For the Wimmera-Mallee under-15s cricket team, a victory at the junior Country Week Championships this week meant a lot more than simply winning a game of cricket.
Before stepping out against Colac Gold in Dimboola on Wednesday, the side had been soundly beaten in its two previous contests against Warnambool Gold and Mount Gambier, scoring a total of just 119 runs across both matches.
In the first contest against Warnambool Gold, talented youngster Fletcher Cozens made 99 runs for Warnambool as they piled on 256 runs in 45 overs.
Wimmera-Mallee coach Gary Fernandez said the first two matches were an overwhelming experience.
“We had been struggling our first two games,” he said. “To see Cozens and Warnambool play like that – some of our guys haven’t seen kids play like that before. It was overwhelming to see that for some of them.
“They got to a stage where they thought they weren’t good enough and the confidence wasn’t there.”
But the side rallied on Wednesday, making 164 with the bat and holding Colac Gold at bay to seize their first win of the tournament.
Fernandez was overjoyed by the performance and what it meant for the community.
“It’s been a terrible year in the Wimmera for harvest. I’d say about 90 per cent of our kids are off farms,” he said.
“Those kids need a bit of a break from Mum and Dad who are stressed and worried because things are tough. The parents need it too.
“It’s hard to get junior numbers across a lot of sports these days as we know, and we put a lot of time into junior cricket.
“To get them together and to get a win was just terrific.
“We’ve had really good support at the games and it just felt really great for the whole community.”
The team was led by Tom Reekie on Wednesday, who stepped into the captaincy role. Reekie was the pillar of Wimmera-Mallee's innings, scoring 63 runs and forming crucial partnerships with Patrick Sait (30 runs) and William Deason (23 not out).
Fernandez hoped the players would take a lot from the experience.
“A lot of the players, they’re not cocky guys, they’re very quiet and they just love the game,” he said.
“We want them to take it back to their clubs, to be leaders and show the other guys what it’s all about.”
Wimmera-Mallee’s under-17s side also had a sensational result on Wednesday downing Hamilton Green by 49 runs.