There's been few batters in Dubbo cricket's recent history as committed and as vigilant at the crease as Wayne Dunlop.
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But this weekend when he makes his return to the game it will be a slightly different version of the player.
A rock at the top of the order at Newtown for roughly a decade, Dunlop left Dubbo for Newcastle after helping the Tigers win the 2018/19 RSL Whitney Cup.
After roughly four years in the Hunter, the 44-year-old moved back to Dubbo earlier this year and on Saturday will make his return for Newtown when the men in black and gold meet defending premiers RSL Colts at No. 1 Oval.
"I've had a very long break so it will be interesting to see how things go," he laughed.
"I played a couple of years ago in Newcastle but it was also around the time of COVID so I would have liked to play some more.
"But I literally haven't played a game in the best part of two years so I'll be very fresh."
While plenty has changed at Newtown in the years since its last title, much of the core group Dunlop spent so much time playing with still remains.
Dan French will captain the team this summer while Steve and Mat Skinner and Mitch Russo will also be back again after all playing their part in the 2018/19 season.
Dunlop scored a trademark tough half-century in the grand final win that season but given his time away from the sport and his more senior status in the game, he expects a different role in 2023/24.
"It's a case of bringing that new talent along and I guess that's my main role now rather than placing super high expectations on myself," he said.
"That's probably where I'm sitting and at my age it's probably not ideal to be opening the batting but I've got a fair bit of experience and I can help those younger players coming through.
"I'm going to do a bit of work with the batters this season and that experience can hopefully help a lot of those younger players coming through into first grade."
The Tigers' start to the season is far from easy as they meet an RSL-Colts side which shapes as one of the leading contenders for the crown again after winning last summer's title.
Colts haven't suffered any major departures and there's an exciting crop of juniors coming through meaning they're expected to be a strong as they were for much of Dunlop's Dubbo career.
"They're always tough and it will be a good, hard cricket. You expect nothing less from them," Dunlop said.
"They're a very good side and, on paper, Colts and CYMS would be the two that are quite strong from what I've gathered.
"But we've got five or six of those senior players from four years ago and we've got some new players coming in so we're keen to have a look at them and I think it will be pretty good."
CYMS starts its season at No. 1 Oval against Rugby.
The Cougars have been boosted by the return of star representative all-rounder Ben Patterson while a new-look Rugby will be led by Charlie Kempston, who was part of the Newtown title-winning side in 2018/19.
Macquarie and South Dubbo will play at No. 2 Oval in the other round one fixture.
All games start at 1pm.
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