FIRST grade captain Aaron Ayre says Queanbeyan has something to prove this year with a host of off-season departures having decimated the club’s championship winning side.
Only four members of last year’s historic outfit that claimed ACT Cricket’s one-day, two-day and Twenty20 competitions along with the NSW SCG Cup will back-up in Queanbeyan colours this season.
Gone are the likes of Comets stars Mark Higgs (retired) Dean Solway (Prospect), Blake Dean (Tuggeranong), Michael Spaseski (Eastlake) and Dan Rootes (Sydney).
Queanbeyan will also be without the services of middle order batsmen Simon Mackie and Michael Curtale as well as quicks Dean Southwell and Lea Hansen.
It’s a situation that puts plenty of pressure on the side’s remaining senior players, namely Ayre himself and Comets skipper Jono Dean.
“We’ve obviously lost a fair few boys but we’ve gained a few players as well and done our best to fill the gaps,” Ayre told The Queanbeyan Age in the lead-in to this weekend’s season opener against Eastlake.
“A fair few of the [Canberra] clubs have been pretty active in chasing a few of our boys but that’s what success does in every code.
“If you’re successful over a long period of time clubs are going to try and take your players and that’s caught up with us this year. After last year when we won every premiership, there wasn’t much more a lot of the boys could do so it was probably a fitting note for some of them to retire or look at other options.”
Queanbeyan will begin the defence of its 50 over title against Eastlake at Freebody Oval this Saturday in what will prove a thorough opening test of the club’s new-look best XI.
“Eastlake looks like it going to be one of the stronger teams going around this year so hopefully we can knock them off first-up and prove to everyone else that even though we lost a few players, we’re still up there,” Ayre said.
“It’s always a grudge match when you come up against someone who has left the club. I think we’re playing a couple of ex-players in the first three rounds so it’d be nice to get one over them.”
Balancing the offseason departures, the Bluebags have been boosted by the arrivals of Chris Russo (Tuggeranong) and Josh Corbett (Wests/UC) while having also brought in Queenslander Josh Connelly.
Ayre meanwhile, said he was simply looking forward to getting back on the pitch after his first prolonged break from the game in nearly two years.
The 20-year-old’s commitments last season saw him captain Queanbeyan’s four premiership winning sides as wicketkeeper/batsman, while also representing the ACT Comets in the Futures League.
“I was a bit burnt out and looking forward to a break,” Ayre said. “Two months into it though I was ready to come back and now I can’t wait to get out there and feel a bit of bat on ball.”