Young talent will have a great opportunity to shine when the much anticipated A-Grade cricket season finally kicks off in Busselton and Dunsborough this Saturday.
The delayed start to the premier season in the Busselton-Margaret River Cricket Association will see Dunsborough playing YOBS at Dunsborough while St Marys host Margaret River Hawks on turf at Bovell Park.
Hawks, the reigning premiers and Barnard Cup holders, will have plenty of vacancies in their top side, thanks to the loss of key players from last season including strike bowler Aaron Thomas and Glen Ahola (both with family commitments), all rounder Grant Garstone (captaining the B team), and young opener Jaiah Moore (playing in Perth).
The loss of Sri Lankan all rounders Rumesh Silva and Charith Jayampathi will create more gaps in the Hawks lineup, although this week Hawks had better news with the likely recruitment of former cricketer of the year Kavy de Silva.
De Silva, who has played for Cowaramup's top side for the past five years, may be playing for Hawks in the A-grade home-and-away season and may also appear for Cowaramup's B-grade side in the T20 competition in January and February.
In a recruitment coup, former Dunsborough fast bowler Mark Natale is also expected to turn out for Hawks this summer.
Hawks skipper Mat Kent said his side would have a strong youth policy this season, given the vacancies. Hawks will feel the loss of their Augusta players from last year, especially talented brothers Braden and Tyson Warnke.
Dunsborough's top side, again led by Ian Purcell, has received great news with the return of top batsman Matthew Jamieson.
Young players Michael Byrne, Brodie Gould and Alex Cook are all expected to vie for berths in the Dunsborough A-grade lineup, along with club veterans Aaron Mott and Nathan Whitney.
Aaron Andrich and Shane Edwards, working fly-in fly-out, are other accomplished A-graders who may play a part in Dunsborough's premiership ambitions.
YOBS, who were all set to meet Hawks in last season's grand final before COVID-19 hit, have lost top young batsman Harvey Golding (playing in Perth), but have recruited strongly with former Bunbury pair Phil Senekal and Ethan Kelly likely to play key roles in A-grade.
Kelly, an aggressive batsman, may open the YOBS batting along with Luke Wedderburn, while the talented pair of Troyden Thorp and Nayton Colombera are likely to fill middle-order positions.
YOBS skipper Haig Colombera has good bowling depth at his disposal, with veteran Neil Langenhoven and left-armer Matt Connaughton likely to take the new ball.
Former Cowaramup wicket keeper Archer Coates has also moved to YOBS in a quest to play A-grade cricket.
St Marys will again be led by Danny Hatton and will rely on the experience of Marc Ford and Jono Lloyd to get the batting off to a strong start.
Saints have retained opening bowler Rob Grant but will certainly miss the services of their regular overseas player.
Imports such as Ryan Stevenson, Adam Holt, Joe Lowe and Taylor Chandler have played major roles for Saints over the past decade, and their shoes will be hard for local players to fill.
Former YOBS player Brandan Stonehouse will be among the contenders for a wicket keeping berth in Saints' A-grade lineup.
Saints also have a good store of young talent in their junior teams this season and will be doing their hardest to retain and encourage the up-and-comers.