NEW captain Mitchell Pearce will lead defending premiers Alstonville for the first time against Cudgen in Far North Coast LJ Hooker League at Reg Dalton Oval, Kingscliff, today.
Alstonville broke a 15-year premiership drought last season with a win over Cudgen in the final and will play its first game of the season at the same ground after a bye in the first round of the two-day competition.
Pearce, 19, is a wicketkeeper-batsman and takes over from veteran all-rounder Steve Robb, who remains in the team.
The premiership win is still fresh in the mind of Pearce and his teammates with Cudgen the benchmark in the competition for the previous two seasons before their surprise loss in the decider.
Top-order batsman Greg Potter was the difference with a superb innings of 96 not out on a rain-affected wicket where he was the only player from either team to score more than 20.
Potter was the only player to have previously won a premiership with Alstonville and they went on to win after Cudgen were knocked over for 64.
"It's new territory for us (defending premiers) but we're excited to get back out there and go again,” Pearce said.
"It's a big honour to take over from someone like Steve and a lot of great players have captained this club.
"I think back to that final and it's still hard to put into words how good it was.
"We probably went a bit better than people expected but we had a really well-balanced side.
"We've lost some players from that team but we still have a strong side on paper.”
Talented teenager Cameron Palmer has moved on to play in Brisbane while fast bowler Terry Murphy is playing club cricket on the Gold Coast.
All-rounder Jason Caught is playing some games but will not be there all season while Potter has finished up.
They have welcomed back from Brisbane top-order batsman Kristiaan Ezzy, who will play some games throughout the season including this weekend.
"Jason is one of the best bowlers in the competition so we'll make the most of it when we have him,” Pearce said.
"There are more young guys coming into the club and we'll keep trying to bring them up too.”
Cudgen will be close to full strength after the Regional Big Bash Twenty20 cricket competition at Coffs Harbour was postponed due to wet weather.