Western Suburbs skipper Mitchell Fisher says missing the chance to play in the past two Maitland first grade cricket grand finals is a burning motivator for the team to make the finals this season.
"Everyone is motivated to get there after two years ago it was taken away from us by COVID and last year we were denied a chance by the rain in the semi-final," Fisher said.
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"It was disappointing as I've only played in one grand final and a lot of the boys haven't played in any. They don't come around all the time."
The first COVID lockdown was called just days before the 2019-20 grand final between Wests and City and last season's semi-final was washed out on day two meaning minor premier City progressed to the decider as the higher finishing team on the ladder.
Wests have retained their team from last season but will get Central Coast all-rounder Shaun Hill back for the entire season.
Hill had an outstanding first season with the Plovers in 2019-20 taking 24 wickets at 17.5 and making 393 runs at an average of 32.8 and in the three games he played last season was instrumental in helping Wests to make the finals.
"He had most of last year off with a new born bub, but is really keen this year and is raring to go," Fisher said.
The Plovers depth will also be boosted with Matt Shone back from the Central Coast as well.
"We've got more of a 14-15 man squad this year, which will mean two or three players will be back in seconds to help them out which I think is a positive thing," Fisher said.
"Everyone is pretty motivated after the way the last two seasons have finished.
"Good to see a few of the boys pushing up from lower grades and making a bit of a push for first grade."
Fisher is expecting big things from paceman Harry King this season. King will lead the attack along with Fisher, Luke Kealy and Hill.
"I rate Harry as close to if not the best bowler in the competition. He hasn't really stopped training. He is big and fast and I think he will have a big year with the ball," he said.
"I think our bowling has been pretty good for some time, but we have struggled to build partnerships with the bat at times.
"I think having a more solid top four will help this season. We really need a more consistent batting line-up as I don't think we had the same side last year, the batting order was different every week.
"Aaron Mahony will be available for the full season and will be very helpful to have around. He is a very good player as everyone knows.
"I think Shannon Threlfo is another year older and a bit more experienced now and I expect him to have a big year as well as Tom Irwin who is obviously one of the best bats in the comp.
"I'm tipping Tom to have one of his best years yet.
"With blokes knocking on the door in second grade as well, if you are not performing then you will not hold your spot."
Fisher is looking forward to moving back into the middle order with the top four of Hill, Trelfo, Irwin and Mahony.
"I think we've probably batted blokes out of position and that's a far more settled top four," he said.
The club returned to extended squad training this week but a number of players had been training in pairs and more recently in groups of five double-vaxed players.
Fisher said Josh Wilton had been one of the standouts in training and was sure to push his way up the ranks along with all-rounder Neil Hedges.
He said from a personal perspective he was fittest he had been for a number of seasons.
"It is probably one of my first preseasons I've had in the last four or five years where I haven't had to worry about the other grades so much," he said.
"I've been able to do some two-man sessions and I have had some time to work on my own game."
The Plovers celebrate their 75th anniversary as a club this season and Fisher said there was a real push to boost junior numbers and increase the involvement of first grade players in their training programs.
"We're a proud club with a long history. We're turning 75 and have a lot of things planned for the year," he said.
"There is a real emphasis on the juniors. We are looking to make it a family club and see some of those juniors coming through to first grade in the next five to 10 years.
"It's good to have the 16s back, it is so important. I think as a player it is one of your favourite seasons, you are starting to play against some good players and coming up in the grades as well.
"Hopefully we should be there abouts in all five grades this season and do well in the juniors as well."