A season of rebuilding looms

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North Otago cricket is set for a significant summer of change.
The team that charged to Hawke Cup glory last season has been shredded by a host of departures, and a new set of faces will be tasked with maintaining the province’s lofty status in the district ranks.
Two stalwart players of recent years, Ben Cant and Stephan Grobler, and dedicated manager-selector Hamish McMurdo are confirmed no-shows in 2016-17.
Jordan Horrell, who kept playing for North Otago last summer despite being based in Christchurch, and wicketkeeper Andrew Grubb (now in Alexandra) are unlikely starters.
There is good news – superstar fast bowler Francois Mostert is coming back for another season, and Otago regular Craig Smith is back in Oamaru and available for North Otago when the Volts don’t need him – but there is a clear sense of an era ending.
Cant, in particular, will be hugely missed. He plundered 427 runs last summer but will play his cricket in Christchurch when he returns from a stint in England.
“He’d hoped to stay in the UK but couldn’t get a work permit,” North Otago cricket boss Peter Cameron said.
“It’s a big loss. Ben has been our top scorer for two or three seasons, and he’s a reasonable sort of medium pacer.”
Grobler, who has been playing and coaching for North Otago and Waitaki Boys’ High School for five years, will play in Melbourne next summer.
The veteran all-rounder, who became a father for the first time earlier this year, had been a key man on the North Otago scene, Cameron said.
“It’s been huge. He helped Waitaki Boys’ win the club competition for the first time in 50 years, and he made a big contribution to North Otago.
“When you get the same guys coming back, you know what you’re getting. And it can very difficult to employ someone from the other side of the world.
“The eligibility criteria had also changed so we could play both Stephan and Francois in the North Otago team, which was massive for us.
“But life moves on.”
Young Englishman Sam Bastin will be a new face in the province when the first ball is bowled in October.
He is playing for the Long Marston club in London – alongside Albion all-rounder Jeremy Smith – and will join North Otago as a development officer and coach.
“He was coming out to play for Union anyway,” Cameron said.
“He bats No 4 for his club team, and he has a club 100 this year. He’s here initially as a club player and coach, and if he’s good enough, there are opportunities to play Hawke Cup.”
One of Bastin’s English teammates is also expected to come to Oamaru to play for the Albion club.
Mostert, meanwhile, who claimed a record 56 wickets for North Otago last summer, will return on October 5.
He will be part of the Otago A programme, and becomes eligible to play first-class cricket as a New Zealander from January 2018.
“He’s throwing his lot in with New Zealand cricket because he sees more opportunities here,” Cameron said.
“That gives him huge incentive to stay here and perform well.”
Invercargill-bound McMurdo will leave a big gap off the field, but North Otago veteran Duncan Drew is organising a new management team, and Craig Smith will join him as a selector.