SOUTH WEST Cricket captain Steven Castle declares his side is ready for its Melbourne Country Week provincial debut.
The top division newcomer will face Ballarat, Bendigo, Sale-Maffra and Murray Valley in its four preliminary games at the February tournament.
SWC avoided reigning premier Geelong in the draw.
Castle said SWC, fresh from its 2012 division two title, was respectful of its opponents and confident in its own ability.
SWC has progressed up the Melbourne Country Week ranks in recent years, winning division four in 2009 and division three in 2010 before finishing third in its division two debut in 2011.
“They are all from relatively big competitions and have played at that level for a long time,” Castle said of his side’s opponents.
“There are definitely no easy beats, that’s for sure.
“We have had a consistent core group playing which has brought us up from division four to provincial in the past four or five years. We go down there and expect to perform well. We are going down there to be very competitive. It’s very exciting.
“A number of us played when we were winning few games or no games in division four. Those guys have committed to advancing the league at that level.
“We are certainly keen to take the final step.”
The Pomborneit opener has three centuries to his credit this season.
He said SWC couldn’t afford a slow start to the competition.
“The last few years we haven’t had a good start on the Monday and if you reach this level you won’t get too many chances if you don’t bring your A game on the first day,” Castle said.
He said the SWC squad would be finalised later this month or early February.
“I am hoping a lot of people make themselves available to go down,” he said.
“It is an opportunity to play good teams on good grounds, as well.”
Warrnambool and District Cricket Association has drawn Traralgon, Yarra Valley, Hamilton and West Gippsland in its four division two preliminary matches.
The Mick Rantall-coached side will go into the competition hoping to join SWC in the highest grade.
“That’s what WDCA wants to do but, at the end of the day, we have to do the hard work and try and win every day and earn our sport and get up to provincial where we want to be,” Rantall said.
“It doesn’t matter what grade you are in, you don’t take anything for granted.”
Rantall said the WDCA squad would come from the two teams which won divisions one and two at Hamilton’s Festival of Cricket.
He said Brierly-Christ Church captain Nathan Murphy would also come into contention after finding form with the bat.
Melbourne Country Week runs from February 18 to 22.