UNITED have been the undisputed kings of Manning first grade cricket for the past four seasons.
According to skipper Ricky Campbell, the club will have the firepower to reign in the inaugural McDonalds Mid North Coast Premier League this summer.
The club’s roster has been bolstered by the acquisition of three young guns from the Great Lakes club. Opening bowler Sam Whitbread, wicket keeper Zac Withers and 16-year-old batsman Liam Simpson join United after playing second grade with Great Lakes last season.
“They’ve all been graded A and asked if they can get a run with us,’’ Campbell said.
“We’ve welcomed them with open arms.’’
Campbell rates this season’s side as potentially stronger than the 2016/17 line-up. All premier league fixtures will be limited overs and Campbell said his team should comfortably adapt.
“We’ll have a bit more youth and energy and that’s a big bonus….we won’t have to hide some of the blokes in the field,’’ Campbell reasoned.
United will play Port Panthers in the opening game of the season at Chatham Park on Saturday October 7 before meeting Taree West, again at Chatham in the second match. Taree West will sit the first week out with the bye.
Campbell said there is a positive vibe towards from players for the premier league to be contested by nine sides from the Manning, Hastings and Macleay. Last season there were four teams in Manning first grade.
“I know some of the clubs are a bit concerned about depth and getting numbers for away games,’’ he said.
“But we’re looking pretty strong there at the moment. Everyone I’ve spoken to thinks it’s going to be good – playing different teams on different grounds, it’s going to mix it up a bit.’’
Campbell believes travel might be an issue early but he is confident most clubs will eventually adapt.
“It’ll be just like playing soccer, you have to travel for matches so you get used to it,’’ he said.
Campbell plays for Taree Wildcats in the Football Mid North Coast Premier League, a competition that takes in clubs from Forster-Tuncurry to Kempsey.
However, Campbell believes winning early matches will be the key to overall success. It’s a formula United has used during the club’s four year domination of Manning first grade cricket.
He said other than the newcomers from the Great Lakes, United also has some younger players who will push for first grade selection this summer. Two club stalwarts will be dropping down a grade but will be available if required in first grade.
“Laurie Weeks and Matt Kennewell want to play second grade,’’ Campbell explained.
"But they’ll help out if we need them.’’