EXPECT the banter to be flying around thick and fast at Moorend tomorrow.
An intriguing ECB Bradford Premier League encounter sees near-neighbours Cleckheaton and Woodlands lock horns with both sides fully expected to be competing for silverware at the business end of the season along with champions Pudsey St Lawrence.
Between them, both Cleck and Woodlands – fourth and sixth in the top-flight table respectively after the opening five games – have won the title in four of the past five seasons, with St Lawrence breaking the hegemony last September.
Some memorable battles between both rivals have taken place in the past few years and tomorrow’s latest meeting has a juicy subplot by way of Woodlands captain Tim Jackson’s first return to Moorend following his close-season move.
Jackson’s switch to Albert Terrace was arguably the biggest league transfer of the winter, with the prolific top-order man lured to Woodlands – with the ‘carrot’ of leading the club following the departure of Pieter Swanepoel to finish his career back at first club Whitley Hall being something that proved irresistible.
Jackson broke the magic 1,000-run league barrier to help John Wood’s Cleck win the title for the first time in 2013 – mustering a superb 1,018 runs at 48.48 – and topped the club averages with 951 runs at 47.55 last year in a runs-laden stint at the club.
Now he returns to his old stomping ground, but to the visiting changing room and while few would predict the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting with any certainty, one thing is for sure.
That there will be some good natured banter flying tomorrow in the field.
As there will be at Albert Terrace on just over a fortnight, when the pair met in a mouth-watering Priestley Cup second-round tie on June 12.
On tomorrow’s game, Cleckheaton spokesperson Kevin Mitchell said: “Saturday is a big game and trust me, Tim will really get it in his ear from his (ex) team-mates!
“They will all have a beer afterwards, but on the field, there will be quite a bit of banter.
“Tim is a quality player and also a good ‘club man.’ His all-round contribution wasn’t just on the field with the bat; he was also a brilliant fielder and a stand-in wicket-keeper.
“But with his family, he also contributed off the pitch a great deal too. He was a big loss in many ways, but that’s life.”
While St Lawrence, Woodlands and Cleck are widely regarded as the three teams to beat in 2016, Mitchell believes that a fourth team should be added to the mix, in the shape of much-fancied Hanging Heaton.
He added: “I also do think that Hanging Heaton are a team to watch. Everyone goes on about Woodlands, but you cannot underestimate Hanging Heaton, who are a quality side.
“Gary Fellows is probably the best player in the league and he has a few good ones around him. I think they are a very, very good side and it will be very tough for us this season. I call it an unforgiving league.”