HALL BOWER have been a perennial yo-yo side for a number of years now, and having come down again last September, the likelihood is they will at least be on the up-stroke again this summer.
South African Denys Hobson was the catalyst for their promotion, and this year the Castle Hill club pin their hopes on 19-year-old Australian Stuart Gara.
A fast bowler and middle order batsman Gara comes from Brisbane and plays for Brighton CC in the second grade.
Gara is the only newcomer at the Bower, although they – and skipper Russ Evans – are hoping to see the return of Ben Balicki, who played the first half of last season, while another former Primrose Hiller Del Smith may be re-signing.
The biggest threats to an immediate return to the top flight will come from Kirkburton who have recruited strongly and Slaithwaite, who will also want to keep their Conference tenure to a minimum after coming down last year.
KIRKBURTON have tempted Matt Garrety back across town from Slaithwaite and he will skipper his old club, although they have lost his brother Nick, who has ‘re-emigrated,’ back to New Zealand.
In-coming overseas player is Australian Wayne Seri, brother of Martin, who played at Holmfirth in 2001. Wayne is a pace bowler who bats, and Garrety’s batting will be further strengthened with the signing of Wayne Swift, who has moved back into the Drakes League from Halifax club Warley. Swift is no stranger to Huddersfield League cricket, having played at Primrose Hill and Elland.
A trio of ex-Shelley second teamers have also arrived at Riley Lane, in the shape of winning Crowther Cup captain David Greaves, Gary Eastwood and Andrew Harrison, while Burton will be looking for big things from home players Josh Ingham and Oliver Davidson this summer.
SLAITHWAITE were the other side to come down last year, and, probably even more so than Hall Bower, are intent on making a quick return.
Dave Dove has returned to Leigh from whence he came, and Martin Welsh takes over the skipper’s reins and will welcome on board Indian opening batsman Kanaiya Vaghela, from Saurashtra.
Twenty-eight-year-old Vaghela has a century against his name in first class cricket and is also a first change bowler.
New recruitments include ex-Delph batsman Howard Jones, who now lives in the Colne Valley, plus all-rounder Mark Mitchell, who has come the short way down the Valley from Marsden.
Another plus for Welsh will be the return to fitness of Dave Berry, who was unable to bowl last season, but is now recovering after a shoulder operation.
MARSDEN are usually a competitive outfit, and with South African Peter Lombard back at Hemplow they will probably be again this year.
The all-rounder helped Marsden into the play-offs a couple of years back, and he will have a new opening bowling partner in Simon Robinson, who has been recruited from Lepton Highlanders.
Robinson took 39 wickets last season and had a couple of decent knocks. New skipper Matt Butters has lost Mark Mitchell to neighours Slaithwaite, so will look to young players like Sam Hall to start making their mark in the first team.
THONGSBRIDGE have a new captain this season in the shape of Chris Howitt, who will no doubt be delighted to welcome back SP Singh for a second season at Miry Lane, after the Indian all-rounder delivered a 744-run and 44-wicket contribution last summer.
The biggest loss to Thongsbridge will be former skipper Peter Jackson – he was third in the Conference averages last year – who has returned to Spen Victoria as their captain.
But to replace him however, the club have picked up Wasim Khaliq, an English-qualified Pakistani-born all-rounder, who previously played with Bradford League Division II side Bankfoot.
PRIMROSE HILL have relied heavily on young Indian all-rounder Sachin Shoor for the past four seasons, but this year skipper Mohammed Taj will need bigger contributions from his regulars, as they have not signed an overseas man this season.
Shoor’s loss will also come as a blow to Taj’s son Mohammed Usman, who enjoyed a number of lucrative batting partnerships with the Indian star last year.
Sajid Iqbal was the Hill’s leading wicket-taker last season, and he and Taj will have to shoulder the responsibility of leading the attack against this year.
ALMONDBURY are another team to unveil a new skipper for the 2008 season, with David Swan taking over the mantle from Simon Lyons.
Unfortunately for Swan, the club have lost the services of quick bowler Simon Kay, who has joined Liversedge, and they are currently without an overseas player, having recently been let down by the one they had signed, who has since given backword due to injury.
The Fernsiders do have another one in the pipeline, believed to a Pakistani-based all-rounder, but it seems unlikely they will have one in place for the start of the season.
LEPTON HIGHLANDERS are another side struggling for first team players, with more than half of last year’s squad having either moved on or retired.
Club secretary Dave Walker said: “We could certainly do with an influx of players, having lost so many of our regulars, for various reasons.”
Sean Mulhall takes on the captain’s role, but is resigned to losing a trio of Richards (Holt and Stocks (both retired) and Haynes (work and wedding commitments).
Tony Mulhall has moved to Hoylandswaine to join his brother, while useful opening Simon Robinson has joined Marsden.
The Wakefield Road side are actively pursuing an overseas man, but to date have not yet recruited.
Don’t miss tomorrow’s preview of the Cedar Court Conference, while the Premiership contenders will be covered in full on Friday.
Full results service from Monday.