GUNNEDAH cricketers return to the pitch today but there will be several familiar faces missing.
The competition is struggling from a lack of numbers and at least two of the four clubs have been left with big holes to plug in first grade.
“Numbers are pretty tight at the moment,” Gunnedah president Paul Lodge said.
Dire straights was the term he used and he put the call out to any players interested in playing to get in contact with someone.
“A lot of blokes aren’t playing or have other commitments,” Lodge said.
Mornington is the hardest hit. It has lost about seven first grade players including seven of its key players.
Among those it’s expected to be without are skipper Jamie Mitchell, Pete Henderson, Paul Brady, Wade Ryan and Dave Heyman.
Defending champion Albion has also lost a few, with captain Ben Middlebrook linking back up with Old Boys in Tamworth, Andy Mack moving to Sydney and Jamie Eveleigh retiring.
“We’re going to be a bit understrength to what we have in the past,” Lodge said.
“The other fact is that all of this will have a big effect on our district team.”
Lodge will lead Kookaburras today.
They are missing a couple of players in Paddy Paul and Ian Gardiner but boast plenty of experience with the likes of Lodge, Troy Sands, Cameron Milne and Eddie McGuirk.
“We’ve maintained most of the players we had last year,” he said.
“We’ll be competitive.”
The early title favourites look to be last year’s runners up, Court House.
“At this stage they’re the team to beat,” Lodge said.
“They’ve still got plenty of talent there.”
Farran Lamb will lead them again. He spearheads a pretty handy bowling attack and will be one of their main batsmen behind seasoned opener Grant McIlveen and big-hitting Kyle Gallen.
They start with a grand final replay against Albion at Wolseley Park.
Mornington and Kookaburras match up in the other fixture at Kitchener Oval.