Sale-Maffra cricketers to play provincial division at Melbourne Country Week

SALE-MAFFRA will be aiming to carry its Gippsland Cricket League premiership winning form into Melbourne Country Week, which begins Monday.

The Sharks were by far the best team in the GCL competition, and will now be looking to prove their worth against powerful Victorian country associations such as Geelong and Ballarat in the top provincial grade.

Selectors have been careful in choosing a team of mostly local players, with Bundalaguah's Cloete Buitendag and Longford's Richard Bell the onlyinternational players in the line-up.

Tom Morrison has been rewarded for some strong form for Collegians, and will be making the trip down as the youngest member of the group. While still qualified to play in the under 18s, Morrison could be entrusted to bowl some important spells during the week.

There may be a further inclusion to the squad after Stratford opening bowler Jonny Lash had to pull out because of injury. Lash's withdrawal could leave the door open to any number of players considered unlucky to miss the initial cut.

Eight of the 12 players in the Sharks squad played in Sunday's GCL final, which should assist skipper Jack Rietschel in knowing what he has at his disposal.

Joining the players in support will be team manager Sam Anstee, selector Mark Durrant, consultant and bus driver Dean Benson, masseuse John Collins and scorer Michael Walters.

The Sharks missed the final last year on net run rate and will be gunning to make the decider to be played at the historic Albert Ground, home of the Melbourne Cricket Club.

TRARALGON will join Sale-Maffra in provincial division, and will be hell-bent on atoning for a disappointing GCL campaign.

The Tornadoes finished the GCL season in second last position, although it did prove its credentials by defeating Sale-Maffra.

The side had a thrilling conclusion to its Country Week campaign last year, avoiding relegation on the final day in a match which went down to the wire.

Traralgon has been placed in a different pool to Sale-Maffra, meaning the only way the two sides will face each other will be if they play off in a final.

GIPPSLAND will be well-represented in division two, making up four of the six associations taking part.

Bairnsale has dropped down a grade after being relegated at last year's tournament, while Warragul gained promotion for winning the division three title. Both associations finished their GCL seasons mid-table, and showed their best cricket is good enough to topple anyone.

Latrobe Valley and Leongatha will also compete.

Leongatha has selected an extensive 18-man squad, with some players likely to come and go during the week. The GCL runner-up will give the competition a good shake, and could find itself bumped up a level this time next year if it goes through to win the division two competition.

For Latrobe Valley, it will all be about letting its cricket do the talking and regaining some respect after it collected the wooden spoon in GCL.

Melbourne Country Week is an annual fixture designed to give regional players an opportunity to showcase their skills in a metropolitan environment, all the while enjoying a week playing and socialising with players from other clubs.

Country Week can also potentially lead to greater things, as state and premier league scouts could be hiding at various games and then use the week to talk with country players to entice them to the bright lights of the city.

Sale-Maffra squad: Jack Rietschel (Stratford), Brad Scott (Rosedale-Kilmany), Ben Jones (Sale), Cloete Buitendag (Bundalaguah), Cormac Hassett (Stratford), Dylan Bolton (Stratford), Jack Tatterson (Collegians), Jack Wrigglesworth (Stratford) Richard Bell (Longford), Taylor Tatterson (Stratford), Tom Morrison (Collegians), Zac Hurley (Collegians).