NOT too many clubs have gone on to win back-to-back League Championships down the years.
But it is difficult to back against the current Premiership champions doing just that, particularly as they look just as strong as last summer over at HOYLANDSWAINE.
The Haigh Lane club have recruited Ryan Robinson from Kirkburton, who will again team up with his former Yorkshire county colleague John Sadler (Swaine’s captain), both men having played at Burton.
Robinson will help make up for the loss of Australian Michael Cranmer, while former Barnsley captain Richard Wilkinson has joined from Shaw Lane.
Wilkinson is a genuine all-rounder, and as well as a useful off-break bowler is a very good batsman, who along with Sadler, Alex Morris, Joe Sayers and Robinson should ensure run-scoring is not a problem.
Although Sayers was handed a contract extension by Yorkshire during the winter, he hasn’t figured in the County’s first team plans so far, and is likely to be available once more on a regular basis.
BARKISLAND are back in the Premiership – and with the best all-round package in the League in the shape of the talented Jamaican Lorenzo Ingram.
He won the Drakes League’s non-EU Player of the Year Award in 2012 at Elland and is sure to once again be a big hit, this time at Woodfield.
Skippered again by Darren Robinson, who led the club to Frank Platt Championship glory last season, Barkisland will also welcome the return of Jamie Summerscales, a top order batsman, who has most recently been playing with SBCI in the Halifax League, and slow left-armer Chris Greenwood.
Along with leading wicket-taker Matt Steers, Greenwood, Ingram and Gary Colman will combine to form a quite deadly quartet of spinners this year, while Robinson will be looking to youngster Jonny Whiteoak to spearhead the pace bowling.
The club have also raided the Halifax League to recruit Luke and Matt Bridges from Sowerby St Peters.
DELPH & DOBCROSS have lost two members from last year’s Sykes Cup-winning side.
Opening batsman Bruce Cruse (852 runs) has decided to retire, although he has agreed to skipper the Seconds.
The other man to exit is opening bowler Adnan Ghaus, who is contracted to Lancashire, and the Red Rose side demanded he move to a Lancashire based club. He’s joined New Brighton.
Fortunately, that has not been the case with Arron Lilley, and although he is now also contracted to Lancashire (with his own shirt and squad number) he will continue to be a vital member of skipper Grant Jones’ side.
Zimbabwean batsman Kevin Hook returns for a second season, along with his countryman (now EU qualified) Matt Norvall.
ELLAND have been forced to switch their overseas option, following a thumb injury to Aussie batsman James Crowley which has ruled him out for the start of the season. Instead, the Hullen Edge club have recruited batsman Rahul Bakshi from Slaithwaite.
Bakshi joined Slaithwaite midway through last summer, but still managed to plunder almost 500 runs from just 12 knocks, including an unbeaten 145 against Honley.
Elland will have one Australian in their ranks, however, as Sean Fox, a middle order bat from the University of Perth, has joined on an Irish passport.
Skippered again by Paul Winrow, the Calderdale club (who were runners-up last summer) have also picked up Isaac Pollitt and Seth Oddy from Barkisland, along with spinner Ian Walker from Broad Oak.
Niall Lockley scored almost 900 runs last season, and along with Winrow, Greg Finn and the two new recruits Fox and Bakshi should provide enough runs to please a bowling attack led by prize-winning spinner Chris Goulden.
GOLCAR have proved themselves to be one of the Premiership’s leading lights over the last few years and although they have lost Lee Baxter and Michael Illingworth, under the guidance of skipper Steve Whitwam the Swallow Lane side will be expected to continue in the same vein.
James Howson will step up to fill Baxter’s role, while Mark Wilson is now the first-choice keeper after Eddie Wilson moved to Honley.
Whitwam is looking for a big season from Jack Hargreaves and Will Hinchliffe (who he believes is the best English-born quickie in the League) and from Danny Rhodes, who had a good season last year.
The club were intending going without an overseas player this summer, but when former Drakes League man James Pamment rang from New Zealand to offer Whitwam a top-rated batsman-keeper, it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
Cameron Fletcher played in the Under 19 World Cup last year and has experience playing with the Northern Knights first team.
HALL BOWER were looking in poor shape a month ago following the mass departures of Scott Dyson, Chris Sykes, Gideon Foster, Rashid Shabir, Mohammed Shahnawaz and Ibrar Latif, but skipper Wayne Swift has weaved his magic and all of a sudden the Castle Hill club look to be a competitive outfit once again.
In comes ex-Slaithwaite opener Wajid Hussain and former Linthwaite batsman Asnad Yousaf (they scored 1,000 runs between them last term), while a third recruit is leg-spinner Yogesh Golwalker, who played at Broad Oak in 2011.
A leg-spinner, Golwalker felt he needed to prove something after a disappointing campaign at the Oak that year when he only claimed 31 wickets and struggled with the bat.
And spin is definitely high on the Bower agenda as Swift has also recruited an EU passport-holding Aussie in Michael Salerno, who is another left-arm spinner and middle order batsman, who plays first grade and has played with Queensland’s Under 19s.
After winning the Second XI League batting prize last year, Ray Bottomley is being promoted to first-team regular.
Matt Gummerson will again take on the captain’s role at newly-promoted HOLMFIRTH and he is sure to be delighted with the capture of SP Singh from Shepley.
Singh has proved himself year on year as one of the top performers in the Premiership. He was instrumental in Shepley winning the Heavy Woollen and Sykes Cup in 2011 and will relish the new challenge at Holmfirth.
Also new to Holmfirth is ex-Hall Bower batsman Shabir Rashid, who scored 500 runs last term and should help Gummerson and Co maintain their position back in the top flight.
They will miss young New Zealander Mitchell Santner who was largely responsible for getting the club into second place in the Frank Platt Championship last season, but Singh and Rashid should more than make up for that loss.
HONLEY have harnessed some of the town’s top young talent after signing Will Fraine from Meltham and Eddie Wilson from Golcar.
Elegant batsman Fraine was man-of-the-match in the Joe Lumb Cup final last season when he led Huddersfield to victory over the Aire/Wharfe League, and he will be joined at Honley by another of his Lumb Cup teammates Timmy Taylor from Lascelles Hall.
Skipper Rob Moore had made no secret of his aim to attract some younger blood and a third new member is Wilson, a member of the Yorkshire Academy.
A talented batsman and wicketkeeper, Wilson played a number of Second XI county matches last season and will take over the gloves at Honley this season.
With Harlon Haye back in full swing, alongside the ‘ageless’ Ritchie Howarth, and the batting power of Simon Kelly and Max Joice, Honley may be ready to challenge again.
KIRKBURTON have appointed a new skipper in Greg Buckley and he will be welcoming two new faces to Riley Lane.
The first is Yorkshire Second team all-rounder Gurman Randhawa, who will give a huge boost to the batting line-up, while the second is former Scholes favourite Iqbal Khan, who is another genuine all-round talent.
Khan missed a number of games last season due to family bereavement but still managed to score almost 500 runs and take 35 wickets, and along with Randhawa, who has been on the fringe of Yorkshire’s first team, should more than compensate for the loss of Ryan Robinson to Hoylandswaine.
The only slight downside for Burton is that Matthew Wood has indicated his intention to semi-retire and although he will be putting in some appearances, they will not be every week.
Kirkburton were up with the leaders for much of the season last year, before dropping off the pace and finishing in third place. And although they don’t have an overseas player, Buckley’s side look good enough to be up there.
MARSDEN have been punching above their weight for a few seasons, although they did come a bit close to losing their top-flight status last year, when they finished just one place above the relegation zone.
Matt Butters is skipper and wicketkeeper, but Martin Berry claims to have hung up his boots and was last seen polishing his woods on the adjacent bowling green.
Definitely having left Hemplow are opening bat Tauseeq Raza and all-rounder Imran Mirza, but in their place come bowler Ovais Yousuf, and batsman Imran Muhammed.
Both players are English qualified so the club still have room for an overseas player should they find one.
Other than that, Chris Kilner (who bagged almost 50 League wickets last season) will be Butters’ go-to pace bowler, and the club will also be hoping for the continued development of the Smith brothers, Jack and Joe.
SCHOLES will have two new recruits from ‘down under’ this summer following the signing of Kiwi batsman Joe Carter, who plays with Northern Districts and Bay of Plenty, and Australian Pete Sceresini.
Neither are overseas players as they hold EU passports.
The Chapelgate club have also drafted in all-rounder Tom Chadwick from Cartworth Moor and two up-and-coming talents in the shape of Toby Booth, from Lascelles Hall, and Louis Sykes, from Shelley. Sykes came up through the ranks at Scholes and will be looking to pile up the runs.
All-rounder Tom Brook takes over the captain’s reins at Chapelgate, and he has plenty of experience on tap with the inclusion of former captains Ashley Pamment and James Noble along with top keeper Richard Holmes.
The Chapelgate followers will be keen to see their side improve on last season’s seventh-place finish.
SHELLEY have lost threequarters of last year’s first team, but they have covered their losses with several signings, and Bilal Khiljee is back for another season – this time hopefully for the start.
Last year he missed the first seven games after experiencing visa problems, and skipper Sam Scott will be hoping there are no such problems this time round.
Kiwi all-rounder Peter Drysdale left mid-season to return to New Zealand, and although he is back in the UK will play this season in Derbyshire. He did tempt keeper Ash Donkersley and batsman Nick Sharpe to join him down under in the winter, and they are still there.
Meanwhile, Azarullah has moved on, Greg Wadsworth has changed Leagues and Louis Sykes has returned to Scholes.
In-comers include Mohammed Bhoola from Ossett, and his father Moosa Bhoola from Batley, while Dale Winterbottom has moved over from Lepton, Martin Sykes has joined from Almondbury and Imran Malik has crossed town from Linthwaite.
SHEPLEY are another team who will post a different look this season, as Tim Rees has now returned to play cricket nearer to home in his native Lancashire, SP Singh has gone down the road to neighbours Holmfirth, while also leaving are Ben Wells and wicketkeeper Tom Sykes.
In their place come opening batsman Dan Wood, who joins from Wrenthorpe to be reunited with his brother Greg.
And the Marsh Lane club have also signed up spinner Danny Wood (no relation to the other two) from Clayton West, along with other Clayton recruits, father and son duo Chris and Tom James.
To replace Sykes behind the sticks, Shepley have prized accomplished keeper Josh Clarkson away from Skelmanthorpe.
Josh Ardron, is returning to the club after a spell playing at Kirkburton, and the first team squad will also be looking at bringing Oliver Cox into the side on a regular basis this season.
This year’s overseas player is a 24-year-old South African from Cape Town, Sean Savage, who is a capable early to mid-order batsman and leg spin bowler and holds a UK passport.
SKELMANTHORPE have certainly rung the changes this season with several players having moved on, and a number of new faces and a couple of favourites returning.
Louis Aspeling and Pete Lombard have gone to Thongsbridge, while wicketkeeper Josh Clarkson has gone to neighbouring Shepley, with Kris Whittaker and James Dollive stepping down to the Seconds.
Newcomers include all-rounder Bjorn Taylor from Slaithwaite, Luke Webster has joined from Lepton Highlanders to take over the keeper’s gloves, while top young prospect Yassar Imtiaz has signed from Birkby Rose Hill.
Imtiaz has represented Yorkshire at various junior levels and is on a fast track to the England Youth Academy.
Meanwhile, returning to Lidgett Lane is batsman Haroon Rashid from Farsley, who impressed in 2011 when he scored over 1,300 runs, and Scott Dyson is also back in the fold after a brief spell with Hall Bower.
Almondbury Wes: Chris Sykes.
Clayton West: Sam Armstrong.
Denby Dale: Liam Greig, Robert James Muskett.
Hall Bower: Yogesh Golwalkar.
Lepton High: Mark Carroll, David Gilbert, Louie Hall, Mark Hirst, Jacob Mulhall, Ryan Schofield, David Walker.
Marsden: Scott Naylor.
Scholes: Joseph Carter, Peter Sceresini.
Shepley: James Netherwood, Lucy Rae, Ali Reza.
Slaithwaite: Finlay Brook, Michael Illingworth, Simon Peacock.
Almondbury Wes: Bryn Jenkins (ex Broad Oak).
Armitage Bridge: Peter Dobson (ex Woodbank, Lancs).
Barkisland: Chris Greenwood (ex Lightcliffe).
Broad Oak: Rhys Phillips (non-EU), Alex Slack (ex-Lepton).
Cawthorne: Charles Mott (ex Roe Park, Lancs).
Delph & Dobcross: Steven Broadbent (ex Austerlands), Kevin Hook (non-EU).
Emley Clarence: Christopher Case (non-EU), Ijaz Ali Shah (ex-Thongsbridge).
Hall Bower: Michael Salerno (ex-Cairns), Hasnat Yousaf (ex-Linthwaite).
Hoylandswaine: George Tyas (ex-Penistone).
Kirkburton: Iqbal Khan (ex-Scholes), Gurman Randhawa (ex-Rotherham).
Kirkheaton: Gary Hodgson (ex-Lepton), Ateeq Ur Rehman (ex-Rastrick), Murphy Walwyn (ex-Lascelles Hall).
Lascelles Hall: Daniel Taylor (ex-Lepton High).
Linthwaite: Asif Qayyum (ex-Friarmere).
Meltham: Naseer Rahman (ex-Elland).
Scholes: Jack Atkinson (ex-Cartworth Moor), Toby Booth (ex-Lascelles Hall).
Shelley: Mohammed Bhoola (ex-Batley), Museji Ahmed Bhoola (ex-Ossett), Imran Malik (ex-Linthwaite), Dale Winterbottom (ex-Lepton).
Shepley: Joshua Ardron (ex-Kirkburton), Robert Denton (ex-Holmfirth), Sean Savage (non-EU).
Skelmanthorpe: Scott Dyson (ex-Hall Bower), Yassar Imtiaz (ex-Birkby Rose Hill), Luke Webster (ex-Lepton).
Slaithwaite: Tom Healey (ex-Armitage Bridge), David Massey (ex-Scholes).
OPENING DAY FIXTURES
Delph & Dobcross v Shelley
Holmfirth v Golcar
Hoylandswaine v Barkisland
Kirkburton v Skelmanthorpe
Marsden v Elland
Scholes v Honley
Shepley v Hall Bower