A WINTER of on-the-field changes at Papplewick and Linby has been completed by the appointment of a new manager and captain for the flagship first team.
The long-running Phil DeFreitas Era is drawing to a close at the club as the 45-year-old ex-England ace takes a backseat.
And in a bid to finally grab that elusive Notts Premier League title, Papplewick have made significant changes to their key personnel, as well as a handful of major new signings.
Respected coach Tony Bettridge (33) replaces club stalwart Robin Rhodes as manager, while all-rounder Richard King (27) replaces Martin Bekker as skipper.
Rhodes (44) has taken up a new appointment as captain of the second eleven, who were relegated from the Bassetlaw League’s top flight last summer, while Bekker has returned to his native South Africa after two seasons at Papplewick.
Bettridge, a former fast bowler, spent 15 years on the coaching staff with Notts CCC at Trent Bridge. He is currently taking a teaching degree.
All-rounder King, who has played first-class cricket for Northamptonshire, joined Papplewick at the start of last season and made a huge impact. He scored 410 runs at an average of more than 58 before he was sidelined by injury.
The fresh signings are headed by Notts CCC all-rounder Luke Fletcher (22), who returns to the club where he first made his name — after a spell with NPL champions Clifton.
As predicted in the Dispatch in November, he has been joined by another Papplewick ‘old boy’, fast bowler Simon Roberts (28), who is also back from Clifton where he was a successful skipper.
A couple of promising Nottingham University students have been snapped up too, including middle-order batsman and leg-spinner Raoul Cheema.
In the past, Papplewick have lured a host of overseas stars to the club, including former Australian batsman Stuart Law.
But they have decided on a different policy this season and will rely on Fletcher and another all-rounder, Mark Nelson, as their two professionals.
Like King, the 24-year-old Nelson played for Northamptonshire — after representing England at under-16, 17 and 19 levels.
And like King, he was plagued by injury in his debut season for Papplewick in 2010, rendering him unable to bowl.
But he also proved his worth with the bat, firing 712 runs at an average of 41.88 to finish in the top ten of the NPL batting charts.
Amazingly, the Papplewick injury curse has already struck again, with Roberts set to miss the first two months of the new campaign after breaking his leg in three places just before Christmas while playing rugby.
However he is on the mend and outgoing manager Robin Rhodes is sure he will be back “earlier than expected”.
“He is working very hard to get fit,” said Rhodes. “He is a good signing, a proven 35-to-40-wickets-a-season man.
“Simon, Luke and Jim Rhodes should form a very potent bowling attack.
“Luke has been in Australia all winter but he looks fit and is very pleased to be back at the club.
“Obviously his appearances for us depend on how many games he gets at Notts. But our games are on Saturdays when there aren’t too many first-class matches.”
As well as DeFreitas, fellow ex-England bowler Dean Headley (41) remains on the books at Papplewick. But both were plagued by knocks last summer and their appearances are sure to be limited by their work commitments as coaches at public schools.
Former Leicestershire bowler Charles Dagnall is another ex-pro unlikely to feature this term — again because of injury.
However Rhodes is convinced he is passing on the baton to a side capable of breaking into the top three of the NPL at last after four successive placings in fourth or fifth.
“There is as much talent at the club as we have had for a long time,” he said.
“The club feels fresher, which should make people think a bit more. Hopefully we can play with a smile and if we get some luck and the injury gods smile on us, who knows?”
Rhodes admits that “in an ideal world, we need another batter” but he is excited by the emergence of several talented youngsters at the club, most notably 18-year-old spinner Dane Straw, Tom Bowers, Adam Rostance and Sam Stewart. And he hopes the likes of Graeme Roberts, Tim Clarke and Kris Barfield will be pushing for permanent first-team spots.
Other new appointments next season include Brad Matthews as first-team vice-captain and Adam Bettridge (Tony’s younger brother) as third-team skipper.
The campaign, which will be Papplewick’s ninth in the NPL, begins on April 23.