MERRIVALE is looking to beat defending premier West Warrnambool at its own game when the two clubs clash in a semi-final for the second consecutive year today.
Merrivale skipper Michael Walsh said his side had looked closely at the Panthers’ approach following last season’s heavy defeat in the semi-final. The following weekend, West went on to claim a drought-breaking premiership.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want it to be like last year. It was pretty disappointing,” Walsh said yesterday.
“We have got a few new faces, but we are definitely a better team than we were last year.
“Our batting has improved the most.
“We have made a lot more 200s than what we did last year. We looked at West and they make 200 or 220 and nine times out of 10 they win.
“They have set the standard, really. You have to try and beat them at their own game — keep wickets in hand and at tea be 80 to 100 and then push on.”
Walsh said that while the match-up was the same, the circumstances were different entering today’s match at Reid Oval.
Last season, West finished third and Merrivale second. Today, the Panthers enter the semi-final as minor premier and Merrivale, after defeating Russells Creek last week, finished fourth.
“They were always the best team in it last season and we are probably facing the best team in it again this season,” Walsh said.
“But we are probably coming in with a bit more confidence sitting fourth. We haven’t got that responsibility, you haven’t got that little tag of being the better side and having expectations.”
He said the Tigers would take a nothing-to-lose attitude into the contest.
“We know what we have to do. Last year it was the first year in the finals for a while and I think we are better for the run,” he said.
Panthers skipper Ben Dobson said his side wasn’t looking back at last season’s semi-final result.
“Different year, different game,” he said.
“I don’t pay too much attention to where you finished on the ladder. If you are good enough to get there, anyone can win it.”
The Panthers made two changes to the side that won a tense game which determined top spot last week against Dennington, with paceman Anthony Hawken returning for his second division one game of the season.
The classy paceman has taken nine wickets at an average of 5.56 in division two from just six games.
Quality batsman Alex O’Connor also returns, with Stuart Poyner unlucky to be left out and teenager Jye Turland is unavailable.