THEY reached the halfway point of the 2017-18 Sheffield Shield season as the competition leaders, but Trent Copeland believes he and his New South Wales team-mates must keep improving.
Through the five rounds of the competition thus far, four of which the Bathurst talent has taken part in, the Blues have notched up three wins, a draw and a loss.
The record puts them just over three points clear of Queensland at the top of the ladder with Tasmania not far behind in third.
However, the Blues’ three wins came in the first three rounds of the competition when bolstered by Test stars Steve Smith, David Warner, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyons, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
Since then it took a fighting unbeaten partnership between Copeland (five off 62) and Ed Cowan (40 off 99) to force a draw with Victoria, before Tasmania thumped the Blues by 10 wickets.
“I think probably we got through the first three games with three wins on the back of the Aussie boys being around and their influence and their performances with a few of the rest of us scattered in contributing,” Copeland said.
“When they went off and did their bit with the Test stuff, we played two of our worst games in the last two years.
“So there’s definitely room for improvement, but we’re still sitting on top of the table. We need to make sure we are doing our thing, playing to our game plan, executing a bit better than what we have been doing once we hit the end of BBL and start shield cricket again.”
While Copeland may play down his influence, he has produced some important performances for the Blues thus far.
On top of his effort alongside Cowan, the talented seamer claimed 6-24 off 13.3 overs in the first innings against South Australia in the season opener.
The Redbacks were all out for 92 and never recovered, NSW going on to a six-wicket win at Adelaide Oval.
Copeland also took 3-33 off 23 overs in the first innings against Queensland, another match his side won by six wickets.
All up he’s claimed 12 wickets so far off 138.5 overs, of which 41 have been maidens.
If he can build on that effort, and the rest of the talented NSW line up improves as well, the Blues will be very hard to beat even without their current Test players.
“I think we’ve always been that way in New South Wales, even without the Aussie guys we’ve still had an extremely talented side and a team that can definitely win the shield missing six players, which probably Victoria and WA recently are the only ones who have been in that same boat,” Copeland said.
NSW will resume its campaign on February 8 against Western Australia at the WACA.