THE competition structure is out and the intrigue can begin.
Which of Warrnambool and District Cricket Association’s (WDCA) new conferences will prove strongest during a landmark summer?
WDCA officials have finalised the six sides which will play in the “Hopkins” and “Merri” conferences during season 2013-14.
The Hopkins conference includes reigning premier Merrivale, Allansford, Brierly-Christ Church, East Warrnambool-YCW, Russells Creek and Woodford.
The Merri conference has runner-up Dennington, Nestles, Nirranda, Port Fairy, Wesley-CBC and West Warrnambool.
The sides will play their conference rivals twice during the regular season, in a one-day match and a two-day match.
The top two in each conference will play in crossover semi-finals, with the victors to meet in the grand final.
WDCA general manager Michael Harrison said the allocation preserved the Forever Young Shield match between Woodford and Russells Creek.
The match, which honours the lives of six friends who died in a car crash at Penshurst in November 2011, was the only stipulation officials had in determining who played who.
“It’s been set up with the support and sponsorship of the TAC and both cricket clubs, Woodford and Russells Creek,” Harrison said.
Wesley-CBC skipper Andrew Cheeseman said the presence of Woodford and Merrivale made the Hopkins conference slightly tougher.
But having Nestles, a powerhouse of the competition which dropped to 10th last season, in the Merri conference would provide plenty of intrigue, he said.
“Nestles, they didn’t have a good year last year but we know they’re better than that,” Cheeseman said.
“You don’t know what the year is going to do.”
East Warrnambool-YCW captain Mick Townsend said he was pleased his side would get to play Brierly-Christ Church for the Murphy-O’Keefe Shield.
Townsend said the Broncos defeated or were competitive against every side in the Hopkins conference except Merrivale last season. “It seems like our division is going to be pretty close,” he said.
“Last year we beat Woodford and drew with Dennington and they were in the top four.
“We had a good contest with Allansford and beat Wesley. Merrivale was the only one that gave us a touch-up.”
The Broncos have lured Yambuk all-rounder Jethro Serle, West Warrnambool batsman Cory McNaughton and Portland teen Grayson Widmer to Jones Oval.
Dennington captain Dustin Drew said he believed the conference system would strengthen cricket in Warrnambool.
He was unsure which conference would be stronger but was adamant the Dogs would have to improve.
“It didn’t matter what they did, it wasn’t going to suit everyone,” he said.
“But as far as I’m concerned, I think it’s great.
“The only problem I see is I always like to play somewhere like Allansford. It’s as good a ground as there is to play cricket at. But we might not get the chance to play there.”
The division two structure features the same teams with the exception of Koroit replacing Nirranda in the Merri conference.
The season starts on October 12, the first of three weekends of Twenty20 cricket.
The one-day matches will be held on November 9, 16, 23 and 30 and December 14, with the final on December 21.
Two-day cricket gets under way from January 4. Semi-finals will be played on March 15 and 16 and the grand final on March 22 and 23.