Victoria the team to beat at Sheffield Shield
WITH New South Wales winning one of the most one-sided domestic one-day competitions in recent memory, the team will take plenty of confidence into this summer's Sheffield Shield campaign.
But Test stars such as Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood, Nathan Lyon, Peter Nevill and David Warner will return to national duty after the first round of Shield games which start today.
That means the Blues won't have it all their way if they want to win both competitions this summer.
Last season: Champions. Prediction: First.
Hard to see the Bushrangers relinquishing their crown. Have great depth, evidenced by internationals Aaron Finch and Cameron White being left out of the team for the first game against Queensland, starting today at the MCG.
Bowling line-up is the best in the competition, including Australian representatives James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, John Hastings, Fawad Ahmed and Dan Christian. The batting is also strong with Australian representatives Matthew Wade, Peter Handscomb (Australia A), Rob Quiney, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis in the squad.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Last season: Third. Prediction: Second.
The team will be ripped apart by Test departures after the first round, but there is still enough quality for the Blues to improve on last season.
Nic Maddinson was tremendous at the top of the order in the Matador Cup with two hundreds and looks set for a great season. Throw in Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Ed Cowan and Moises Henriques - all with international experience - and the team should be competitive even without its Test stars.
Last season: Second. Prediction: Third.
Will be stung by the loss of Test players Adam Voges, Mitchell Johnson, Mitch and Shaun Marsh, and most likely emerging opener Cameron Bancroft. But Michael Klinger was outstanding with the bat last season - he was the Shield's second-highest scorer with 1046 runs at 58.11.
The Warriors also have last season's second-highest Shield wicket-taker in left-arm quick Jason Behrendorff, who took 40 scalps at 22.75.
Last season: Fourth. Prediction: Fourth
Showed some promising signs to finish as runners-up in the Matador Cup.
Strong batting line-up with the likes of Tom Cooper, Mark Cosgrove, Callum Ferguson and Jake Lehmann. Young leg-spinner Adam Zampa is ready for a big season after snaring 11 scalps in the Matador Cup. Also a handy batsman.
Last season: Fourth. Prediction: Fifth.
Last season's captain James Hopes has admitted this summer would be a rebuilding one for the Bulls, although they still have plenty of match-winners in Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Peter George, Chris Hartley, Hopes and young pace gun Mark Steketee.
The real test will come in the side's first five rounds, with just one match at the Gabba.
Last season: Sixth. Prediction: Sixth
Just can't see the Tigers getting off the bottom of the ladder this summer.
Some good bowling options in Jackson Bird, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner and Andrew Fekete, but not enough depth in the batting.
ROUND ONE: Victoria v Qld, Tasmania v WA, SA v NSW.