In 2017-18, RSL Colts missed out on the finals for the first time since 1998.
But they’ve bounced back in resounding fashion, with the first grade side dropping just a single game so far this season, while the Pinnington and Kelly Cup sides are sitting first and third respectively.
And as the Christmas break draws to a close, board member and first grade vice-captain Jason Ryan says they’re determined to “keep the ball rolling”.
Saturday’s game against the first-placed CYMS will be especially important.
“It’s important to get back on the front foot after that two or three week break, especially after out last game before Christmas when we didn’t put in the best performance,” Ryan said, pointing to Colts’ 21-run loss to Newtown on December 15.
“It’s pretty important for us and CYMS, without a doubt they’re looking to compete with the top three teams and doing a great job.
“It’s a massive game for both clubs really.”
Across the grades – including in the McDonald’s Megahit Twenty20 competition – Colts have had “confident” first halves of the season.
Perhaps the most impressive start came in the Kelly Cup, where two teams grew to three – all evenly matched.
“We tried as much as we could to level those three sides up … but all three sides have been very competitive and to have one of those sides right up the top of the table is a real bonus for us,” Ryan said.
He credited the youth coming through the ranks – and those who have invested in their development – for the club’s success.
“They’re still playing juniors but a lot of kids are actually playing third grade with their fathers,” Ryan said.
“You’ve got the likes of Tom Atlee and Rhys Beauchamp and those sort of guys that have played a little bit of first grade last year and probably weren’t overly successful, but this year they’ve stepped up and they’re actually a really important part of the team and they’re winning games by themselves.”
Atlee has a strike rate of 19.7 in the RSL-Whitney Cup and with 13 wickets has been the competition’s fifth most destructive bowler. He’s also pulling his weight near the top of the batting order with an average of 28.7 and a top score of 98.
Younger brother Anthony has also signalled his intent to move up in the grades, averaging 21 runs and a strike rate of 42.0 in Pinnington Cup, and an economy rate of 4.3 in his seven overs in RSL-Whitney Cup.
Beauchamp has also stunned the seniors with top figures of 3-12 and an average strike rate of 19.5.
“It’s always been a big thing that we’ve sort of looked to … is bringing youth into the sides … you’re normally carrying the kids but this year it’s been really impressive how the kids right across the three grades have stepped into the team and contributed,” Ryan said.
“The majority of our first grade side is now well into their 30s and that’s our jobs now in the club, to bring these young fellas through and turn them into super cricketers.
“If they go on and play for NSW and those higher honours afterwards then we’ve done our job. We’re just here to prepare our cricketers to be as good as they possibly can, and make sure they’re leaning each week and if bigger things happen after that, that’s just a bonus for us.”