SOUTH West and Warrnambool cricket association representative teams are taking different approaches to achieving the same goal when Melbourne Country Week opens today.
Both sides are desperate to start with wins — a result that eluded them at country cricket’s premier representative tournament last year.
While South West Cricket overcame its slow start by then winning three of its next four games, including the division two grand final, the WDCA, playing in the same division, never recovered.
SWC captain Steven Castle said his side was breaking with tradition as it prepared for its historic debut in the elite provincial grade.
Instead of a Sunday bus trip, Castle’s players spent last night in their own beds before leaving early this morning. “Traditionally we haven’t started that well on the Monday,” Castle said.
A favourable draw, in which it plays Ballarat in Geelong today, helped make the decision.
“We’ve been lucky enough the last couple of years to drop a game and still go on to make the final,” he said.
“In provincial you just can’t afford to drop a game.”
Castle played down the significance of last year’s division two win achieved in a grade that included Warrnambool and District and Hamilton associations and earning it the title of the region’s number one association.
“I suppose you argue that going on the result,” Castle said. “But Hamilton beat us on the Monday and we beat Warrnambool on the Tuesday. But to chase 260 or 270 (against Warrnambool) you don’t do that every day of the week. I wouldn’t go out and say we have the right to say we are any stronger than them.
“At Melbourne Country Week it is quite difficult to get up to provincial and we are pleased to achieve that.
“You would make a very strong argument that the Warrnambool league is a stronger league but I’ve always said the best players in our league are among the best going around. But I don’t think we have the depth of say Warrnambool,” he said.
“I am still extremely confident we have some very good cricketers in our side who will be equal to who we are playing against.” Castle said the strength of his squad was its stability, with the majority having played together at Melbourne for the past five years, starting in division four.
“Maybe there are a lot of blokes (in other sides) who go there thinking it is their right to play at that level but we have had to work very hard to get there,” he said.
“A lot of us are at the pointy end of our careers and we are keen to make the most of it.
“If you think about it from a top-down perspective, at the top we want to win, at the bottom we want to stay in the grade.
“If we win a couple of games I would say most of us would come home satisfied. I want to see a lot of the individuals who have got us to where we are playing well against the bigger associations and that they show they are at that level as individuals.”
WDCA skipper Brett Eldridge said his side had been building for three years for a shot at provincial and he believed it had done everything to prepare well.
Simply, the WDCA wants to win.
He said the WDCA wasn’t motivated by the loss last year to South West on the second day that ultimately sank its hopes of winning a promotion to provincial grade.
“It is something the group who was down there has to wear,” he said. “We are going down there to get back up.”
The WDCA travelled to its base yesterday ahead of today’s match against Traralgon at Oakleigh. Hamilton is also in division two with a meeting against Warrnambool on Wednesday expected to be a grudge match.