A BAPTISM of fire at the elite level of Melbourne Country Week has South West Cricket (SWC) better prepared for its representative campaign next week.
The Travis Brown-captained side heads to Melbourne confident of at least matching its 2-2 record playing in the provincial grade for the first time last summer.
Brown, who has taken the reins from Steve Castle, was yesterday confident his men could match it with the best in the bush for a second year.
He said the experience gained from debuting at the top level 12 months ago would be invaluable as SWC chased against-the-odds success.
“I just think having been there and done it all before will help,” the Heytesbury Rebels skipper said yesterday.
“The experience we’ve got and with a little bit of youth coming in keeps it pretty upbeat.
“It’s pretty exciting still playing in provincial. You want to win the contest. The boys are keen for the contest we’ve got coming in the next week.
“And we know what to expect this year. We went into last year a little bit blind. We didn’t know what to expect. But we’ve been there, done that and can hit the ground running and hopefully get a few wins.”
Brown is one of nine cricketers who were part of the history-making squad which beat Ballarat and Murray Valley, but lost to Bendigo and District and Sale-Maffra.
Castle, Todd Lamont, Clinton Baker, Simon Baker, Josh Barr, Jake Reed, Ben Grinter and Fraser Lucas also know what it takes to play at provincial level.
The debutants are Chris Vogels, Chris Dendle and Wil Pomerin, while David Murphy is back after being unavailable last year.
“There are some blokes in pretty good form with the bat, which is a pretty big positive,” Brown said.
SWC opens its campaign against Geelong, one of the title favourites, at Merv Hughes Oval in Footscray on Monday.
Its other matches are against Leongatha at Kew on Tuesday, Bairnsdale at Glen Waverley on Wednesday and Murray Valley at Bayswater on Thursday.
A stroke of luck means it has avoided last year’s grand finalists Sale-Maffra and Mornington Peninsula, as well as Bendigo and District, which finished third.
Brown said he had yet to determine a batting and bowling line-up, but believed the squad had many options.
“We bat to eight and any of us can bat anywhere. That’s the beauty of the team. And there are plenty of bowling options,” he said.
He said the belief SWC belonged in provincial grade was the biggest lesson to emerge from the successful debut campaign.
“We are good enough if we want to be. We won two and lost two. We know we can match it with them,” he said.
“Goal number one is to win, that’s what you’re going there to do. Option two is if things go awry to stay in there (in provincial).
“But that’s in the back of the mind for now. Everyone would go down there with the same plan, to win games of cricket.”