To describe it in cricket terms, 2020 has felt like waiting hours padded up on the sideline, only to stride out for your first ball, shoulder your arms, and be left deafened by the rattle of the bails and your teammates howling as the umpire cleans up the stumps.
Thankfully, the Horsham Cricket Association season is on the horizon to provide a welcome distraction and an appreciated opportunity to play community sport again.
Cricket hasn't been immune to COVID-forced changes, with umpires required to wear face masks, players social distancing whenever possible, and the ball needing to be cleaned with an antibacterial wipe every 10 overs.
IN OTHER NEWS: Merger being explored for a Wimmera football-netball club
Teams will strictly play one-day and Twenty20 matches, on advice from Cricket Victoria.
Despite the season looking unlike anything that's gone before, many are just thankful for the chance to play some cricket.
Find out how all the A Grade captains are feeling before it all kicks off on Saturday.
2019-20 position: 1st (one-day premiers)
Captain: Adam Atwood
How are you feeling about the season?: There's a fair bit of excitement for the new season to start. Unfortunately, last season didn't end well, and we are looking to bounce back stronger to prove some doubters wrong. The new HCA board has done a good job so far with changes made to the game structures and some bylaw tweaks to ensure the season can run as smoothly as possible.
How is the team looking this year?: Our team is looking pretty good, we haven't lost anyone. We also have some new and returning faces, which is good for our whole club.
Who is someone from your team that followers should look out for?: I'd like to think everyone will improve again this year, we have a good mix of youth and they will expect to see greater roles from previous seasons. I'm also expecting better seasons from Mohan and Chaminda. The boys have remained in Australia throughout the COVID period and haven't stopped training, so I'm excited to see how year two will pan out for them.
Who do you expect to be the benchmark team this season?: It's hard to tell who the benchmark will be. Bullants are looking strong on paper. West Wimmera should be very competitive if they have the same group as last season, and you cannot count out Rup. It's going to be a great season.
WEST WIMMERA WARRIORS
2019-20 position: 1st in B Grade (one-day and Twenty20 premiers)
Captain: Mitch Dahlenburg
How are you feeling about the season?: It will be good to be back playing sport. There's been nothing really to get the competitive juices flowing, so it will be good just to get out there with some mates. It's been a bit of an odd year, so hopefully, it brings back some form of normality to our lives.
How is the team looking this year?: Not too bad. We'll be looking very similar to last year, actually. We've got a couple of additions which will be good - probably two or three good pickups. It's a bit of a step up to A Grade obviously, but I'm confident we can be competitive and do better than we did the first time we had a crack a couple years ago.
Who is someone from your team that followers should look out for?: I'd say, Austin Smith. He played for Horsham Saints a couple years ago, and we've got him playing for us this season. He's pretty handy with bat and ball, so we'll see how that goes.
Who do you expect to be the benchmark team this season?: From what I know, Homers have always been quite competitive and there or thereabouts, so I think you can't write them off.
2019-20 position: 5th (Twenty20 premiers)
Captain: Daniel Schaper
How are you feeling about the season?: It's come around pretty quickly. We've obviously been training the past few weeks, and everyone is looking forward to getting back into it.
How is the team looking this year?: We're going to have some youth. Hopefully, we'll have Clint Midgely back from his finger injury he picked up a couple years ago. He'll be a good depth bowler.
Who is someone from your team that followers should look out for?: Probably Mark (Mbofana) again. Hopefully can pick up from where he left off last year with the bat, and also with the ball as well.
Who do you expect to be the benchmark team this season?: I think Noradjuha-Toolondo will be the benchmark now, with Tony (Caccaviello) and Melons (Matthew Combe) going there. They're going to very handy.
2019-20 position: 6th
Captain: Angus Adams
How are you feeling about the season?: Everyone's really excited about the season. We've had good numbers at training the past few weeks, which is good to see. I think everything is just really excited to get back into it.
How is the team looking this year?: It's going to look different I'd say. Probably a lot younger than prior years, which is a good thing for the future of the club. It's a vastly different looking team from the one that played in the grand final a couple years ago.
Who is someone from your team that followers should look out for?: Brett Jensz. He's back from injury this season. He's probably our best bat to be fair. He's a big inclusion.
Who do you expect to be the benchmark team this season?: I reckon West Wimmera, from what I've heard. West Wimmera, Noradjuha-Toolondo and Homers are the top three, then the rest of us will be fighting.
2019-20 position: 3rd
Captain: Matt Currill
How are you feeling about the season?: I think everyone is just looking forward to the chance to play some sport again, to be honest. I guess for us, it's going to be about balancing that success on the field, with just enjoying being in that team environment again.
How is the team looking this year?: We've lost a few gun players in the off-season, which is obviously tough, but it should give us a chance to blood a few youngsters. I'm hoping a few of our younger guys can really step up this season.
Who is someone from your team that followers should look out for?: Probably Corey Smith, though I'm sure me saying that will go straight to his head. He's just a really good batsman to watch and is switched on at the crease, which is impressive for a young bloke.
Who do you expect to be the benchmark team this season?: It's hard to go past Homers when they've set the standard for so long. They've got blokes who can take the game away from you. West Wimmera could also be a smokey as well.
2019-20 position: 2nd
Co-captains: Tony Caccaviello and Matthew Combe
How are you feeling about the season?: I'm excited to get back underway and have some type of community activity, to be honest. I think a lot of people are excited just to play cricket.
How is the team looking this year?: The Bullants have now got two sides this year, for the first time in a long time, with A Grade and B Grade, and our juniors are going from strength to strength. Our A Grade team is looking really good. The club has got some depth that it's never had before
Who is someone from your team that followers should look out for?: Jordan McDonald. He always sneaks under the radar. He's a really really good bowler, who always takes wickets, and a good batter who is showing some good form.
Who do you expect to be the benchmark team this season?: It's hard to go past Homers. They've probably been the benchmark for a number of years after their performances.
2019-20 position: 4th
Captain: Daniel Griffiths
How are you feeling about the season?: I think myself and the team are pretty excited. Obviously, we weren't able to play any sport over the winter, so we're all keen to get out and play some sport with our mates.
How is the team looking this year?: It will be pretty similar to last year, except without our couple of English bowlers, so we're going to miss them. Hopefully, some of our younger guys that we've got coming through step us this year and there are some good times ahead.
Who is someone from your team that followers should look out for?: I reckon we'll get a good year out of Sean Wouters. He showed some really good signs last year, so hopefully, he can continue that. He hasn't solidified his spot in the batting order, but he's only pretty young, so I'm hoping he can continue to take steps this year.
Who do you expect to be the benchmark team this season?: Probably Homers again. They have experience, they've done it for numerous seasons. They're just a very good overall team.
OPENING ROUND FIXTURES
West Wimmera v Homers
Rup-Minyip v Horsham Saints
Noradjuha-Toolondo v Jung Tigers
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