Wests/UC have recruited Beau McClintock from Newcastle this year. Photo: Brockwell Perks
Wests/UC veteran Darren Richards says this weekend's top-of-the-table encounter with Tuggeranong will provide a true ''litmus test'' of his club's premiership credentials.
While the John Gallop Cup two-day competition is only five rounds old, Wests/UC and Tuggeranong have already stamped themselves as the early pacesetters.
They are both on 22 points - a dominant 16 points clear of their nearest rival.
Richards, who debuted for the club in 1995, said the addition of wicketkeeper Beau McClintock from Newcastle and youngster Matt Condon had strengthened the squad. ''I haven't seen Tuggeranong, but we're definitely a stronger team this year,'' Richards said. ''This weekend for us is a litmus test because we're not sure where we're at. The positive so far is that we've been able to perform against the weaker teams.''
Wests/UC has regrouped after it was outplayed by Queanbeyan in last season's decider.
''It was probably a lesson some guys had to learn, it was quite embarrassing,'' Richards said.
''Some guys hadn't played first-grade finals and they'll learn a lot from the experience.''
There's no one with more kilometres on their cricketing mileage than Richards.
The 34-year-old spent several seasons with the ACT Comets and also tried his hand in the Western Australian first-grade competition in 2009.
Richards is still finding the middle of the bat, averaging 84.5 this season, form good enough to attract a call from Comets coach Mark Higgs to see if he wanted to turn out for the ACT in the country championships.
He is one of three batsmen for Wests/UC, along with Adam Hewitt (152 runs at 76) and Ethan Bartlett (208 runs at 52) with an average of more than 50, while Ben Oakley (21 wickets at 9.62), Angus Polhill (13 at 12.23) and Dale Riley (13 at 13.31) comprise a lethal bowling attack.
''In previous years we've relied on a few guys, but this year our depth is our greatest asset,'' Richards said. ''Everyone's contributing when they need to.
''We've got the depth to try and win a couple [of] premierships.''
In other games, Eastlake hosts North Canberra Gungahlin, Queanbeyan takes on Ginninderra and ANU entertains Weston Creek.
Meanwhile, Tuggeranong paceman Chris Prescott will make his Comets debut in next week's Futures League match with South Australia, starting Monday.
The match has been moved to Freebody Oval while lights are installed at Manuka Oval.