THE 2011-12 records of Brown Hill and Wendouree could hardly have been more contrasting.
Brown Hill had a forgettable season. The Bulls had just two wins and finished on the bottom.
Last season was all about Wendouree. The Red Caps were unbeaten on their way to a fourth consecutive premiership, an achievement which matched the club record set in 1980 to 1983.
Wendouree has continued on from where it left off last summer, cruising past Darley and Napoleons-Sebastopol.
Neither Darley or Napoleons-Sebastopol was able to put any real pressure on the reigning premier. As powerful as its batting is, Wendouree’s attack has been the stand-out.
David Ellis, Tim Beacham, Jordan Oliver and Sam Peeters have all been among the wickets, demonstrating the bowling depth. Brown Hill has plenty to prove.
The Bulls have been down the pecking order too long.
There is a determination under the leadership of Jason Knowles to turn around their fortunes and work towards a return to the glory days.
It is a daunting task for anyone facing Wendouree, but Brown Hill is upbeat after a big win over Mt Clear.
Getting the points was one thing, but what was so impressive was the way the Bulls achieved it – batting confidently and then having a bullish Matthew McMahon rip through Mt Clear with 12 wickets in a day.
Knowles said Brown Hill was looking forward to the challenge and hopefully building on its season start.
As strong as it performed against Mt Clear, Brown Hill will have to play even better in this two-day encounter, which begins at the Western Oval tomorrow.
It is the wealth of options with the bat that Wendouree has which brings other teams undone, with Heath Pyke, Cole Roscheller Liam Brady, David Ellis and Tom Reece capable to stepping up as round two century maker Gavin Webb did.
Coronet City (10th): 0 wins, 2 losses
Mt Clear (ninth): 0 wins, 1 loss, 1 draw
Coronet City will still be pondering what might have been in its one-wicket loss to Golden Point.
After looking gone, it showed fighting qualities to almost steal the points.
The ability to dig deep, led by the example of Phil Calvert with bat and ball, and find something extra is something Coronet City can draw on and give itself a genuine chance of an elusive win.
Mt Clear is best to wipe away the memories of what was nothing less than a debacle at the hands of Brown Hill.
It could not go that badly again if it tried.
PLAYERS TOP WATCH
Coronet City: Without all-rounder Brendan Burns, Dom Uljanic makes a return among changes to bolster the batting.
Mt Clear: Lincoln Blake, makes his return after being unavailable for day two of round two, while veteran Paull Jeffrey is a familiar face back in the line-up.
PREDICTION: Mt Clear
Darley (third): 1 win, 1 loss
East Ballarat (fourth): 1 win, 1 loss
Can Darley became a graveyard for visitors?
The Lions certainly hope so.
Darley revelled in the return to Darley Park to dispense of North Ballarat – batting first for 300-plus and then bowling with discipline to get a win it needed if its push to another finals campaign is to get some early steal.
Darley is not always going to get that type of score, but with Matt Capes and Tim Hughes getting the bulk of the runs there are still plenty of batsmen ready to show their wears.
This has the potential to be tight.
East Ballarat chased a sizeable total with vigour and more often than not its 230 tally would bring home the points.
East is all about youth under the guidance of Tom Brand, from Peter Colbourne down.
It will means some inconsistency with the bat, but each at some point will have their day/
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Darley: Josh Bamford, showed some good signs last season and will only to get a start at the top of the order.
East Ballarat: Jon Barnett, shaping up as a more than handy acquisition with bat and ball.
Golden Point (eighth): 1 win, 1 loss
Naps-Sebastopol (sixth): 1 win, 1 loss
These are two teams with plenty to prove and eager to make a statement.
What is clear in each case, they need to find some form with the bat.RGolden Point has so far had just three batsmen make their mark, with Dwayne Hiscock doing best with a half century.
It is only early days and difficult to make too many judgment calls after just two rounds, Point is going to need consistency in the top order.
Naps-Sebastopol probably does not know where it stands yet.
What is is sure about though is that it must do better with bat and ball than round two when outclassed by Wendouree.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Golden Point: Josh White, class act who must fire with the bat if his team is to have a major say this season.
Napoleons-Sebastopol: Dan Scott, a while since he hit top form, but it was about this time last year when he scored a century.
Ballarat-Redan (second): 1 win, 0 losses, 1 draw
North Ballarat (seventh): 1 win, 1 loss
Ballarat-Redan made runs and North Ballarat missed out. This was the story of their second round appearances.
The other big factors were the Combine’s good fortune to be able to bat first and North Ballarat chasing a target which always looked out of reach.
That was the pattern across most of the competition, with big runs too hard to chase down.
This game could easily be decided by the toss of the coin, with Matt Hoey and Bobby Hind sure to be keen to see the call go their way. Ballarat-Redan will again rely on contributions with the bat, which is a strength.
North Ballarat simply to lift across the board. Someone other than Hind has to stand up in this game and consistently through the season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ballarat-Redan: Allister Edmends, steady at the top of the order and this might be his chance to make a big statement.
North Ballarat: Scott Wright makes a welcome return after missing the Darley match and might provide the spark needed with the bat.