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IT has been a massive off-season for Southland Cricket Association officials, with general manager Jason Domigan pleased they can now simply get on with playing some games.

The 2018-19 Southland cricket summer will begin on Saturday with the first rounds of the ILT Premier League and PGG Wrightson Championship club competitions.

At the end of last season Southland won the Hawke Cup, which is effectively provincial cricket’s version of the Ranfurly Shield.

It was the first time since 1992 that Southland had won the prized trophy and it created a busy off-season as Domigan and his team prepare to give themselves the best chance to defend the Hawke Cup.

Southland representatives will get the opportunity build towards the first defence in February when club cricket starts on Saturday.

Again the ILT Premier League is made up of six teams this season, with 14 rounds to be played before play-offs in March.

Domigan conceded the busy representative schedule might limit some players’ involvement in club cricket this season, but he expected the 2018-19 competition to again be closely fought.

“The [Hawke Cup] players are spread quite evenly throughout the club teams, where in the past there have been four or five players from one club. If that was the case this year it would have been pretty devastating for them,” he said.

Waikoikoi was crowned ILT Premier League champion last season in a competition in which most teams would have fancied their chances.

Waikoikoi’s fairytale victory in its 125th jubilee year came on the back of a blistering display of batting from Rhuebyn Prattley.

During the competition Prattley scored 1020 runs at a strike rate of 170 runs per 100 balls. He saved the best for last when smashing 171 from just 73 balls in the final against Appleby.

Meanwhile, the second-tier PGG Wrightson Championship competition has an extra team this season with the return of Riversdale.

After a season out, the club has been able to muster the numbers to form a team again.

“James McKee has done a good job in getting some cricketers together and a team again. When a team takes a break it’s often hard to come back, so they have done well,” Domigan said.

The PGG Wrightson Championship is again split into two divisions this season, with Riversdale to ease back into club cricket through the division two grade.

A club twenty20 competition will again be played this year, during December and January.

Meanwhile, Domigan said he was still in discussions with a couple of potential overseas player options to bolster the Southland team for its Hawke Cup defences this season.

He hoped something might have been firmed up within the next 10 days or so.

ROUND ONE

ILT Premier League:

Appleby v Southland Boys’ first 11

Marist v Metro Tigers

Waikoikoi v Invercargill-Old Boys

PGG Wrightson Championship:

Division one

Lumsden v Appleby/SIT

Tuatapere v Te Anau

Wyndale v Blue Mountain

Central-Western v Albion

Division two

Central-Western v Metro Cubs

Appleby Development v Marist

Waikoikoi v Riversdale

SBHS second 11 a bye

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