WESTERN Zone selector Tim Cox is adamant the side can go all the way and win the NSW Country Championship final after the squad progressed through the southern pool on the weekend.
Led by Parkes’ Pat Rosser, Western beat Riverina and Southern on the opening two days of the carnival before facing off against Illawarra on Sunday.
The clash was a rematch of last season’s final, which Illawarra won, but on this occasion it was the Western boys that got the job done.
Western’s progression to the final was vindication for the selection policies employed by Cox, Greg Griffith (Bathurst) and Neil Hamilton (Parkes) who made eight changes to the squad that made last year’s final.
“I’m not sure if Western has ever made the final two consecutive years before but regardless of that it is a great effort,” Cox said.
“We picked a side that was in form, had played some good cricket at Premier League level and in council games and they did a great job.
“Batting first in each game obviously helped because the boys were able to get decent totals on the board and then make the most of the pitches as they started to deteriorate.
“We had some youth in the squad and they didn’t let us down. Liam Gough from Orange took the new ball and he finished one wicket from tying the carnival record.
“The boys have now put themselves well and truly in the frame for the NSW Country squad as well, which is a top achievement for any cricketer.”
Western will now face the winner of the northern pool, with Newcastle, Central Coast and Central North to do battle this weekend for the right to the other spot in the final.
Based on past performances, Newcastle will start warm favourites to win that division.
That scenario would set up a mouth-watering contest with Western, who upset the perennially strong Novocastrians last season on the way to the final.
“In the same way we were determined against Illawarra, I would imagine Newcastle are keen to get another crack at us,” Cox said.
“I’d favour Newcastle to go through out of that group but if there’s a danger it is probably Central Coast as they have some good players in their squad as well.”
At this stage, regardless of who Western meets in the final, it is set to be played at Orange’s Wade Park.
“Last year we had to travel to Wollongong for the final and we did some lobbying after that and put forward a case that if we made another final in the near future that we get to host it,” Cox said.
“It’s a credit to the Western Zone officials for putting forward that case and to Wade Park for getting a beautiful complex together that is capable of hosting such a game.”