FOR PUDSEY ST LAWRENCE, it is all about joining a select group of venerated Bradford League sides in 2017.
Namely, teams to have lifted the top-flight title for three seasons in a row, a feat that proved elusive for Cleckheaton in 2015 after back-to-back triumphs with Woodlands being the last team to achieve it during their four-in-a-row championship streak from 2005-09.
Pudsey Congs went one better with five successive gongs in a row from 2000-04 with town rivals St Lawrence seeking their own piece of history after previously lifting consecutive championships on two occasions in 1975-76 and 1984-85.
James Smith’s side will again be the ones to beat with a line-up that bats long – with the likes of Smith, Adam Waite and Mark Robertshaw all being key cogs – and possessing wicket-taking prowess in the likes of Richie Lamb and Steve Watts.
But Hanging Heaton – without a title success since 1995 – are likely to push them all the way in a potential re-run of last year’s close fight for silverware.
Watch out also for Farsley, Woodlands and New Farnley, while Townville also have the look of potential surprise packages.
Heaton’s big close-season recruit has been Congs’ prolific top-order man Callum Geldart, who will provide further firepower alongside run-machine and captain Gary Fellows.
Runs should also be guaranteed at Farsley with free-scoring overseas man James Price – such a hit in his first season in the league last season – having returned to Red Lane.
A significant arrival at Woodlands is ex-Yorkshire man Mark Lawson, who will open the bowling at Albert Terrace alongside Elliott Richardson as the Oakenshaw men start off life without the legendary Sarfraz Ahmed, who has returned to Pakistan after an epic 16-year stint as the club’s overseas man.
Secretary Brian Pearson admits the absence of the ‘irreplaceable’ Ahmed is ‘a big loss’, but the club feel the arrival of Lawson – who will predominantly bowl seam and not leg-spin – allied to the presence of Kez Ahmed and Chris Brice should at least ensure that the club have plenty of hardened league nous and a winning edge.
Otley opener Jamie Pickering has also joined the club with the top-order man to bat at number three, with Woodlands having elected not to recruit an overseas replacement for Ahmed.
After surprising many en route to a third-place finish, expectations of another strong year abound at Farsley under a new captain in Ryan Cooper.
New recruits include highly rated Yorkshire Academy left-arm spinner and batsman James Logan, 19, with last season’s squad remaining intact, with fit-again Jim Pickles back in the fold after a knee operation and much also expected of rising star Matt Revis, 15.
And stalwart Mark Harrison is quietly confident of another sound season for Farsley, who start at Batley.
He said: “It is the first time in a long time that Farsley have had that continuity and it is exciting and we are looking forward to the season.”