COLCHESTER and East Essex Cricket Club stalwart Julian Russell says taking over as the club’s first-ever Director of Cricket feels like a good fit.

The Australian is preparing for his 15th season at Castle Park and will combine his new role with playing for the first XI.

Colchester get another Shepherd Neame Essex League division one campaign underway tomorrow when they host Loughton, at Castle Park.

Russell said: “We’ve had a look at some of the things at the club that we’d like to build on and improve.

“It feels like a good fit for the type of involvement on and off the pitch, helping the next generation of our cricketers through and putting structures in place, making sure there is a transition to senior cricket.

“As it’s a new role, there are a few things that we’re still sorting out as we go along.

“But I’ve played for the club for a number of years now and know a lot of the key people involved.

“We didn’t have as strong a season as we’d have liked, last year.

“But our under-19s had a very successful time of it and there’s a good core of young players there who have played some senior cricket.

“They’re a good, close-knit group of players and we’re looking to push them into senior cricket and keep challenging them, both on and off the field.

“We always welcome players who are interested in playing cricket for Colchester and East Essex.

“We’re always looking for players to come in if they want to play for us, rather than fill gaps in our ranks.

“But at the same time, we’re taking the approach this year to grow our own players and a team that’s been playing together will be stronger in the long term.”

Russell’s appointment as Director of Cricket is one of several changes at Colchester ahead of the new season.

Darren Eckford has been appointed as the club’s first XI skipper while Kiwi Johnny Bassett-Graham has arrived from Auckland to take on a role as player-coach.

There have also been departures too, with the likes of Jake Foley and Ollie Bocking leaving the club.

“Darren is the new skipper and has a refreshing approach to club culture,” said Russell.

“There’s also Johnny Bassett-Graham as player-coach who is very much of the same mindset.

“They bring some experience to the club.”

Colchester are hoping to get the new season off to a winning start against Loughton tomorrow.

“Loughton are a strong team and we’re looking forward to the game,” added Russell, who is set to open the batting for Colchester this weekend.

“We came close last year and we’re expecting the division that we’re in to be very similar.

“There will be some tough opponents but it’s an 18-game season and it’s a case of making sure that our best and our worst are not too far apart.

“We have to make sure that we’re consistent in the way in which we approach the job every week.”