NOSTALGIA is one of humankind's great imperfections. As a species, it's easy to look upon the past more fondly than the present. Why is that?
Psychologists believe the human brain tends to skip over bad memories and remember the good or spectacular instead.
In the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association's case, it's easy to look back on bygone eras and remember the famous drawn-out battles and impressive depth fondly.
But was the game actually better 10 to 15 years ago? The Standard has delved deep to find out how the game has evolved in the south-west and if today's players stand up to those of old.
Geoff Williams remembers opening the batting in a legend-laden Nestle side as a fresh-faced 20-year-old.
Batting time was his key instruction. Stay in until tea, he was told each week.
"I was always taught to see off the opening bowlers and not really go for it," Williams says.
"I was a little bit aggressive back in the day and I was told not to play a cut shot or a pull shot before I was on 20 runs.
"They were the rules I was given by 'Lefty' Wright and Ross Corbett and if I went out playing a pull shot or a cut shot, I knew all about it."
Williams says the coaching and advice given to young players in 2022 had changed due to the rise of short-form cricket.
"You tell young lads now to play their shots. It's about seeing the ball and hitting the ball," he said.
"You can't cut that sort of stuff out. I know Jake (Hetherington) is our captain now but for a long time he was going out playing pull shots too early. Guys now go for it from ball one.
"Cam (Williams) was the same, back in the day. You look at him now - he plays a flick shot because I used to bowl to him on the pads in backyard cricket because we could only score hitting straight.
"I play straight because I used to make runs playing straight and he plays a flick shot because that's the only place I'd bowl so I'd win every week.
"He had to control that when he was younger because he'd play it and go out every week. People would basically say 'we'll put two out there for Cam'."
Talent still there
So how does the talent overall stack up to 10 to 15 years ago?
Williams says Warrnambool players' success on the representative stage suggests the top-end talent is every bit as strong as it always has been.
"What those players are doing in Vic Country cricket is also a factor when they get the chance. We have the talent here to be very good," he says.
Nathan Murphy agrees. The Brierly-Christ Church champion, who is in near career-best form at 34, says players like Cam Williams and Ben Threlfall would make runs regardless of the competition.
"They'd be no worries at all," he says. "It's just different formats. I kind of feel sorry for the younger blokes today because the older blokes before even my era, were taught back and across because they weren't wearing helmets.
"If they were facing a quick they had to get inside it and hook it or evade it. The younger guys now they're probably not getting taught defence. That's whole philosophy seems to have changed - it's now play your shots, work out what's comfortable.
"Unless they're really, really talented, they're probably not getting exposed to that two-day cricket and the technical form because you've got to be sort of going down to Melbourne at the age of 16 to get that really good coaching.
"I see a lot of juniors now who're taught to play their shots and their technique won't hold up even in a two-day format."
He says younger players might be gifted more division one cricket than in the past because short-form cricket allows clubs to blood talent. But Murphy, who will go down as one of the Bulls' greatest-ever, admits more opportunity for kids isn't a negative.
West Warrnambool coach Alastair Templeton says there are a lot of clubs who have their "best-ever" players hitting the field.
"If you go to Brierly, the Murphys are probably their best-ever players and there'd be other clubs in that same position" he says.
"Talent-wise, I don't think there's a massive difference. I just think it's that now, we have more teams than we used to have and they're more spread out."
Templeton doesn't buy claims the league was stronger in years gone by.
"It wasn't that it was stronger - it's just as strong now - I think another factor was back then, they did relegation and there were only eight teams in division one," he says.
"That meant there was a bit of talent log-jam, because everyone wanted to play ones. Now, there's another 22 division one players because we have 10 in the top grade.
"I reckon now the good players are more evenly spread out. Back then the good sides were always stacked and the lesser teams struggled to recruit. It just felt like it was hard to pry division one players out of other clubs because there weren't many options."
Allansford-Panmure's Ben Boyd - one of the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association's most decorated bowlers - believes talented run-scorers are still available but talented quicks find themselves playing in Melbourne at a younger age than in the past.
"It's a challenging one. If you've exited the game, you'd probably say in the old days the standard was better," he said.
"If you've still been involved you see the best cricketers in Warrnambool are still some of the best in country Victoria. It's just whether or not they were available at the time to go and chase other accolades, I guess."
Cricket's changing demographics
Warrnambool cricket was an elder stateman's game when Alastair Templeton first broke into West Warrnambool's division one side.
Templeton, who is now coaching the Davidson Oval-based club, remembers watching players like Leigh Johnson, Mick Edmonds, Simon Johnson and Andrew Robb taking teams apart.
"The league ebbs and flows age-wise, but it feels like teams were older back then," he says.
"Maybe I was young but it was definitely older. I look at our side then I was pretty much the only lad under 24. I was 17. We had a lot of blokes between 28 and 34 in their prime.
"We had a really good side. Allansford were exactly the same. Connor Arnott was my age but apart from that, there were guys like Sam McCluggage, Kyall Timms, Bill Primmer and Steve Gibbs - those blokes were all in their prime."
Merrivale also had a wealth of talented veterans. Players like Simon Fleming, Bill Fary, Matt Wilkinson and Richard McKeller were all still plying their trade and doing it successfully.
Mediums over quicks
Is the art of fast bowling dying out? Templeton, Boyd, Murphy and Merrivale captain-coach Justin Lynch all agree more pacemen were doing the rounds more than a decade ago.
Boyd said medium-pace bowlers had enjoyed most of the wicket-taking spoils in recent years.
"The off-pace seamers seem to have been taking most of the wickets over the past 15 years or so in Warrnambool," he said.
"It hasn't been a benefit to be quick. We all know the Petherick brothers (Matt and Jarrod) aren't fast, and you go back to Col Pascoe - he won the wickets one year.
"Medium pacers seem to be rewarded in Warrnambool for wickets and there aren't as many fast bowlers as there once was. Across all country cricket leagues, they're hard to find. You're normally in district or subbies cricket at least if you've got any pace."
Murphy echoed Boyd's sentiments.
"Back in the day, you'd face two quick bowlers first-up and the first change would be just as fast," he said.
"I'm thinking Mick Rantalls, Paddy Smith, 'Beasa' MacLean... You were generally back in your crease because they had a bit of pace behind them.
"Now there's not so much of that anymore. Your medium-pacers are dominant across the board."
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