THE Warrnambool and District Cricket Association’s representative side will look to reassert its standing as the region’s best when it chases a hat-trick of victories in the Twenty20 Festival of Cricket in Hamilton today.
The WDCA, long considered the benchmark in the region, will be out to make a statement after losing to neighbouring South West Cricket in Melbourne Country Week division two competition earlier this year.
South West Cricket then went on to win the Melbourne title and earn promotion to the highest grade for next February’s tournament — a position the WDCA hoped to be in.
The Melbourne results add spice to today’s 10.30am showdown between the two as they both look to step up preparations for Melbourne.
New WDCA captain Brett Eldridge said his side was better prepared to defend its Festival of Cricket title today than it was last year.
In an ominous warning to rivals, Eldridge said the WDCA’s quest for a hat-trick of victories in the Twenty20 tournament for associations from across western Victoria was ahead of last year’s even before a ball was bowled.
The 13-man squad has already trained three times together, compared with none last year, and key personnel unavailable last year are primed for a tilt at the title.
Eldridge, who missed last year’s festival with a serious back injury, is fit and in form with both bat and ball while his vice-captain, Dennington skipper Dustin Drew, another in-form all-rounder, is preparing to make his debut in the tournament, having been unavailable for the previous six.
Eldridge said the tournament was a key part of the build up to next February’s Melbourne Country Week but this weekend’s matches were more than just practice.
“Country Week is the ultimate one for us because we feel we owe it to the association to perform down there and get the result,” Eldridge said.
“We’ve had really close games between the associations and any time you take the field against them (SWC) you know it’s going to be 100 per cent full on no matter where or when it is.
“We go in there with a point to prove early in the representative year. We have to make a statement.
“But history will show we have won the Twenty20 (before) and it hasn’t put us in good stead.”
For the first time, the WDCA will field two sides, with the under 21 division scrapped this year.
Eldridge said selectors had made it clear those representing the division two side this weekend were on trial — perform well and the pressure would be on players in the division one side.
The division one side faces South West Cricket, Horsham and Hamilton today with the top sides playing off in the grand final tomorrow at 1.30pm.