With the winter codes done and dusted for another year, cricket season is upon us.
With a hierarchy and look at Cricket Wagga this season, there is a fresh feel and great anticipation about what lies ahead.
South Wagga appear to be considered by all as the team to beat this season but there is no shortage of challengers with the remaining five clubs all holding high hopes to be big improvers in season 2019-20.
The Daily Advertiser sports editor Matt Malone has taken a look at the season ahead and how each club is shaping up.
Last year: Premiers
Coach: Steve Keene
Captain: Jeremy Rowe
Gains: Alex Smeeth, Lachie Skelly (Lake Albert)
Losses: Nate Mooney, Darcy Irvine (Kooringal Colts), Adam Skow
Hopes for the year: "We've had as good a pre-season probably as what we've had in previous years, a lot of our blokes play two codes. I can't see any reason why this weekend we can't hit the ground running and put a good performance on the board. This would be close to as good as a list that we've had, but it's only on paper. From one to 15, it is really good but we're under no illusions that we've got to make sure we play and train well all year to be in a position at the back end of the year to contest it." Joel Robinson
Verdict: South Wagga won the competition last year and have only further strengthened their list with the signing of Alex Smeeth and Lachie Skelley from Lake Albert. Smeeth, an opening bowler and quality bat, and Skelly, an off-spinner, really strengthens the Blues' bowling attack, which was arguably their weakness at times last year. They have managed to keep their losses to a minimum with a couple of fringe players leaving for further opportunities elsewhere. There is no question that South Wagga possess the most talented squad heading into the new season. They have plenty of experience, quality batsmen and a well-rounded attack so it will take a big effort to stop the Blues from going back-to-back.
Last year: Second
Coach: Rob Nicoll
Captain: Josh Thompson
Gains: Sean Gaynor (Lake Albert), Rob Nicoll (time off)
Losses: Harry Rosengren (Sydney), Dean Crane (year off)
Hopes for the year: "It's good now that footy's finished, nearly 90 per cent of our players play footy through the off-season and most of our guys played in grand finals so you don't get much of a pre-season. They've started to come to training now but I'm more happy they play footy than come to pre-season cricket because they're fitter. I think our strength as a club is our junior development for the last five or six years, with Phil Jenkins and Lloyd McKenzie. Our second grade team last year won a premiership with seven players under the age of 18 and just this weekend alone we'll have six players that are 19 or younger and there's no other club in the competition that can say that. Hopefully not just this year but next year and the year after you'll see some real gains." Rob Nicoll
Verdict: It will be somewhat of a rebuilding year for Wagga City, who plan to bring the next generation of first grade players through this season. But make no mistake, the Cats still plan to be right among the action when the whips are cracking late in the season. Any team that boasts Jon Nicoll will never be too far away and his all-round ability and experience will ensure Wagga City are in most games. The loss of opening bowler Dean Crane is a big one but the Cats still possess enough quality to be competitive at the business end of the season.
Last year: Third
Coach: Craig Footman
Captain: Keenan Hanigan
Gains: Nate Mooney (South Wagga), Luke Richardson (Osborne), Will Oliver, Damien Wells (Temora)
Losses: Sam Whitfield (Bendigo)
Hopes for the year: "It's definitely a three-year plan. We're looking to create some systems and take a bit of pressure off some key players, to free them up and just play cricket. I think we've got a really good mix. We've had six sessions of pre-season and the boys are up and about. We've got really solid numbers, it's my first year at the club and feels like a really good feel. Everyone's having a crack and having some fun. We've got some good young players...and we've given some of the senior players some really specific roles this year so hopefully we rise to the challenge and go from there." Craig Footman
Verdict: There is a good feeling at Harris Park as Kooringal Colts look to build on last year's preliminary final appearance. Experienced premiership coach Craig Footman has come on board and helped recruit some young talent that will only bolster Colts' depth. Kooringal will again have the luxury of experienced players David Bolton and Marc Vincent to lead from the front, then throw in the likes of Keenan Hanigan and Andrew Dutton, plus the addition of Luke Richardson and you have the nucleus of a very good team. Colts shape as the team to take it up to South Wagga.
Last year: Fourth
Coach: Matt Tansey
Captain: Isaac Cooper
Gains: Isaac Cooper (year off), Trent Charlton (Junee)
Losses: Alex Smeeth, Lachie Skelly (South Wagga), Angus McLay (Melbourne), Sean Gaynor (Wagga City)
Hopes for the year: "We've still got seven premiership players from our 2017-18 flag so there is still a lot of the same players. Then there is a couple of young fellas who have been playing a lot of second grade and first grade that will get their chance this year to play full-time in the top grade. Our strength is probably our bowling. We're a bit bowler heavy but in Wagga that can be a good thing. We're pretty confident we can be competitive this year." Isaac Cooper
Verdict: Lake Albert will look to blood a number of younger players this year in the wake of the departure of some key players. The loss of Alex Smeeth and Lachie Skelly will be felt, while there is some doubt as to whether experienced all-rounder Kurt Robertson will line-up again. Isaac Cooper will be a welcome addition back at the club, while former Tasmanian Matt Tansey has stepped up as the new senior coach. Lake Albert will look to the likes of Adam Newcombe, Ryan Jamieson and Jacson Sommerville to help lead the way for the younger brigade. It shapes as a tough season for the Bulls but another finals appearance is certainly not beyond them.
Last year: Fifth
Coach: Justin Ward
Captain: Beck Frostick
Gains: James Evans (England), Nathan Corby (Kooringal Colts)
Losses: Ryan Forsyth (not playing a full year)
Hopes for the year: "We're really excited for the year. We've had a good pre-season, probably a lengthy pre-season, which has been good. I think this weekend's going to be tough, because we've got a few guys away but once we can get our full side together I think we'll be pretty competitive. The depth that we've got throughout the whole club now is exciting. We've got a couple of old guys on board through second grade, which has helped boost the numbers through. Going ahead, I'm hoping we make finals for sure. I think we'll be right up there. Obviously South Wagga and Cats will be the top two but we'd like to think we can pinch a game off them through the season." Justin Ward
Verdict: St Michaels loom as a dark horse this season. The Saints already possessed some of the best players in the competition in Beck Frostick and David Garness, and have added to their stocks with James Evans returning from England again, plus the addition of new spin-bowling options. Their bowling attack, led by Garness and Tom Williams, is well-rounded and it will be up to the St Michaels top order to ensure they have a total to defend each week. If the Saints can get some support around Frostick at the top of the order then they could claim some big scalps this season and rise up the ladder.
Last year: Sixth
Coach: Ben Willis and Tom Perry
Captain: Sam Perry
Gains: Will Morley (Kooringal Colts), Henry Stanley
Losses: Joe Kenny
Hopes for the year: We're shaping up good. We've got good numbers. I reckon our strength is our bowling. We've always seemed to bowl well. It's always been the run chase or when we've set, we've never set enough. We've been in the habit of trying not to get out and it's just a shocking habit to be in. So we definitely want to be a bit more positive, but it's not about slapping boundaries, it's just about defending with the intent to score and always looking to try and find a run. In the past, I've seen us block half-volleys and you don't win many games of cricket if you're not hitting the bad ball to the fence." Ben Willis and Tom Perry
Verdict: It has been a quiet off-season at Wagga RSL with limited movement in or out. Joe Kenny will be missed in the top order but the Bulldogs hope the arrival of Will Morley and return of Henry Stanley can help in their quest to score more runs. Wagga RSL have no issues in the bowling department and boast one of the best attacks in the competition. The area that needs improvement, as it has been for the last couple of seasons, is the run-scoring department. The Bulldogs plan to blood a number of the club's promising juniors, which will only help for future years, and they have enough experience to build around them. If RSL can get their batting right, they will play finals, but on previous seasons that remains a big if.