Ben Patterson is back.
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The Australian Country all-rounder has returned to Dubbo CYMS and will provide a massive boost to a side determined to go one better after last season's grand final loss.
CYMS won the RSL-Whitney Cup in 2019/20 and 2021/22 and are could start the season as favourites after the "massive inclusion" of Patterson - who spent last season playing in the Newcastle competition - and suffering no major departures.
Patterson was part of the CYMS title-winning side in 21/22 and that campaign was highlighted but one of the great Dubbo cricket performances when the former Australian Indigenous representative made a staggering 101 not out from just 39 balls and took 5/24 in one match against Macquarie.
The bowling unit this season looks especially strong, with Patterson joining captain Ben Knaggs, Bailey Edmunds and Matt Purse in a representative-level pace attack while Paddy Nelson, Harry Bayliss and rising star Ayden Hunt will provide the spin options.
"It creates a pretty strong pace attack and it will definitely be a great attack," Knaggs said.
"You've got your spinners in there too so there will definitely be a fight for the overs but whoever gets the ball will definitely do their job.
"I think it's definitely the best pace attack in Dubbo ... it's up there and maybe the best in the Western Zone, that's for sure."
Given Patterson's return and the development of junior players like Hunt, Knaggs could have a headache selecting his side and then deciding on his batting and bowling lineup each week.
It was only a few years ago the Cougars were scratching around for players but as well as the leading bowlers, Thomas Nelson, Tom Barber, Dan Holland, Fletcher Hyde, Ben O'Donnell and Jake Settree are all established first graders now while there's plenty of others who have had a taste of ones in recent seasons.
"It is tough to make decisions like that but it creates a lot of competition in the club," Knaggs said.
"A lot of kids coming up want to play first grade and it creates a bit of competition between the boys and you can't just turn up to training and expect to get selected.
"You've got to train hard and put runs and wickets on the board to get a spot. I think the quality of players at CYMS now is really good and I think we've got a bright future."
Hunt was singled out by his captain as one to watch this season.
After enjoying a real breakout campaign with his leg-spin bowling in second grade last summer, the youngster is an exciting proposition while he's also piled on the runs at a junior level.
"He's a young fella coming up and I think he could have a pretty good season in firsts. Watching him the last couple of years in second grade and juniors he's developed quite well," Knaggs said.
"The other is Matt Purse. I reckon he'll have a decent year with the ball. He had a decent year last and I reckon he'll take it a bit further."
Given the quality in his lineup, success is the expectation for the Cougars in 2023/24.
Last season's grand final defeat to Colts stung - Knaggs said at the time his side had saved one of its poorest batting performances for last - and there's a hunger to go one step further.
"Losing a grand final isn't the best," the captain said.
"We started the year wanting to win the grand final and to lose it hurt a little bit so it's definitely on our mind again, to get to the grand final and hopefully put in a good performance and win it.
"We've got the exact same team this year and the inclusion of Ben Patterson so with the inclusion of him I expect us to give it a big crack.
"He (Patterson) brings that confidence and he'll lead the way ... to have him there, we're all pretty excited."
CYMS starts its season against Rugby at No. 1 Oval on Saturday.
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