Welcome to The Nightwatchmen, a weekly opinion piece by sports writers Nick Guthrie and Tom Barber.
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The pair will look at everything that's happening from the local game through to international matches during the 2023/24 season.
It may have felt like the final whistle on the footy season has just been blown, but cricket is here.
The 2023/24 season starts in Dubbo this Saturday with six teams in the RSL Whitney Cup first grade competition, eight in the RSL Pinnington Cup and 12 in the RSL Kelly Cup.
With some big-name arrivals and major departures over the off-season, there's plenty to play out and this season we're looking at the big questions which need to be answered this summer.
RSL Colts and CYMS. The two sides have played in each of the past three RSL Whitney Cup grand finals, with Colts winning two and CYMS one. It's likely it would have been four in-a-row but the COVID pandemic resulted in the early cancellation of the 2019/20 season, with CYMS being crowned premiers as they were top of the table and Colts were second at the time.
You have to go back to 2018/19 for a side other than these two playing in the decider. So, can anyone stop them this season?
It looks unlikely, with CYMS arguably the pre-season favourites after retaining all their key players and adding for Australian Country representative and elite all-rounder Ben Patterson to its side. Colts is also largely the same and will have Greg Buckley for a full campaign as well as a number of younger players ready to impress after performing well in the lower grades recently.
Macquarie will be interesting and is a bit of an unknown after a lot of off-season changes and the same goes for Rugby. Newtown is always around the mark and Wayne Dunlop's return is a boost, but is it enough? And Souths, they're still developing a young side but is this another season too soon?
We might want a close competition where every side is in the mix for finals, but it appears at this early stage it could be more of the same.
Colts captain Marty Jeffrey raised an interesting point this week when he said his side is well-placed to handle what is expected to be a hot and dry summer.
We were treated to a kind and very mild summer last season so some of the conditions expected this season could come as a shock and the heat rule - which can lead to matches being cancelled - may come into effect again.
Jeffrey stated his side has plenty of spin bowlers used to bowling big overs so they won't have to rely on the quicks who could tire easily.
CYMS will rely on its pace attack but the depth - with four genuine quicks - helps while the Cougars did have three spinners as well.
Batting could be interesting as players could be challenged by the conditions when spending long periods in the middle. It's going to be a lot tougher than last season so experience could be the key.
The success of the Newtown Ducks in second grade in recent years was proof there was players capable of playing at the top grade. This season we'll get to see that.
The demise of the Ducks led to Kempston brothers Charlie, Harry and Jack all moving to Rugby, with the former taking on the captaincy.
It's a huge boost for a Rugby side which has seriously struggled in recent seasons. Now in the Kempstons and Ben Wheeler and Jacob Hill they have a genuine top order and they'll rely on that as the bowling still appears a little light.
This season could be a case of playing for the all-important third finals place between CYMS and Colts and if Rugby's batting lineup fires they're every chance of getting there.
Go back just a few short years and it felt like every season senior Dubbo players were winning Western Zone Premier League titles, playing at the SCG in Plan B Regional Bash deciders, and earning higher honours after starring for local representative sides and Western Zone.
The last few summers haven't been quite the same, with Bathurst dominating the Premier League while Western Zone has struggled at the NSW Country Championships.
There's plenty of talent within the RSL-Whitney Cup and it would be great to see people like Ben Patterson, Marty Jeffrey, Ben Knaggs, Ben Wheeler and Lachlan Strachan and others not just make a Western side, but drive it to success and push for NSW Country selection.
Newtown and Narromine have led the way in the RSL Pinnington Cup in recent seasons and they're set to be right around the mark again.
Last season's decider was a Newtown derby while Narromine triumphed during tier debut season in Dubbo the summer before that.
The collapse of the Newtown Ducks side changes things but the Newtown Demons and Newtown Hawks should challenge.
CYMS will be interesting, with Corey Suckling taking on the captaincy and additions to the first grade side meaning some very handy players could drop back.
Rugby may also benefit from additions in first grade after winning just two games in the Pinnington Cup last season.
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