Wetherby League season preview: Division One wide open as chasing pack hunt St Chad's
The leading contenders are anticipating a gripping Division One title race in the 2016 Wetherby League.
Holders ST CHAD’S BROOMFIELD will target a third championship this decade but face stiff competition by a strengthened chasing pack, despite the exit of 2014 champions Wetherby to the York and District Senior League.
KIRK DEIGHTON narrowly missed out on a first crowning glory 12 months ago and the squad remains in tact under long term captain Rich Ward.
Tazmanian big hitter Scott Jaffray is the Mark Lane side’s overseas player, while youngsters Will and Josh Powell have been backed to make an impression on stepping up from the second team.
Ward said: “It might be quite tighter than usual. It was us and Chads last year but there might be a few more this year. It will be down to who can put that run together.
“Fingers crossed we are there or thereabouts. We will win more than we lose.”
SCARCROFT have been the busiest team in the winter transfer market recruiting an entire side for the season ahead.
Damian Aston has stood aside as captain with Gul Hussain and Alistair Maiden sharing the responsibilities.
Seven players have been recruited from the East Keswick team removed from Division Two last season, including leading all-rounder Bilal Shahid and left-arm pacer Wahab Hussain.
Amaranth’s Ben Wilkinson has also been added to bring steel to the middle order, while Nasir Akhtar has joined from Central Yorkshire side Azaad CC.
Melbourne import Rohan Irving will take the gloves behind the stumps.
“It will be a lot to go from the bottom to the top but we should be up there,” said Maiden.
“Some of the guys signed are untested in the top division but they have done pretty well in the second division and have given us a really good strength in depth.
“The biggest dilemma is going to be who bats at number 11.”
The pen has been busy under bullish BILTON-IN-AINSTY skipper Andy Walker’s fingers too over the winter with two recruits from the Nidderdale League looking to return glory to the Wetherby Road club.
Left-arm bowler Alex Buteux has joined from Alne while Michael White has moved from Spofforth.
Luke Schumann will be adding the big shots after flying over from Australia where he was part of a title winning side in Victoria.
Walker has also talked former Bradford League player Jonny Aspinall into his side, leaving a conundrum in the batting stakes.
“I’m hoping we can be a bit like the England T20 team and bat right down the order, one to 11,” Walker said.
“I’m pretty confident that if we perform up to our ability we should be in the top three.We’ve got a great opportunity this year.”
Following back-to-back cup success, player development tops the list of priorities for BARWICK-IN-ELMET captain Gary Bettison.
Jake Cullen has been charged with replacing Matthew Prosser as the club’s overseas ace but Bettison admits his talents remain an unknown quantity to him before the season starts.
Young brothers Euan and Cameron Hardy will progress into the first team alongside Sam Adams, while James Towes has been recruited from Old Modernians.
“This year we are in for a development year,” Bettison added. “I’m not sure how we will do, but we want to finish in that top four.”
SICKLINGHALL were the surprise package of 2015 after continuing captain Zai Ali predicted a relegation fight. The league chairman has played down his side’s hopes again and is pinning the club’s fortunes on the form of star brothers Andy and Martin Wood.
Erratic pace bowler Andrew Tennant could be the club’s surprise package after returning from a spell at Spofforth.
“We have the same squad and realistically, will be relying on the Wood brothers to make sure we finish respectably again,” Ali said.
Elsewhere, SHADWELL will be led by Connor Carson with New Zealand off-break tweaker Tom Meyrick as their overseas.