GRASSMERE Cricket Association will hinge its Bendigo Country Week hopes on a depth-laden batting line-up.
GCA selectors yesterday revealed the 13-man squad they will take to the tournament, from January 20 to 24.
Six of the eight A grade clubs are represented, with Panmure, Hawkesdale and Yambuk each supplying three players.
The talent with the willow runs deep, although only one bowler — Yambuk paceman Kevin McElgunn — is in the top 10 on the wickets tally.
Hawkesdale pair Murray Habel and Josh Julius, Grassmere gun Braden Hotker and Wangoom opener Brett Tory are four of the top five run-makers.
James McKinnon (Panmure) is yet to lose his wicket this season, while Aaron Peterson (Purnim) made 191 runs at Bendigo Country Week this year.
The squad also includes Chris Bant, Tom Mahony (Panmure); David West (Hawkesdale); Dan Oakley, Jason Alberts (Yambuk); and Luke Ryan (Purnim).
Rory Towler (Hawkesdale) and Ben Julius (Yambuk) are the emergencies.
The notable omissions are Grassmere captain Chris Lenehan and Yambuk batsman Steve Gleeson, who are unavailable.
Lenehan has taken 16 wickets at 6.88 for the season, while Gleeson leads the runs tally with 393 at 98.25.
GCA team manager Norm Gibson said he was pleased with the calibre of players who had made themselves available.
Gibson said playing at Bendigo, as opposed to Melbourne, had regenerated interest in representative cricket among players.
Grassmere finished runner-up in division three at its first Bendigo Country Week, losing to Goulburn Murray Colts in the grand final.
“I’ve been involved with Melbourne Country Week with Grassmere for five or six years,” Gibson said.
“The lack of success, you’re getting beaten every game, that turns guys off from going away.
“A change of plan to go to Bendigo and having a bit of success, winning a couple of games and playing in the grand final, has got people talking. I think they’ve found their level they can compete at, which is a good sign.”
Gibson believed the squad was stronger than in 2013. He was pleased with the mix of youth and experience.
“We’re looking at a pretty good showing,” he said.
“We originally started with a 30-man squad when we put it out two or three weeks ago and in the end we had 18 or 19 available to go.
“We’ve got that down to 13 and two emergencies. It’s the first time we’ve had a hit before Christmas for Country Week.”