Deni Rhinos will be missing three key players for their Murray Valley Cricket Association opening round clash against Cobram-Yarroweyah United tomorrow.
Travelling to Scott Oval in Cobram, the Rhinos are without young pace bowlers Liam Pitts and Ben Irwin and all-rounder Boddie Arthur who are all unavailable.
The Rhinos have also lost key players during the off-season, with opening bowler Tom McGregor suffering a serious knee injury playing footy and all-rounder Brodie Bennett signing with Tyabb Cricket Club in the Mornington Peninsula Cricket Association.
Despite the opening round hurdles, Rhinos non-playing coach John Arthur said he was still positive about his side’s chances.
He said they would finalise the Premier Grade team at their Thursday training session (last night).
Arthur said the club was also still in the process of signing at least one imported player for the season ahead.
‘‘We’re expecting a tough game (tomorrow) but I still like our chances,’’ Arthur said.
‘‘They’ve ( CYU) brought in some imported players after struggling for a couple of seasons. I think we’re going to see a different CYU outfit.
‘‘We’re seeking imports as well but unfortunately they won’t be here for the first few weeks.’’
Last year the Rhinos finished fifth on the ladder, just missing out on finals with six wins.
The Rhinos made light work of CYU both times they met last season, with the Cobram-based side finishing in last place with three wins for the season.
Deni Rhinos captain Brad Todd said losing McGregor, who was the club’s leading wicket taker in 2016/17, and Bennett was a big loss.
‘‘Tom and Brodie can both bat and bowl so that’s a couple of big outs,’’ he said.
‘‘We might have a couple of young blokes debut, which is a great experience for them and great for the club’s future, but we’ll also have our regulars playing.’’
Those regulars include veterans Ash Germano, Anthony Bradley and Todd at the top of the batting order.
The Rhinos may also look to Chris Baines to open the bowling after his quick rise to Premier Grade ranks last season.
‘‘Playing finals is our first goal, so we started our training earlier this year and have had a big pre-season,’’ Arthur said.
‘‘The construction of our new batting nets will be starting at Memorial Park on Monday so there are big things happening at the club.
‘‘We’re still looking for more players to join the Rhinos for the season, too.
‘‘Anyone new to town or anyone wanting to take up cricket is welcome.’’
Tomorrow’s Premier Grade match is a 45-over one-day fixture.
Deni Rhinos’ Division One side will also kick-off their season with a home game against reigning premier Nathalia. The match will be held at Deni’s Memorial Park oval one from 11.30am tomorrow.