Title-holding State Canterbury Magicians will have to play catch-up when the State League 2005-06 starts on December 27.
As the defending champions begin their defence in Round 2 against State Central Hinds at their new QE II Park Village Green home, their rivals have the chance to gain an advantage.
This season's State League action begins with matches at the University Oval, Dunedin as State Otago Sparks entertain State Central Hinds and at the Basin Reserve as State Wellington Blaze play State Auckland Hearts.
Wellington then relocates to the newly renovated Trentham Memorial Park at Upper Hutt for their remaining home matches.
Last year's beaten finalists State Auckland Hearts have lost Emily Drumm to State Northern Spirit but welcome back former White Fern Michelle Lynch. Wicket-keeper Rebecca Rolls will once again captain the side.
Northern Districts have acquired White Fern Emily Drumm who will add experience to their batting line up and, combined with the White Ferns pace bowling duo of Louise Milliken and Nicola Browne, they will be serious contenders for the competition.
Former Wellington pace bowler Lincoln Doull takes over as coach of State Central Hinds. A number of promising youngsters are included in the Hinds team and they will join with experienced White Ferns Aimee Mason and Sara McGlashan in a young and talented batting line up. Stalwart medium-pace bowler and former White Fern Donna Trow will lead the bowling attack.
State Wellington Blaze will miss the leadership and run scoring ability of retired White Ferns captain Maia Lewis and promising all-rounder Sophie Devine who will miss the season due to injury.
However, they welcome back former White Ferns opening batsman Anna Smith (nee O'Leary).
Former England pace bowler Clare Taylor will lead State Otago Sparks as player/coach and they will be relying on her experience and the talent of White Ferns squad members Katey Martin, Suzie Bates and Sarah Tsukigawa to offset the loss of Paula Flannery and Rachel Pullar.
Their home matches will be played at the University Oval, Dunedin although they take on neighbour State Canterbury Magicians in the last round at Molyneux Park, Alexandra.
The State League is played over six rounds, culminating in the final on Saturday 28 January 2006 at the home venue of the top qualifier.
for the full State League 2005-06 schedule