Western Zone is home to the best under 14s side in the state after Cooper Brien’s “breakout” century inspired victory in Sunday’s City-Country Challenge.
The Garth Dean-coached side became the first Western outfit to claim the Kookaburra Cup when taking out the carnival at Armidale in January and that granted them passage to take on Sydney champions, North Shore.
Bathurst-based junior Brien, a player who has long shown potential, decided the contest at Raby Oval on Sunday as he plundered 124 from 129 balls to lead his side to 8/220 from 50 overs.
An outstanding team effort with the ball saw North Shore rolled for just 112 in reply.
“Cooper got promoted. He’d been batting well since Armidale so I thought it might have been worthwhile,” Dean said, Brien having batted at first drop.
“He can be impetuous at times so he’s got to bat within himself because he can hit it anywhere.
“He was fighting himself a little but it was a breakout day for him because he controlled his emotions and turned it into a big score.”
Not only was Brien’s knock a great example of quality and control, it was also done under pressure.
Western was sent into bat after what Dean described as a “surprising” decision at the toss but it seemed a shrewd move from North Shore when the score was 4/43.
With key man Tom Coady dismissed for just 6 Western needed someone to step up and Brien found great support from Declan Fawkner (26) and Canowindra’s Mikey McNamara (36 not out).
“He (Brien) has got a lot of different areas where he can score,” Dean said.
“He had a nice partnership with Declan … they put on 86 and then Mikey was very good at the end.”
Western set the tone immediately with the ball as a perfect outswinger from Cowra quick Mac Webster drew an edge which was eagerly caught in the slips on the first ball of the innings.
It was more of the same from there as Webster (3/23 from 7.3), fellow opener Jacob Ryan (3/18 from 7) and spinner George Cumming (2/9 off 10) strangled the North Shore lineup.
But each of the seven bowlers used played a key role and not one went at more than four runs an over.
“Jacob took no wickets at Armidale but bowled really well,” Dean said.
“He adjusted his line slightly and got rewarded. Mac has been very good right through and then George bowlerd his 10 overs straight and wound up the whole middle of the innings. It was a perfect 10 overs.”
Dean also praised Dubbo seamer Hugh Ridley, who would have opened the bowling if not for an ongoing back complaint.
Ridley tested his back in warm-up before deciding himself he wasn’t up to the task and the coach said he deserved plenty of respect for that.
Dean was also delighted with how each player contributed to Western’s success this season and added the future looked bright for the region.
“Hopefully this can translate into some success in the next year or two in the Bradman Cup and colts,” he said.
“It might be a few good years in our youth program.”
Canowindra’s Sammy Austin was also a part of team.