Fresh talent ready to go

THEY'VE dusted off the ball, polished the bat and completed almost three months of pre-season training.

Now Penrith Cricket Club's first grade side is ready to snare its first wicket and set alight a sizzling new season.

With fresh talent on the crease, in the captain's chair and among the coaching staff, the Panthers will begin the 2012/2013 season raging with might and ambition as they battle Blacktown on day one of their two-day local derby at Howell Oval on Saturday.

While Penrith have lost the skill of batsman Jordan Silk, recruited by the Tasmanian Tigers during the off-season, as well as retired batsman Kevin Geyer, they'll be bolstered by the expertise of Stewart Rhodes, who returns from playing first class cricket in New Zealand, and the arrival of former Hawkesbury bowler Jarrod Lee.

"We're a very, very young club — extremely young — but that can only be positive," club coach Michael Wholohan said.

"What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm.

"There will be tough days no doubt, but we're a very tight-knit club and I'm confident that their raw enthusiasm and the sort of close mateship that's evident will get us through the tight games."

Overseeing the captaincy duties is longtime Penrith bowler Matthew Halse, who takes over the reigns from teammate Luke Morrissey.

Also accepting captaincy honours this season is fast bowler Ryan Smith, who was announced as Penrith's inaugural club captain at their season launch on Saturday night.

Speaking at the launch was the newest addition to the club's coaching team, Dale Turner, who is a former NSW and Queensland representative.

"He's a player with first class experience and an invaluable asset to the coaching staff," Wholohan said.

"He spoke about cricket and his personal battle with leukaemia which was extremely inspirational and we're hoping to draw a little strength from his work."

After the club won four of their five trial games against Fairfield last weekend, Wholohan was hopeful all grades would start their season with a victory in their round one clash against Blacktown.

"It's very, very important to start well early and get as many points as you can up until Christmas," Wholohan said.

"It's vital we send a message that we're genuine contenders."

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