretty good level cricket as a schoolboy and at uni. 

“Bentley Cropper has put his hand up to come back, he's had two seasons off.

“He was formerly a first grade, weekly player.”

They play Guyra in the opening game who have made the step up from second grade.

Guyra senior cricket convenor Adrian Cameron said the town were thrilled to step up this year but are realistic about their chances. 

“It will be a bit of a building stage for us, we are not expecting miracles the first year but hopefully we can stick it to a few sides,” he said. 

“Overall we are pretty confident but against Hillgrove first up is going to be a pretty big challenge but it will give us a bit of a benchmark with where we're at, that's for sure. Guyra is very excited at the moment, it is the first time we have had a first grade side in the Armidale competition as well as seconds and thirds.”

Charlie Keen will captain this year after leading the second grade last season and said making the step up is an exciting prospect. 

“We have a new look first grade team including some fresh faces from other clubs as well as some younger boys that are keen to step up in the first grade competition and give it a really good crack,” he said. 

“Because we are a new team I don’t feel like there’s much pressure on us at the moment so hopefully we can go out there this weekend against Hillgrove and put on a great game.”