CRICKET Albury-Wodonga’s hopes of taking out division 4 at Melbourne Country Week have taken a blow with St Patrick’s stars Luke Restall and Mark Butters ruling themselves out of the carnival.
Work commitments will keep the pair, who are probably the team’s best batsman and bowler, out of the team.
Ashan Ranaweera is also doubtful.
The tournament starts on February 18 and runs for five days.
But coach Trent Ball isn’t concerned by the withdrawals.
“It happens every year with different guys,” he said.
“There’s not much you can do about it.
“We’ve been pretty lucky so far — we’ve had pretty much the same group of guys play the whole way through.
“We’ve almost become our own club.
“That’s what it feels like which is what we wanted.”
Ball said the team couldn’t afford to let up after making the SCG Cup final and taking out the Konica-Minolta Cup.
“Everyone loves winning and we’ve taken a lot of confidence out of what we have done so far,” Ball said.
“This will probably be the last chance we get to play together.
“We’ve almost called it a farewell tour.”
Ball admitted last year’s failed Country Week campaign — where the team was denied a chance at promotion due to an unprepared pitch — had been used as motivation.
“It has definitely been brought up,” he said.
“It would be nice to be playing in division 3 but I guess we’ll have to win division 4, instead.
“It has spurred us on, more than anything.”
Ball said despite Sunday’s crushing loss to Merewether, the team enjoyed its SCG experience.
“It was even better than we thought,” he said.
“We didn’t want to leave.”