Raymond Terrace are set to be the big improvers for the 2021-22 Maitland first grade cricket season with the return of star trio Daniel Upward, Nick Savage and Shannon Bills to the line-up.
Upward returns to cricket after recovering from a broken ankle and will take over as skipper from Steve Smith, who has stepped down because of business commitments
In 2018-19 his last season with the Lions, Upward averaged 35 with the bat and took 14 wickets establishing himself as one of the leading players in the competition.
Bills and Savage were both members of the 2017-18 Raymond Terrace premiership.
Former skipper Savage returns after retiring at the end of the 2018-19 season. A fierce competitor he will be a huge boost with this batting and spin bowling.
Bills an opening batsman has experience in the Newcastle competitions and last played with Raymond Terrace in 2017-18.
Upward said having Savage, Bills and himself was a great boost in experience and talent to a young squad which had learned a lot during a tough season as far as results went.
He said it was good to be back playing cricket and everything felt good with his ankle so far.
"I've been running and everything like that. The bowling may be a bit limited but we've got plenty of young players coming through to cover that," he said.
Upward is confident his young bowling brigade led by Lachie Page, Jayden Newson and Brayden and Jaxon Brooks will take another step forward in their development this season.
Fast-bowling all-rounder Page took 16 wickets last season with a best return of 3-19. Newson picked up 19 with a best of 4-14, while spinner Brayden Brooks took 20 with a best of 5-11 and 20.
Fifteen-year-old Jaxon Brooks played a handful of first grade games at the end of the year and picked up 5-20 against Tenambit Morpeth.
"For a 15 year-old to take a five-for at the end of the season was terrific," Upward said. "I am looking at forward to Brayden and Jaxon bowling in tandem and putting a squeeze on the some of the opposition sides."
The Lions return to training this week ahead of the competition resuming on November 6.
"Everyone is getting excited about starting to train and getting back on the field," Upward said.
Upward said he was looking forward to the side finally getting out on the field and predicted plenty of runs from the top order.
Premiership openers Bills and Joey Harden return to the top of the order, Smith will bat at three, with Page at four and Upward at five.
"It's a pretty solid top order and we will put the rest of the order together once the balls start netting and hitting balls," Upward said.