Norfolk clubs prepare for new East Anglian Premier League season
- Credit: Archant
After Norfolk clubs dominated the East Anglian Premier League in 2014, David Freezer previews the chances of further success for the county's five teams this campaign.
There is one major question looming on the eve of the new EAPL season – can anyone stop all-conquering champions Swardeston?
The south Norfolk side dominated the league once again in 2014 and went on to claim their third successive title, finishing 54 points clear at the top.
Just one club has managed that feat before, fellow Norfolk side Vauxhall Mallards claiming a treble triumph between 2002 and 2004.
Now the history books beckon for Swardeston, as they look to become the only club to have lifted the league trophy in four consecutive seasons.
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The reigning champions begin that quest in Cambridgeshire tomorrow, against Burwell, who finished second from bottom in last season's final standings.
Last season was largely positive for all five of Norfolk's sides though.
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- 10 City keeper diagnosed with testicular cancer
Great Witchingham were the closest challengers for the title – winning home and away against Swardeston. Away form let the Witches down however, with defeats at Copdock & Old Ipswichian, Norwich and Horsford seeing them fall short.
James Spelman was their star man, the Norfolk batsman finishing the season as the league's highest run scorer with 1,017 in total during his 20 matches, including three centuries.
Skipper Tom Collishaw will be without leg-spinner Brenton McDonald though.
The Australian bowler was the second highest wicket-taker in the EAPL last season but is not available for the new campaign.
McDonald took 56 wickets in 266 overs during the season, finishing with a strike rate of a wicket every 28.57 balls.
The Witches begin with a journey to Essex tomorrow to face league new boys Frinton-on-Sea.
There was no relegation last season after Clacton dropped out of the league but Frinton have now returned the EAPL to a full complement of 12 teams.
Norwich finished third, a further 41 points further back from Witchingham, as the only other team to have managed to beat Swardeston.
Ashley Watson was the league's top bowler, taking 57 wickets at a strike rate of 28.07.
The Norfolk player has taken on the captaincy with Norwich and begins with his team hosting last season's bottom side, Saffron Walden, at Postwick.
Horsford finished fifth after recovering from a slow start and also have a new captain, Ryan Findlay, who starts with a home match against Bury St Edmunds at Manor Park. Norfolk skipper Chris Brown remains a key part of the Horsford squad.
Vauxhall Mallards also finished the last campaign strongly, to end up in seventh position. The Ducks kick-off with a match at Cambridge Granta, with Matt Plater taking on the captaincy at Halvergate for the new term.
For a full preview of the new EAPL season, with details on each Norfolk club's hopes for the summer, see today's Eastern Daily Press or Norwich Evening News.