English Bears boost premiers
With the season starting Saturday, Bears will field two Englishmen in their opening match against Lismore team Southern Districts at Fripp Oval, Ballina.
They are Aaron Jeal, an opening bat and wicketkeeper from Sussex Division 1 club Rothey, and Ben Collins, an opening bowler from Premier League club Cuckfield.
Jeal is a handy replacement for his Rothey teammate Josh Fleming, who played for Bears in their premiership win last season.
Fleming is Bears’ only loss, al-though captain Shane Jacobs remains uncertain of the intentions of prolific all-rounder and club coach Nathan Anson, who returned from England only this week.
Anson will miss at least the first game, as will talented 16-year-old wicketkeeper Dane Clarke, who has picked up a trial for NRL club Gold Coast Titans.
Adam Gordon, a brother of first-grade regular Andrew Gordon, played a handful of Hooker League games last season and gets his chance in Anson’s absence.
Jacobs said Bears had started practice about six weeks ago.
“We know that we’re going to have to improve to stay at the top,” he said.
“It’s been a slightly disrupted pre-season with many players involved in soccer and rugby union grand finals.
“But we’ve been going at iton Wednesdays and Sundays and added some gym work with exercise classes and boxing workouts.
“We’ve worked hard for the past three or four years to get to where we’re at now.
“We’ve put a coach in place and changed our training habits with an emphasis on individual health with the help of Nathan (Anson), who is a personal trainer.
“It should be a good season.”
Bears defeated Casino Cavaliers in an exciting final at Oakes Oval, Lismore, in March.
Other first-grade regulars such as Sam Adams, Dave Eddy, Adam Izzard, Ben Carruthers, Toby Hordern and Ben Riley are back for another season.
Other two-day games in the first round of the Hooker League starting Saturday are:
Casino Cavaliers v Lennox Head at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino; Tintenbar-East Ballina v Byron-Brunswick at Kingsford Smith Park South, Ballina; Terranora Lakes v Marist Brothers at Bilambil Turf; Alstonville v Murwillumbah at Hill Park Oval, Wollongbar; Cudgen v South Tweed Colts at Reg Dalton Oval, Kingscliff; Lismore Workers v Pottsville at Nielson Park, East Lismore.
Saturday also marks the start of a new concept for Ballina District and Tweed second grade teams.
They will line up in another regional competition to be knownas the Coastal League. The draw for the first round is:
Murwillumbah v Alstonville at Rabjones Oval, Murwillumbah; Mullum-Brunswick v Ballina Bears at Mullum Giants League Ground; Pottsville v Bangalow at Seabreeze Oval, Pottsville; South Tweed
Colts v Byron Bay at Dave Burns Field, South Tweed; Cudgen v Terranora Lakes at Les Cave Oval, Murwillumbah; Lennox Head v Tintenbar-East Ballina at Megan Crescent, Lennox Head.