BRIGHOUSE Sports have posted a statement of intent by naming a powerful side for their eagerly-anticipated opening Halifax League match of the season at home to Luddenden Foot on Wednesday.
The Russell Way outfit, one of Calderdale’s strongest clubs, have joined the league in Division Two and are widely expected to win the section at a canter before throwing down the gauntlet to perennial Division One champions Elland WMC next year.
Only time will tell if it pans out that way and Brighouse secretary Tony Riley, who will be in a team captained by Mark Regan for the Foot contest, is taking nothing for granted.
“We are just looking to establish ourselves in the Halifax League and enjoy it,” said Riley, who confirmed that his players were looking for a fresh challenge in midweek.
Brighouse will still field a team in the Spen Valley League on a Wednesday but their line-up for the opener shows where their priorities lie.
They have a sprinkling of past and present county bowlers in a side which is completed by Richard Hobson, Paul Smyth, Chris Mordue, Ronnie Wormald, Hedley Kettlewell, Bob Whitworth, Mark McGorlick and Steve Foster.
Brighouse look certain to be very difficult to beat on their own green and should have enough experience to overcome the problem of playing at unfamiliar venues.
Ex-Hill Crest trio Regan, Richard Hobson and Paul Smyth plus McGorlick and Riley are used to playing in the Halifax League, albeit mainly at clubs playing their trade in the top section.
Riley added: “We are hoping to do well but we are not counting our chickens - we can’t afford to be complacent.”
The unusually warm and dry build-up to the season means greens are likely to be running quickly for the start of the season, meaning upsets could be harder to come by.
Foot, who finished fourth in the division in 2011, cannot expect to catch Brighouse cold either. Riley, Mordue and Wormald are among those who take part in winter competitions while the Russell Way green will have been open for three weeks by the time the first match comes around.
Elland WMC didn’t lose a league match in the whole of last season, winning the title by a 17-point margin from a Hill Crest side now hit by the defections to Brighouse.
Hosts Todmorden are the first to have a crack at Adrian Brier’s side on Wednesday.
Last year’s Division Two champions Siddal Park open with successive matches against Hill Crest A and could have early assistance from Yorkshire home captain Graham Hickey before he turns his attentions to Super League on a Wednesday evening.
The elevation of Crossroads B means the Keighley club, like Hill Crest, will have two teams in the top flight.
Only teams in the top division of the veterans’ league start their programmes on Thursday.
There are now five lower divisions, instead of four, with 10 teams instead of 12, and their fixtures begin a fortnight later.
Sowerby West End, who won the veterans’ title by a 16 point margin from Mytholmroyd BC last September, open with a trip to last year’s sixth-placed finishers Hipperholme.
Division One: Crossroads A v Clayton Victoria, Hill Crest B v Mytholmroyd A, Mytholmroyd WMC v Asa Briggs A, Siddal Park A v Hill Crest A, Sowerby West End A v Crossroads B, Todmorden Park v Elland WMC A.
Division Two: Akroydon Victoria A v Oxenhope, Brighouse v Luddenden Foot A, Elland WMC B v Greetland A, Holmfield v Kingston Social A, Pellon Social A v Stainland Park A, Ripponden Park A v Hove Edge WM A.
Division Three: Asa Briggs B v Sowerby WE B, Greenroyd A v Bradshaw Park A, Halifax A v Denholme, Heptonstall A v Elland C & BC, King Cross A v Akroydon Victoria B, Laurel Crescent A v Hipperholme BC.
Division Four: Allan Park A v Old Town, Greetland BC B v Northowram Park A, Kingston B v Siddal Park B, Luddenden Foot B v Illingworth Libs, Mytholmroyd BC B v Hill Crest C. Bye: Sowerby T & BC.
Veterans Division One: Blakeboroughs v Mytholmroyd WMC, Hipperholme v Sowerby West End A, Illingworth Libs A v Greenroyd A, Kingston Social A v Lautel Crescent, Mytholmroyd BC A v Ripponden Park A, Walsden v Hill Crest A.