A BUNCH of self-confessed “bush cricketers” who barely train together have resisted changing their casual approach as they prepare for an historic debut at the highest level.
South West Cricket, an association centred around the towns of Camperdown, Terang, Mortlake and Cobden, will start underdog in each of its four matches in the top grade at the state’s premier representative team tournament, Melbourne Country Week.
The association’s rise to power is the stuff of movie scripts. With small towns struggling to survive, SWC was born out of a merger between Mount Emu Creek, Timboon-Stoneyford and Western Plains-Mininera associations in 1996.
For much of the team that will take on country Victoria’s best cricketers next week, the journey started five years ago. The side won division four at Melbourne Country Week, was promoted to division three and won that, then it was promoted to division two. It missed out on a final in 2010 but won the title last year just days after a long-time cricket administrator from the region declared it wouldn’t win a game after being humbled in its first match.
Now it is in provincial grade.
Captain Steven Castle said the build-up for his squad, which has three new faces, was similar to last year — playing cricket on Saturdays with their clubs. Last Sunday the players got together for a practice match against themselves in Terang.
“In terms of the preparation, a lot of our team are guys who just love turning up and playing on Saturday,” Castle said.
“We take it very seriously when the game is on. A lot of us are a bit past that real commitment and intense build-up.
“I don’t know if we would have got a lot of support if we had tried to change it too much. (This way) they are not at all drained and don’t have a feeling this is something different.
“We often joke we turn up before the game and have a walk around and a chat and there will be other teams who will be out there an hour before, throwing and running around. It is just not the environment we come from. Sometimes we like to play on that.
“Sometimes we don’t mind if that perception of us is we are maybe not at that level of professionalism. I’ve seen time and time again in a lot of different sports it doesn’t mean you get better results.
“We are just bush cricketers. But when the game starts we will be as serious as anyone.”
Castle said he was comfortable with his side’s lead-up to the tournament.
“We’ve never really had a big focus on practice,” he said.
“We’ve never been in a position where we have had to select squads because we have had a consistent group of players available and they have been in good form. We haven’t had to go through selection sessions.”
Castle said the side needed to field well and score heavily.
“From a batting point of view, you are less likely to get the opportunity to score as freely as we have in the past,” he said.
Terang all-rounder Liam Geary, Pomborneit wicketkeeper Grant Place, Boorcan paceman Gus Bourke and teenage Cobden opening bowler Jake Reed are SWC’s newest representatives.
Missing from last year’s victorious squad are wicketkeeper Dave Murphy, who is unavailable, Terang’s Oliver Fitzpatrick, who has left the area for studies, and Mortlake’s Todd Robertson.