While English cricket endured another joyless winter Down Under, Thorpe Arnold skipper Jake Gillett hopes his time in Australia will be a boon to his summer form.
Thorpe were promoted back to the county league’s top flight in dramatic fashion last September on a thrilling final day.
A big victory at rivals Loughborough Town coupled with defeat for Barkby propelled them into the Division One promotion spots for the first time all season.
Gillett has become a regular visitor to Oz during the English winter and he was joined there this year by team-mate Alex Christie.
The batsman is eager to make up for lost time after missing half of the 2014 season with a broken finger and knuckle, while wicketkeeper Adam Clark also returns from long-term injury.
Gillett led the team’s previous foray into the Premier, spending two seasons at the top table before relegation in 2012.
Once again, the side will largely rely on homegrown players, developed through the club’s youth system.
Unlike most Premier sides, Thorpe have declined to sign an overseas player, but will be bolstered by a Leicestershire CCC cricketer, yet to be allocated.
Gillett said: “We are very much backing the lads that got us there to try and keep us up.
“Myself and Alex are returning from seasons in Australia so we’ll be hoping to hit the ground running.
“We are a tight-knit group of lads who are going to work extremely hard for every point we can pick up.
“No doubt there will be some tough days, but we are confident of some good ones, too.
“We are trying to be a lot more professional about how we prepare, and go into every game with a positive vibe.”
Syston Town will be among their rivals and the Premier Division mainstays will also be led by a young captain.
Leicestershire CCC academy player Charlie Taylor takes the helm for a second season and will be looking to improve on last season’s ninth place finish.
The First XI began 2014 in fine style and were in contention in and around the top four for the first half of the season, but a crippling injury list scuppered their hopes.
The winter has been a busy one for Syston with major redevelopments off the field including a full clubhouse and outdoor net refurbishment as well as new lightweight covers.
Taylor will have the luxury of a fully fit squad at his disposal together with some handy new recruits.
Opening bowler Tom Verow and all-rounder Zahir Taher have joined the Potter’s Lane club from Earl Shilton, while Leicestershire CCC have allocated Alex Wyatt.
Scott Cooper takes over the Second XI captaincy from Alan Beynon and aims to build on last season’s Everards Challenge Cup success.
Thorpe open their campaign at home to Rothley Park on Saturday, while Syston travel to Market Harborough. Both matches begin at 12.30pm.