Marquee all-rounder Dylan Hunter is set to return for this season's T20 Summer Bash, but the Sabres will be negotiating Sunday's double header minus key troops as they look to defend their Newcastle District Cricket Association title.
Hunter, now based with Sydney side Gordon, was instrumental in helping his former club Newcastle City claim the trophy in 2020-21 as the competition's leading run scorer, which featured three whirlwind fifties.
Sabres skipper Mitch Nesbitt hopes Hunter will get back from South Australia, where he's currently having a short stint for Port Adelaide, for Wednesday's away clash with the Black Roses (Cardiff-Boolaroo) at Pasterfield Sports Complex.
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"Hopefully he's back because he certainly strengthens our squad," Nesbitt said.
"If he has a year like last year that's good for us. It was pretty crazy. He was striking at over 300 at times. It was freakish. He's definitely on a different level at the moment."
Hunter will miss opening-round fixtures against the Rebels (Suburban Districts) and Rosellas (Wests) at Learmonth Park on Sunday along with Nesbitt.
Aidan Cahill is also unavailable for City with under-19 World Cup duties in the West Indies while the likes of Ben Patterson, James Widerstrom and Cooper Southam were part of last season's final win over the Waratahs (Waratah-Mayfield) but won't line up this time around.
"It's a different looking side to the final last season, but hopefully we can start alright and improve through the competition," Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt, isolating as a COVID contact, says he hopes to be out in the middle again next week.
The Sabres have scored two imports from Sydney's Northern Districts - Chad Soper, who represented Papua New Guinea at the recent T20 World Cup, and Daniel Anderson.
Wests, off the back of securing a Tom Locker Cup crown by winning last weekend's one-day decider, have Joseph Price (hamstring) out of action, Brad Aldous skippering for James King (resting) and Zac McGuigan returning.
University of NSW player Jack Attenborough joins the Rebels.
Six other teams will be spread across two venues for T20 Summer Bash on Sunday.
Maitland Flood, bolstered by Scott Burkinshaw, host for the first time with the Whips (Belmont) and Magpies (Charlestown) travelling to Lorn Park.
New outfit the Hunter Thoroughbreds clash with the Waratahs and Pumas (Hamilton-Wickham), who welcome back Kain Anderson as a marquee, at Passmore Oval.
Round games are also scheduled for Wednesday, next Sunday and February 2, followed by quarter-finals.
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