The last time Mitch Bower led a Western Zone side it chased down 275 to win an epic Country Championship final at Wade Park.
The year was 2015, and check out these names.
Moran, Heraghty, Buckley, Curtale, Tim Berry, Toole, Lindsay, Cox and Free – all seriously handy cricketers there.
Moran whacked an unbeaten 105 in an opening stand of 190 alongside Heraghty (98) to kick start the chase, while Cox bowled six maidens in his 10 overs with miserly figures of 1-5 as Western went on to knock off NSW Country Cricket goliaths Newcastle.
But times change.
And now the only remaining man out of that championship-winning team is Ben Patterson, and of course Bower, who’ll again lead the zone outfit.
Patterson was 19 in that triumphant side. He’s just 22 now, but all of a sudden becomes a senior player in a new-look Western outfit.
You see, Bower’s gone from the helm of a seriously crack side to one of the greenest in the zone’s decorated history, surely?
There’s five teenagers in Bower’s 13-man squad. Zach Bayliss is 22, so is Patterson. Keeper Matt Corben is 23.
Whether they’re 16 or 35 you treat them with the same respect and you’ll get it in return.Western Zone skipper Mitch Bower.
If it weren’t for seamers Daryl Kennewell (39) and Matt Stephen (36) the average age for this year’s side would be a shade over 20.
“It’s pretty strange,” Bower said as he prepares to lead Western at this weekend’s northern pool of the McDonalds Country Championship at Inverell.
Western kick starts its campaign on Friday.
“I don’t know a lot of the boys and we won’t have a lot of time,” he continues.
“Whether they’re 16 or 35 you treat them with the same respect and you’ll get it in return. That’s all you need when trying to create a good team culture.”
Team culture is something Western can hang its hat on.
After a somewhat lean period, 2015 marked the zone’s second title in three years. Since then, Nick Berry led Western to success in the summer of 2016-17 too.
Berry assumed the skipper’s job from Bower, while Jordan Moran had the gig last summer in Inverell after Berry, a former NSW Country captain, retired from rep cricket.
Moran has now moved to Victoria leading selectors to again call on Bower to take the helm.
“I always liked captaining the side but when Nick was there he was the obvious man for the job. And Jordan slotted into the captaincy role as well,” Bower said.
“The way Nick did things was great … it’s funny, though, it’s not necessarily anything like field placements, it’s more his mannerisms around the field and how you go about barking orders.
“I’ll take a few pointers away from him, for sure.”
Despite Western bringing on generational change this summer, it’s anticipated Bower’s squad is talented enough to still progress out of the northern pool.
Newcastle shifting down south makes that task easier, but North Coastal, Central Northern and the Central Coast will be far from easy beats.
Bower says the biggest hurdle his young side has to clear is between the ears.
“It’s tough, psychologically,” he added.
“People in country towns out our way, it’s all pretty friendly out in the middle … but people play hard ball in the higher levels, you have to block it out.”
With three kids and his own business, Bower is the first to admit continually putting his hand up for rep cricket is tough, but he says he still has plenty to give for Western Zone.
“I keep playing because I know my best years are ahead of me,” Bower adds.
“I want to try and get the best out of myself while I can and not worry about saying ‘I could have done this, or I should have done that’ … I want to give it a crack now and when I’m older I can say I did all I could.”
Which is the same advice he’ll give his young side – have a crack, now.
The likes of Patterson and Larance are raw cricketers, but key ones in a Western outfit with a number of game breakers.
The key to getting the best out of them all?
“Let them go,” he said. “If that’s their game, let them go. The moment you try and change things at the start of the carnival you’re doing the wrong thing.
“Patto’s a spearhead bowler and his batting, he can change a game quickly. Him at this level, he’s good enough to dominate.
“And Brock’s good enough to light these blokes up in a game, I can’t wait to see how they both go.”
- WESTERN ZONE: Mitch Bower (c), Matt Stephen (vc), Marty Jeffrey, Nic Broes, Matt Corben, Brock Larance, Josh Doherty, Ben Patterson, Tom Atlee, Zach Bayliss, Jackson Coote, Daryl Kennewell, Ben Mitchell.