WDCA captain wants young guns to step up in today’s Melbourne Country Week grand final

A PRACTICE session and quiet day instead of a gruelling knockout match has the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association (WDCA) representative side fresh for today’s Melbourne Country Week division two grand final.

Rain for the second consecutive day worked in Warrnambool’s favour, gifting it a grand final berth against Traralgon at the Albert Cricket Ground today.

Warrnambool’s match against Ballarat was called off yesterday without a ball being bowled after Wednesday night’s rain waterlogged the venue at Melton. Organisers then controversially transferred the game to Darley, a home ground of the Ballarat Cricket Association. But with the ground also wet there and the pitch under-prepared, the fixture was abandoned.

Warrnambool finished on top of the standings with 48.86 points, just 0.38 points — the equivalent of 38 runs or four wickets — ahead of Traralgon, with Ballarat third a further 0.15 points away.

WDCA skipper Brett Eldridge said his team had achieved the first part of its mission with a little bit of outside help.

“The weather has fallen into place. Hopefully the weather gods will continue to smile on us,” he said.

Eldridge said it was nice to be on the right side of variables like the weather and bonus points.

“They’ve worked for us and against us in the past. It shows every run is crucial,” he said. 

“To get that eight overs and make almost 100 runs against Mornington Peninsula on Tuesday and to score a few extra runs on the first day after we passed the total were crucial. They are why we are in the final.

“We played the best cricket out of anyone for the first three days and if it takes us into the final, then that’s good.”

Eldridge said his side would draw on last year’s win over Traralgon in the preliminary rounds.

“We played them last year and managed to beat them. We can take some confidence out of that. Even though we both have different teams, the core groups are the same,” he said.

Former state all-rounder Brad Knowles looms as a danger man for the WDCA.

Eldridge said he would be looking to experienced players like former skipper Ben Boyd and English import Karl Turner.

“In these real crunch matches you go to the experienced players. They tend to perform in those big matches,” Eldridge said.

“But there is an opportunity for young guys to make a hero of themselves and do something that no one will ever forget.”

Woodford all-rounder Jake McKinnon has been pivotal with both bat and ball in the first three days, while batsman Josh Stapleton, spinner Matt Brophy and batsman/wicketkeeper Michael Threlfall have all shown they can perform at representative level.

“We are still not playing our best cricket and that’s the beauty of it, we know we can improve,” Eldridge said.

He said his players were primed for today’s match as they search for a drought-breaking win and promotion to the elite provincial grade next year.

“Any opportunity to freshen up is good,” Eldridge said.

“It’s not going to be an advantage because Traralgon will have had the same opportunity. But from a team point of view we will go in fresh rather than it being a war of attrition.”

The day off ensures Nirranda paceman Jason Mungean will be fit to play after he suffered an ankle injury while fielding on Wednesday. Eldridge said Mungean would have been right to play yesterday but the light day was perfect.

The players had a 60-minute training session at Windy Hill, engaging in some “games” to “keep the bodies moving”.

The relaxed session was in contrast to the emotional beginning of the day, when officials moved the WDCA’s match from Melton to Darley, upsetting WDCA chiefs.

General manager Michael Harrison, who was back in Warrnambool, said he had lodged complaints with organisers about the switching of venues.

“They’ve been noted,” he said. “It’s something that has to be looked at for the future. From an association point of view, when you are playing Melbourne Country Week and the game is moved to their (opponent’s) home turf, that is disappointing.

“It’s a five-figure sum every year to go to Country Week and we have to make sure we get a level playing field. It’s a huge advantage playing on a home ground. If the competition was in Ballarat fine, but it’s not, it’s in Melbourne. It should have been shifted to somewhere in Melbourne not Ballarat.”

Rain also washed out Hamilton and District’s match against Ferntree Gully at Mount Waverley Reserve. Hamilton and District finished fifth with one win, one draw and two losses.

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