By Julian Bayard
WITH a squad filled with both experience and youth, the West Gippsland Cricket Association’s (WGCA) 2010 Country Week campaign will probably be remembered as the one that got away.
Two losses from the first two matches effectively ruled the Warriors out of finals contention, however, fighting victories on the Wednesday and Thursday of the week proved the WGCA could be more than competitive in Division Two.
As with all Country Week carnivals, a win on day one can set up the whole week and against eventual premiers Traralgon, the Warriors weren’t far off scoring what would have been a sensational victory.
Bowling first at Dandenong’s Shepley Reserve, the Warriors looked in trouble when Traralgon reached 2/127 from 35 overs, before an inspired spell of bowling from Shane Dole brought his side back into the match, eventually restricting Traralgon to 9/204 from its 50 overs.
Dole was simply outstanding for the WGCA, being on a hat-trick twice throughout the innings on his way to 6/36 from 10 overs.
In reply, the Warriors were in all sorts of trouble at 7/98, however, a defiant partnership between Aaron Avery and Colin Tucker gave their side some hope, before Avery played a reverse-sweep to be dismissed for 47.
In hindsight, the attempted reverse-sweep may well have cost the WGCA the match, with the Warriors at that stage requiring 54 runs from 36 balls for victory, with Avery on 47 and Tucker on 26, both capable of scoring quickly.
With Avery’s dismissal, however, the WGCA was eventually all out for 181.
Shane Dole then took a magnificent hat-trick in Traralgon’s second innings to take the memorable figures of 9/46 for the day.
Playing Bairnsdale on day two at Frankston, the Warriors batted first and reached 9/224 on the back of a blistering half-century from Mick Torney.
Torney blasted four sixes in his innings of 57, while opening batsman Mick Giles also batted well for his 32 runs.
Unfortunately, dropped catches and missed opportunities in the field saw Bairnsdale pass the Warriors’ score in the 47th over for the loss of just four wickets.
Desperately needing a victory to avoid relegation, the Warriors took on Hamilton at Noble Park on day three.
With the Warriors bowling first, Chris Smith was superb, taking 2/34 from nine overs, while Callum O’Hare, Shane Dole and Dom Paynter also took two wickets each as Hamilton reached 9/226 from its 50 overs.
In reply, Callum O’Hare was the star with the bat for the Warriors, blasting 109 runs, the second highest score ever by a WGCA player in Country Week, as the WGCA scored 6/247.
Andrew Walker also batted superbly to score 61 runs and help guide the side to victory.
On day four, the Warriors took on Sunraysia at Oakleigh and batting first, scored 9/243 on the back of a fantastic century from Mick Torney.
Torney hit 11 boundaries and a six in his innings of 102, with the WGCA reaching 9/243 from its 50 overs, before dismissing Sunraysia for 196 to finish the week on a winning note.
With such a talented squad, as well as two players scoring centuries throughout the week, it is probably a fair statement to say the WGCA underperformed throughout the 2010 Country Week.
Day-one opponents, Traralgon, eventually went on to win the Division Two premiership, defeating Bairnsdale by just 11 runs in the final, scoring 9/196 from its 50 overs before dismissing Bairnsdale for 185 in reply.
Without several missed opportunities, as well as some poor decision making in both of our matches against Traralgon and Bairnsdale, the WGCA could have easily seen itself play in Friday’s grand final.
Callum O’Hare’s week was absolutely sensational, with his day-three maiden century, as well as several excellent bowling spells, showcasing his array of talents.
Mick Torney’s century on day four and half-century on day two will most likely see the big-hitting Officer player pick up the Glasscock Medal for player of the week.
In his last ever Country Week, Shane Dole again showed his brilliance, with his day-one performance one to remember.
Unfortunately, some senior members of the side were unable to replicate their WGCA form at Country Week, with Brad Miles scoring just one run from three innings, while Mark Cooper also scored just 45 runs from four innings.
Dom Paynter showed he should be a permanent Country Week player with some outstanding performances – his 37 runs at number-10 on day two, one of the highlights of the week.
The Warriors will have learnt a lot from this year’s Country Week and now know that they are more than capable of performing in the higher standard that is Division Two.
With experience now throughout the side, expect the WGCA to be a force in next year’s carnival.