WESTERN Zone bounced back from what coach Trent Colley described as "a reality check" loss to Riverina on day one, to finish the NSW Country Under 17s Championships at Raymond Terrace as one of the competition's best young sides.
Western came crashing back to earth courtesy of a 148-run loss to Riverina last Friday but hit back with a momentum-changing 29-run win over the Central Coast.
The win over the Coast in Western's final 50-over game was the catalyst for two commanding Twenty20 victories on Sunday, the first over country cricket heavyweights Illawarra (seven wickets) and then Southern Zone (21 runs).
The end result saw Western finish with three wins from four games of the 2012-13 under 17s championship - as many victories as Riverina, Illawarra and Central Northern, three of Country Cricket's powerhouse regions.
A proud Colley said the biggest hurdle for his side at Raymond Terrace was overcoming that first game thrashing.
"Between Griffo (Greg Griffith), Jordan (Moran) and myself and we spoke about the challenges we faced after day one," Colley said.
"The fightback from the group was exceptional to watch."
Colley wasn't surprised by the group's ability to rebound though.
Chasing 110 for victory in the first Twenty20 against Illawarra, Western did it easy thanks to a strong opening stand from skipper Henry Hunt (15) and Mudgee wicketkeeper-batsman Stuart Fredericks (42).
They then cruised to 3-116 when Dubbo's Ben Patterson - a player Colley said was unlucky not to make the Country side - smashed an unbeaten 54 off 29.
In the second, Western batted first against Southern Zone and made 6-132 with Fredericks again scoring runs with 40.
The Western boys then bowled well to restrict Southern to 7-111.
"They're as good as any side in Country NSW and it's probably the best any Western side has performed at the under 17s level for some time," Colley enthused.
An experienced rep player himself, Colley said Orange's contingent at the carnival, Nick Duffy and Charlie Litchfield, should hold their heads high.
"Duffy's bowling improved. Day one he was probably a bit loose, he'd be the first to admit that. The way he improved and against Southern in the Twenty20, was landing them and troubling all batsmen," he said.
"Litchy probably didn't have the carnival he expected being our best bat or in our top three bats, but his time will come. He did all the hard work in the trials to get us to this stage and his leadership was great."