There were plenty of stand-out performers across the zone last weekend. From past Western guns to some of the genuine stars of the future, check out this week’s gallery to see some of the best from Saturday’s association cricket in our Team of the Week XI.
Get swept up in the start of the footy season
Every March I swell with optimism – this is our year.
Which is a strange sentiment, mainly because I’m a Wests Tigers fan.
I’m not a Balmain supporter, or a Wests supporter, and even if I was I’m not 93 and can’t recall the either clubs’ glory years.
And, so, since the turn of the millennium, when Balmain and Wests were forged as one, there’s only really been two seasons I can recall that genuine optimism eventually translated into on-field success.
Put the black-and-gold hat on, think 2010 and 2011.
Both seasons offered plenty in the pre-season and, tellingly, are part of the club’s pre-Adam Blair years. A glorious time.
Both campaigns resulted in top-four finishes, although no title at the end of either rainbow. But that happens – just ask Eels fans.
What about 2005, you ask?
Don’t get me wrong, like every year I was somewhat hopeful of, at the very least, a finals gig for the club.
Hodgson, Farah, Marshall, Richards, Prince, what’s not to like, right?
But a pretty ordinary start to the year had the Tigers well outside the top eight, the dream was over for another year.
And then, on the back of eight-straight wins and some magical stepping from Benji late in the season, the club made the top four, won four straight finals games and was crowned premiers.
Just like that – seems too easy.
But it’s exactly why, this time every year, the first week of March, I get swept up in hope. Optimism washes over me.
I wash, iron and wear all 11 Tigers jerseys I own – repeatedly – and crack out the old ‘05 grand final DVD.
I’ve now got a three-year-old too, and we re-enact the moment Pat Richards fends off Rod Jensen to score that memorable try in the grand final.
Of course, I’m Richards and young Harry is rocket Rod. He’s not happy when I brush past him to score, again. He’ll learn though.
But, I’m drifting here a touch.
The question is, as it should be for everyone at the moment: Is this year our year?
Can 2018 be another 2005?
Not just for Tigers fans, but for all footy fans, in every code.
Sure, September is great for half the competition. But the beginning of March? This is everyone’s time to get excited about the footy.
Eels supporters are up and about at the moment.
Hayne – love him or loathe him - is back. The blue and gold army should be pumped up tighter than a beach ball.
As should the latte-sipping sombrero wearers ... I mean Roosters.
As much as it hurts me, any team with James Tedesco in it will score points. It’s now up to the Tri-colours’ pack to lay a foundation for the Roosters' glittering backline to fire.
Newcastle – they won’t win the spoon again – but can they make the top eight?
The Tigers, Benji’s back, so 2005 will be too, right?
The Dragons have brought in two internationals during the summer – James Graham and Ben Hunt – meaning Mary finally has the team he wants in the Red V.
For all clubs, there’s hope everywhere you turn.
Keiran Foran, Blake Green, Cooper Cronk, Josh Reynolds, Ben Hunt, Matt Moylan, James Maloney, Mitch Pearce, Connor Watson, Benji Marshall – they’re all key players in new colours.
I can’t remember a closer season looming.
And if you’re not at least the slightest bit optimistic that 2018 can be your side’s year, then you probably don’t believe in Santa either.
That, or you’re probably a Raiders fan.
Tie a tough end to rep season
Am I the only one who feels totally empty following the 2017-18 representative season?
I’ve waxed lyrical about changes needed to the Mitchell Cricket Council President’s Cup and Twenty20 Cup formats now for two seasons.
But Sunday’s tie in the final of the Western Zone Premier League final between Bathurst and Dubbo must be looked at too – what a dour note to end the rep season on.
Joint premiers, no celebrations, and two captains, Mitch Bower and Jameel Qureshi, left thinking what might of been.
To have the competition start on October 7 and then finish on March 4, some five months later, it must be deflating to end the season with essentially a no-result.
The WZPL is a great tournament and one that every association within the zone’s boundaries should embrace to ensure it stays both competitive and relevant.
I know there’s never enough Sundays in summer for rep cricket, but surely a shorter campaign is on the cards next season.