Laidley faces tough test in Harding-Madsen Shield opener
CRICKET: Laidley will start its new season with a visit to defending champions Wests in the first round of the Harding-Madsen Shield on Saturday.
It is the second year the one-day competition - pitting sides from the Toowoomba and Ipswich competitions against each other - has been held and the Blue Dogs will need to be on their toes to get off to a winning start.
They enjoyed a strong pre-season, retaining the Mike Brennan Cup against South Brisbane at the end of August, as well as recording a victory over Noosa at Bichel Oval.
Several Laidley players also formed part of a side that took on a touring New Zealand team in a game they narrowly lost.
Captain Alex Welsh will welcome fellow Englishman Andrew Pickering onto the side and introduce familiar faces Andrew McIntosh and Nick Boland back into the first grade fold.
They will replace Brendan O'Keeffe, Ged Sippel and Liam Dean.
Welsh said he was expecting a tough game to open the 2017-18 season.
"We know the Wests players probably better than most other teams, having played against them in the last two pre-seasons and then sharing a couple of practice games this pre-season, actually playing together (against the New Zealand touring side and Noosa),” Welsh said.
"They have good bowling depth so it will be a good test for our batsmen.
"I think it will be a good game. With them being defending champions and it being played in Toowoomba, they will be keen to get off to a good start.”
Laidley fell to Northsiders in the semi-finals last year and their skipper wants a bigger contribution from his leading men this time around.
"(We need) more runs and more responsibility from our top-order batsmen,” he said.
"Our one-day cricket focus is on building a platform for the latter overs.”
Changes have been made to the competition for its second year, with pools being abolished and 50-over fixtures.
Laidley will play the other nine teams in the competition once during the regular season in hope of making the semi-finals, which begin on December 10.
The grand final will be played on January 14.
"You get to play everyone, so there's no excuses about one pool being stronger than the other,” Welsh said.