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Did this actually happen? . . . Oamaru-St Kevin's cricketers celebrate their shock victory in the Borton Cup final last season. PHOTO: DAVE NALDRETT

Yes, yes, well spotted – club cricket season started three weeks ago and the Oamaru Mail is only now doing a season preview. Better late than never, and the Borton Cup does only start this weekend. Hayden Meikle casts his eye over the five teams.

ALBION
Key players: Jayden Stockbridge, Ricky Whyte, Jonty Naylor, Brady Kingan, Brad Kernahan.
Gains: Stockbridge, Levi Ewing, Dylan Garaway.
Losses: Regan George, Dylan Winter.
The oil: The 2016-17 champion dropped off the pace last year and might be playing catch-up for a chunk of this summer. George didn’t score huge runs last season but he is an experienced head, and Winter’s focus on rugby refereeing weakens the Mungers with both bat and ball. On the flip side, Australian import Stockbridge already looks handy, and both Naylor and Kingan are rising talents. Albion should also get plenty of mileage out of the deceptively devious bowling of captain Ricky Whyte, who led all comers with 32 wickets last summer.

OAMARU-SKC
Key players: Stephan Grobler, Craig Smith, Nick Johnston, Cormac Hassett, Zach Naldrett.
Gains: Grobler, Hassett.
Losses: James Ferris, Ashley Abraham, Ben Coleman.
The oil: Came from nowhere – as in, way back in fourth place – to charge to Borton Cup glory last season. The defending champion has been hit hard by the departures of the ridiculously talented James Ferris and classy batsman Ash Abraham, whose century was the difference in the final. That is an even 1000 runs and 37 wickets that have walked out the door. A boost is the return of former North Otago Hawke Cup star Grobler from Australia, while Hassett is an intriguing newcomer. A good team at full strength but depth will be tested.

UNION
Key players: Blake James, Sam Bastin, Brad Fleming, Matt Lilley.
Gains: Sean Conlan, Thomas Shields, Jeremiah Shields.
Loss: Dylan Edwards.
The oil: Four straight T20 wins to start the season, and everyone is talking Union up. The return of the Shields brothers from overseas rugby commitments and Conlan from injury will boost an already experienced team. James (24 wickets last year) leads the bowling attack, North Otago coaching officer Bastin will seek to continue his excellent form with the bat, and the likes of Lilley and evergreen Glynn Cameron can chip in when needed.

VALLEY
Key players: Lachie Kingan, Cameron Grubb, Nathan McLachlan, Reuben Simpson.
Gain: Cannan Elvines.
Losses: None.
The oil: Really struggled last season so the only way is up. Valley will yet again look to Grubb (375 runs last season), Kingan and the in-form McLachlan to provide the majority of runs. The bowling attack will be solid, spearheaded by left-armer Simpson. Newcomer Elvines might be one to watch.

WAITAKI BOYS’
Key players: Francois Mostert, Mason James, Scott Kitto, Blake Martin.
Gains: Jacob Davies, Jack Price, Taine Stirling.
Losses: Kitto (after Christmas), Glen McClea (after Christmas).
The oil: A bit of a wildcard, as you never can tell how some of the youngsters will step up. Should be strong before Christmas, but the loss of the outstanding Kitto after the holidays will hurt. Bowling and fielding should be strengths but finding enough runs might be a problem. Waitaki Boys’ still gets the services of Mostert, the No1 player in North Otago, so anything is possible.