Birthday boy steps up in age — and pace 

WARRNAMBOOL teenager Tom Smith is hoping to make his 17th birthday one to remember when he makes his senior representative debut at today’s Western Waves festival of cricket in Hamilton.

The West Warrnambool paceman turns 17 next week but he put in an early request for gifts — wickets and a team triumph this weekend.

“That would be really, really good,” he said.

Smith is one of six new faces in the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association’s number one side for today’s three Twenty20 matches and, should the team qualify, tomorrow’s grand final.

Smith, his Panthers teammate and bowling partner Will Mills, West captain Ben Dobson, WDCA captain Brett Eldridge, vice-captain Dustin Drew and Russells Creek’s Shanaka Perumpuli, are the new additions to the WDCA side which claimed consecutive victories in the tournament last year.

He revealed he found out about his selection via a text message from Eldridge a couple of weeks ago.

“I was in Melbourne at the time,” he said.

“I quickly texted him back saying I would be right to play. It should be fun.”

The Emmanuel College student said he was excited about making his first senior representative side and hopes it won’t be his last.

Like his teammates today, he has his sights set on doing well and earning selection in the association’s squad for the Melbourne Country Week carnival in February.

While the week-long event poses a potential headache for Smith, who starts his year 12 studies next year, he was optimistic he could mix cricket and school. “I’m sure we can work something out.”

He is not getting too far ahead of himself, having fought back from a major setback two months ago.

Smith suffered a groin injury while representing Victoria Country against a metropolitan side at Cobram Barooga and missed the opening round of the WDCA season with the reigning premier West Warrnambool.

The game was a washout but he hasn’t missed a match since, nursing himself back to full fitness while bowling off a short run-up for the Panthers.

“It’s getting better,” he said. “I’m off the long-run and hopefully I can get a few wickets this weekend.

“It will be good to play with all of those experienced players.

“My body is good, the groin is getting better and now the balls are coming out a bit quicker.”

Smith is highly regarded by captain Eldridge, who described him and Mills among the quickest the association had seen for some time. He has taken 12 wickets at an average of 10.25 in four matches with the Panthers this season.

grbest@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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