WHEN former Bathurst player Callum Hotham injured his knee in just his second top grade appearance for Western Suburbs during last NSW Premier Cricket season it threatened to put a stop to his rapid rise in the competition.
On Saturday he removed any doubts, smashing a ton for the Magpies.
In his first game back since tearing his PCL in the 2018-19 season the opener was infallible, scoring 100 to help Wests claim a 91-run win over Randwick Petersham in second grade.
Hotham came into the opening game at Pratten Park determined to hit back in a strong fashion.
Thanks to his emphatic statement he earned the right to jump back up to first grade for the upcoming two-day clash with Blacktown Mounties.
"It was disappointing to injure myself and go out the way I did and return in twos," Hotham said.
"It was awesome to go out there and return like that."
In the space of less than two seasons playing full-time NSW Premier Cricket Hotham took himself from fourth grade all the way to the top.
His first grade debut against St George in January was one to remember, as he top scored for his side with 66.
He was tracking towards another half century but disaster struck at 30 not out.
While taking a quick single Hotham injured his knee and brought his promising season to an early end.
Hotham put in hours of preparation across the off-season to get his health and cricket into top shape.
He ventured to Darwin to improve his game and he cites that trip as one of the most beneficial experiences in his career.
"I worked hard on my strength, in particular, and also my fitness. I got to work with some international players, which was pretty cool, and some professionals from Australia and New Zealand," he said.
"I learned a lot about my game there. The injury was almost like a blessing in disguise because I feel like a whole new player now. I had no doubt that I'd be able to get runs on the weekend and get myself back up into ones.
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"It's definitely the most I've improved in the space of five months in my life."
Hotham's breakthrough moment in NSW Premier Cricket came in February 2018 when he scored his maiden fourth grade century.
The former City Colts man finished the season with an average of 39 and found himself a second grade starter in the following campaign.
Prior to his injury Hotham had racked up four half centuries and a maiden second grade ton.
"There were times in the first year when things weren't happening for me right away and I was playing fourth grade for most of that season," Hotham said.
"I had doubts, wondering if I should go home, but I worked on my game at Phil Cant's indoor nets. He helped me out a lot. I was hitting more balls than I ever did.
"I got my chance in second grade and I just made the most of it. Within eight rounds I'd gone from fourths to firsts."
Hotham will hope to take Wests to an improved first grade season after the club finished 16th in their previous campaign.