The 2017 season proves to be a significant one for the club as we embark on a new challenge in the Lancashire League.
Ahead of the season, I caught up with first team captain Patrick Swanney and asked him about his thoughts ahead of the new season: –
First and foremost, how are you, and how have you been spending the close-season?
I’m great thanks. I’ve been spending most of the off season with my wife and looking after our little girl who was born at the end of September.
Winter as a cricketer is often a time for reflection, with that in mind how do you feel last season went?
Really good considering we lost a couple of senior players from the 2015 season. 3rd in the league and finalists of the cup was brilliant.
Off the field, the last few years have been something of a transitional period for the club, with uncertainty regarding league cricket and the club’s decision to apply to change league hanging over us. As captain, do you feel this has this had any effect on yourself or the players or has it simply been business as usual once a game starts.
Business as usual really – They players just want to play cricket. However, at the start of last season it looked highly likely that we would be moving leagues. So the decision was made to help bring the younger lads on and play more first team cricket and with the loss of a few senior players – we were able to use last season to assist this development.
You’ve been reappointed first team captain for 2017, our first in the Lancashire League. Are you looking forward to the new challenge?
We are all excited to play new cricket – new grounds – new players and new exciting cricket in Lancashire.
And having played in the Lancashire League previously, what differences should our players, supporters and visitors to our website expect to see when watching this year?
I didn’t play much first team cricket in the Lancashire League before joining Great Harwood but for me the games are a lot more intense than in the Ribblesdale League.
And, for teams visiting for the first time, what should they expect from Great Harwood?
Great Harwood provides a great cricketing set up both on and off field. We have had state of the art practicing facilities for about 10 years now, a newly refurbished club house , balcony and tea hut.
Recently the club has been asked to host a number of inter league days which shows the quality of the ground and facilities.
Several junior players stepped up last year and went some way to establishing themselves in support of the more senior figures. How important is it that they continue to improve and to make games their own rather than playing supporting roles this year.
Massive. Their supporting roles last year were crucial to ourselves achieving what we did but it is hoped that they can get even more playing time this year to develop themselves.
Are there any players in particular that our supporters and followers may not be overly familiar with that they should be looking out for in 2017?
Looking at the youngsters who didn’t see much 1st team action last year. I’m going to tip the two eldest Masood brothers (Adam and Harris) to do well this season. Both excellent cricketers.
You scored 600 runs last season, including two unbeaten hundreds; a remarkable achievement. On a personal level, have you any targets in mind for 2017?
I just want to go out each game and enjoy my cricket, there’s no set target in mind.
You’ve been pushing pre-season fitness in previous weeks, arranging swimming and training sessions in addition to winter nets. How important is this in ensuring the club can be competitive this season?
We all know runs saved in the field can be a big difference between winning and losing games – the lads have been doing their own bits, but just don’t expect 11 Olympians come April.
As a club we are looking to build on the huge strides taken with our Hawks Junior section in recent years, overhauling training schedules at both junior and senior level to ensure that every session is focussed on getting the very best out of our players. What aspects of the game do you feel should be prioritised and will give us the biggest improvement throughout the club?
Fielding. This was a huge part of my training as a junior at Rishton and something we haven’t focused on in the last couple of years
Off the field, whilst we already have an active social scene, I believe you’re working with the other captains and club officials to create social events for club members through the season. Would you like to elaborate on the first of these?
It has been suggested that the players host three events themselves during the season. Start – middle and end. We have a Captains Carnival scheduled as the mid-season event – and just have to work out the other two.
We will be welcoming back professional Ashen Silva in early April. How important, in your opinion, was it for the club to retain him and how do you think he will take to the Lancashire League?
I was asked by the committee after about 3 games whether we should re-sign him – to which I answered yes. The best batter I have ever seen and a great man too. Always happy to help around the club, train players and juniors and also get involved on the ground. All rare qualities in a pro but additionally he is continually working as hard as anyone in training. Always wanting to learn and developing his own game to improve himself.
Last year he requested help from a couple of ex-Lancashire League players to help his bowling and he was known to visit away grounds before the weekend game to look at the pitch to prepare – an excellent example of how dedicated he is to being our professional.
He has already had a taste of the Lancashire League, as sub-pro for Rishton scoring 70 and taking 5 wickets.
Finally, what are your predictions for the season?
I expect the next couple of seasons to be transitional seasons and a learning curve for all players and members.
Thanks Patrick, let’s hope for a positive season.