THIS time last year Ringwood fast bowler Michael Topp was hoping to carve out a spot in the Rams' first XI.
But after 30 wickets from 15 matches last season, the 20 year old is now the team's strike bowler and has set himself the task of matching and then beating last term's tally.
"At the start of last year I had a two-to-three-year plan and just wanted to improve and consolidate a place in the ones.
"But after last season's success I want to push myself to perform even better. I want to take at least two wickets a match and get 30 wickets again."
Topp is under no illusions just how difficult his task will be, as Premier Cricket batsmen seldom give their wickets away.
But with another emerging star, Mason Crozier, steaming in from the other end, Topp believes the Rams will be a much stronger side this season.
"I have done a lot of work over the preseason working on my technique, run-up and on keeping my intensity high," he said.
"I learned last year the competition is constant at this level. You can't have a bad ball and so you have to stay switched on all the time."
Topp's form last season also earned him a couple of berths in the Baby Bash Twenty20 competition, although he also missed out on a few chances to play under-23 cricket for Victoria due to washouts.
As a former rookie contract player with the Bushrangers, Topp is still part of the Victorian academy program and trains on occasion with the state team.
He hopes he can earn more chances to play in the Baby Bash and under-23 competitions this summer.
The Rams' top order looks much stronger with the return of former Victorian batsman Tom Stray to the club and Ben Osborne returning as captain.
Topp said Stray had already made his mark with some wise words for the club's emerging batsmen while proving a tough opponent in the nets.
"It's good to have someone with his experience. He is the only one with that level of experience in our group at the moment. It's been good to have him back."
Topp also played footy during the winter with his home club, Ferntree Gully, in the Eastern Football League division 4 competition.
He is also putting his experiences in cricket training to good use during his exercise science course.
"I'm halfway through my second year; I hope to be a PE teacher by the time I finish uni."
After taking the new ball in the Rams' practice match in Albury last month, Topp is now fired up for the season ahead.
"I'm pretty excited, it's good to finally get to the start of the season."
Premier Cricket starts this Saturday.