After taking the Bathurst Orange Inter District Cricket by storm last season, Russell Gardner is set to captain City Colts during the 2021-22 campaign.
Gardner takes over from Dan Casey, with the veteran cricketer making his return to the Bathurst cricket scene last season after last playing in the city back in 2012.
While Gardner will skipper the team this season, he'll be well supported by the leadership team at Colts.
"We have the luxury of a really good leadership at Colts," he said.
"Dan did a terrific job last season and I would've loved for him to continue this year but work and family commitments is impacting that and not just Dan, but a few other players.
"Although I'm leading the team, we'll work as a leadership group for the season ahead."
Gardner arrived in Bathurst in the 2006-07 season and linked initially with Bathurst City, before switching to Centennials Bulls.
He helped lead Bulls to its inaugural first grade title, before leaving Bathurst in October, 2012, to move to Coffs Harbour for a work opportunity.
We've got a pretty good squad, which has been retained from last year.Russell Gardner
He would return to Bathurst last year.
City Colts have lost a few players to new BOIDC boys ORC, with brothers Wayne and Dave Sellers linking up their old club, while Angus Daymond will be joining the Tigers too.
Gardner said their departures will present a great opportunity for other players at the club to step up and perform.
"We've got a pretty good squad, which has been retained from last year but we have lost a few players," he said.
"It gives a good opportunity for others to really step up and make their mark."
City Colts will be away in the opening round to Cavaliers at Orange's Wade Park on Saturday, October 31, before playing in Bathurst in round two against St Pat's Old Boys at Morse Park 1 the following Saturday.
City Colts is yet to qualify for the finals since the re-introduction of a inter-town competition between Bathurst and Orange.
City Colts had plenty of options with the ball last season, with the likes of Dave Henderson (21), Dan Casey (17), David Rogerson (16), Josh Toole (15) and Tom Murray (15) all managing to take 15 wickets or more.
While pre-season training has been interrupted during the pre-season because of the COVID-19 lockdown, Gardner said he's happy with the work the bowlers have been putting in.
"We're just hoping to get some solid training in," he said.
"I suspect the first game, we'll be dusting off a few cobwebs. But we've got guys with sufficient experience and quality there to be able to get on track fairly quickly."
Gardner was the runaway leading batsman last season, the veteran cricketer notching up 665 runs from 12 innings for an average of 73.9.
His achieved last season's highest score of 156 in a devastating spell against Centrals last November, in one of Colts' five wins during 2020-21.
There's still plenty of reliability with the bat, with the likes of Josh Toole, but the loss of the two Sellers brothers may hurt.
Gardner said everyone in the batting line-up will have a part to play.
"Essentially the top six is going to have a real impact," he said.
"I'm just looking to those that will come into the top six or that are already there."
Gardner wouldn't be drawn into picking a favourite to win this season's grand final, saying he'd have a better idea of the front-runners by Christmas.
"It's really, really, early to make a call like that," he said on the competition favourite.
"But having a new team come into the comp and one team move out and their players going to other clubs, it'll be interesting to see how it all pans out."
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