CRICKET selectors believe they have assembled a representative squad capable of lifting Warrnambool and District into the elite grade of Melbourne Country Week.
But the 14 cricketers bound for Melbourne do not include the WDCA leading wicket taker, East Warrnambool-YCW spearhead Jason Alberts.
Alberts, 37, was the most controversial omission of the talent-laden squad, and social media lit up with people calling for his inclusion.
Chairman of selectors Ray Drew said selectors had picked players they believed could handle the rigours of five consecutive days of one-day cricket.
Drew described the squad as “the best side we feel can represent Warrnambool with an eye to the future”.
Nestles batsman Brett Eldridge is captain and Dennington all-rounder Dustin Drew is vice-captain.
Woodford has the most representatives with three — Hank Schlaghecke, Nick Butters and Jake McKinnon.
Other members include Jason Mungean, DamonDelaney (Nirranda), Ben Dobson, Tom Smith (West Warrnambool), Cam Williams (Nestles), Aaron Williams (Port Fairy), Nathan Murphy (Brierly-Christ Church), Ben Boyd (Russells Creek) and Josh Stapleton (Merrivale).
“We’ve picked a side that we believe is fit and up to playing five days of cricket in a row,” Ray Drew said.
“Jason is unlucky. The selectors are very happy with the side they’ve picked. We’ve not only picked a side to do well down there, we’ve kept an eye on future years too.
“They’re all young, fit and have trained well.”
Among other surprises was a lack of a frontline spinner, with pace and medium bowlers to shoulder the workload with the ball.
But tweakers Matt Brophy (Allansford) and Nayantha Weeraman (Port Fairy) were unable to commit to the full week.
“The whole association is light on for spin bowling,” Drew said.
Drew said the squad was younger and fitter than previous years but with just as much raw talent.
“So far they’ve trained pretty well. They’re probably one of the fittest sides that’s gone to Melbourne in a long time,” he said.
“It does make a difference at the end of the week when you have to come out and play on Friday.
“We’ve picked a side to win the final.”
Warrnambool and District will contest division two of Melbourne Country Week, from February 18 to 22.
The squad will play Hamilton and District in a practice match at Hamilton’s Melville Oval on February 10.