CRICKET, unlike many of its sporting rivals, knows its fate rests on the weather.
But, after three division one washouts in the first four rounds, Warrnambool and District Cricket Association players are starting to wonder when they'll stride out to the crease again.
The Standard asked 12 club leaders about the situation as an inclement weather forecast again casts doubt over this weekend's matches.
Already the opening turf games of the season have been switched to hard wickets with a cloud lingering over Saturday's fixtures.
Opinions are varied on what can be done - some are in favour of starting the season later in future and others believe replacing this season's two-day matches with one-dayers will help squeeze more matches in or at least get results.
The prospect of more twenty20 games midweek - perhaps in place of training - has also whet some leaders' appetites.
The general feel emanating from club leaders is an October start is too early.
A myriad of factors - from the rush between football and netball seasons to the unpredictable spring weather - are areas of concern.
Allansford-Panmure captain Kyall Timms believes a bigger gap between competitions might encourage more people to wield the willow in summer.
"For me a one-week overlap between footy (grand finals) and cricket is unattainable," he said.
"You've got to be respectful to the blokes that play footy and respectful to the blokes that play cricket.
"The years of blokes playing footy and cricket for me are less than what they used to be.
"You've got to be respectful to the actual players because what I think they've (the association) has done is lost sight of the participation factor and enjoyment factor and they're just trying to shove too much in too early."
Dennington skipper Shannon Beks, Northern Raiders co-captain Joe McKinnon and North Warrnambool Eels leader Bailey Jenkinson are three cricketers who also play senior football in the Hampden league.
Their sides - South Warrnambool and North Warrnambool Eagles - went deep into finals.
"The first month of the year if you're playing on hard wickets you're not really playing the best cricket you can and the way the weather is I think we definitely start too early," Beks said.
"People are more invested later in the year in the footy season now."
McKinnon echoed Beks' thoughts, as did Jenkinson.
"We played in the (football) grand final so if we were to play round one I would have only had one week off," McKinnon said.
"And I suppose I'm not the only person that's going to be in that boat and just the fact of the weather, we always seem to get washed out early."
Merrivale's Justin Lynch, Nestles' Jacob Hetherington and Russells Creek's Matthew Petherick would favour a later start too.
"I just think it allows people to have a bit of a break after football season and you get a good month of training under your belt," Lynch said.
"At least you can get there and start to have a clearer plan I think."
Brierly-Christ Church's Lachi Rooke was open to a delayed start but wouldn't want it later than the last weekend of October.
"You're always going to get washouts, this is just out-of-the-ordinary this year," he said. "But (a later start) gives a couple weeks outside of footy season, that breathing space, and some weekends to squeeze in practice games."
Meanwhile, Petherick would love more focus on turf games.
"I feel Bendigo does it really well, they push the season back and only do it on turf," he said.
"I think that's a step in the right direction for our league if we want to be one of the well-known comps around Victoria.
"The better cricketers don't want to play on hard wickets and it doesn't make us better cricketers anyway."
But not all leaders are sold on pushing the season start date back too far.
Mortlake skipper Todd Lamont conceded he thought "an October 1 start was a bit ambitious" but would be happy with a mid-month launch.
Port Fairy coach Brian Medew can see a pull for organisers either way.
"There's always a debate about starting later but it's really going to affect when we finish or we just have to shorten up the season, so there's always that catch-22," he said.
"It bothers me that local football (home-and-away seasons) will be finished in August or early September and then if we don't start until November, how do you hold peoples interest?
"They've already organised their lives and are heading to Christmas. I get the merits of starting later weather-wise but I just wonder if the enthusiasm might drift."
Wesley-Yambuk's Jason Mungean believes the navigating the weather is part-and-parcel of cricket.
"This has been one out of the box," he said of the washouts.
Two-day cricket remains a love from a purist's point-of-view but the demands of everyday life make one-day cricket more appealing to many of the Warrnambool and District competition's leaders.
West Warrnambool's Ben Threlfall is keen for this year's draw to remain as is but wants change in coming seasons.
"I think the best way to do it is play all one-dayers and play everyone twice home-and-away, or play all two-dayers and play everyone once, that's my preference. It makes it a lot more even," he said.
Jenkinson said shifting games from two-day to one-dayers this summer "might not be a bad idea at this stage" with three rounds lost and wet weather still looming. As for the future, Jenkinson remains a two-day proponent after it was put on the backburner in recent seasons.
"I'd like to see two-day cricket back and be the main format that's being played down here," Jenkinson said.
On the other hand, Medew believes one-day cricket helps players, particularly juniors dreaming of higher levels, and gives them a better chance to excel when they play representative cricket.
"I've certainly got a strong view that one-day cricket is the way to go but it probably needs to be increased to 50 overs rather than 45 and it becomes a 100-over day which is a big day," the Pirates coach said.
"Most pathway cricket selection they're looking at white-ball cricket, they're not necessarily looking at two-day cricket.
"It's inevitable where we are going to have to land, this season in particular to get it done.
"We have to get our heads out of the sand a bit - it's white-ball cricket dominating the game and people want results."
Timms, who praised the league for its hard work, raised concerns about November's jam-packed schedule.
"There's a Saturday-Sunday, a Saturday and then a Saturday-Sunday," the Gators mentor said.
"And that's just to fit more cricket in around the twenty20s. They're marriage killers."
One-day cricket helps with team selection and lessens headaches for those trying to cobble sides together, according to some leaders.
"Personally I'd rather play everyone once and just get it done rather than miss a few teams and play the two-dayers," McKinnon, of the Raiders, said.
"I know some sides like the two-dayers but I think logistically it's probably easier for picking sides and that with weddings and things."
Lynch loves playing two-day cricket but says "logistically I don't think it works anymore".
"I know personally as a coach it's a lot easier to select sides for one-dayers," he said.
"Just have the game won-and-done in one weekend for me.
"We're going through a bit of an economic downturn too at the moment.
"People are struggling for cash and here you are having to buy whites, having to buy yellows, you have to buy this, you have to buy that - different colour pads, different colour whites."
Rooke echoed Lynch's thoughts. He said as much as he loved two-day cricket, and the league should consider it each year, he wonders if some players, especially kids, were past it.
The Bulls leader also floated the idea of playing more one-dayers in whites and with the red ball considering players had already "forked out money" for new uniforms.
Hetherington said combining the two formats could give sides the best of both worlds.
"In England they play these one-dayers but the first team can bat for 60 overs and you give the second team about 40 or 50 overs to try and make the score, which could work down here," the Factory captain said.
"I think there needs to be a bit of both at the moment just so we're not losing red-ball cricket."
Beks, Petherick and Mungean would love two-day cricket to remain with Beks a fan of it at least being an option for division one.
Rooke said it should be considered each year, though was unsure what
Club leaders would welcome adding more short-form fixtures to this year's schedule.
Replacing training sessions with twenty20 hit-outs is favoured.
Beks said Dennington's players would love the chance to play more rivals.
"If we were playing them on a Tuesday night, realistically it's as good a cricket training you'd get anyway," he said.
"I think it would be better than having to catch them up on Sundays."
Lamont said Mortlake would also embrace the concept as it had played many midweek matches during its tenure in the South West competition.
"As long as it took out one of the training nights, everyone would be fine with that," he said.
"We have lights at our ground (at DC Farran Oval) so we'd be more than happy to play midweek twenty20s.
"It's probably a better option than Sunday cricket I would've thought for us."
Jenkinson and Threlfall believe the Eels and Panthers would embrace the concept too.
"Last year we played a few on Thursday night which I think was a good idea," Jenkinson said.
Threlfall said players would get behind a Thursday night twenty20 match instead of a training session.
Petherick believes midweek twenty20 games would also provide those in lower grades a chance to play division one.
"I'm all for it. It gives other people a chance to chop in and play some games as well who might not play division one through unavailability," he said.
Medew is a big fan of the shorter game and endorses it but is worried midweek matches could divide clubs.
"The only issue I have as coach is you have half your club back training on a Thursday night and you've got 11 or 12 players away playing on that night as well," he said.
Mungean and Rooke were concerned with potential start times.
"I am not a big fan of midweek - for us older blokes it's a little bit harder to get up and play midweek and weekends," Mungean said.
"I can see why people are voicing that but people may have to leave work early. There are some positives but I can see there being a lot of hassles for a lot of clubs."
Rooke said "numbers and availability were a factor" and preferred to keep as many twenty20 games on weekends where possible.
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