WHAT a difference a year can make.
This time is 2020 we were discussing where things had gone wrong for City Colts in the Bathurst Orange Inter District Cricket competition.
Rivals were left wondering how a talented batting lineup continually found ways to falter and how one of the pre-season favourites surprisingly weren't matching it with their rivals.
Now in January of 2021 the team are realising their potential.
A star recruit with the bat, a better time in the field and a more well-rounded bowling performance week in and week out have all played a part in putting Colts inside the competition's top four at the halfway mark.
We caught up with Colts skipper Dan Casey to chat about the Colts' turnaround in form.
COLTS currently sit inside the top four and came close to making a run further up the ladder when their match against leading Bathurst side St Pat's Old Boys finished in a draw.
They now sit on 26 points, eight away from from the third placed Saints, and just two clear of the looming Rugby Union - who Colts will play in this Saturday's first round back.
They also missed out on a clash with the struggling Kinross outfit, so points have gone begging there.
But It's been a much smoother affair for Colts in their redemption quest.
Casey said much of the improved 2020-21 season can be put down to the team simply valuing their wickets more.
"We've had a much better start this year. Last year was awful so hopefully we can continue this way instead," he said.
"We really under-performed last year. Because we had such a good batting team I don't think we put enough onus on getting the runs ourselves. We went in there thinking that we had blokes behind us who could do the job if we get out.
"I think we were unlucky at times last year but we really just couldn't get things to click. Now we're managing to make those things click."
IT'S the two words that are putting fear into opposition bowlers: Russ Gardner.
His 308 runs put him on top in the run scorers list across all BOIDC teams, and his three game streak of 80, 156 and 72 leading up to the mid season break is one of the most devastating runs of form the competition has seen.
While Gardner's in the spotlight he's not alone in helping the Colts batting lineup become a force.
Dave Sellers (193) and Josh Toole (186) are playing some of their best cricket of late, while Henry Shoemark and Dan Casey have each enjoyed one big innings and crave a bit more consistency over the back half of the competition.
"The pleasing bit is that when certain people have failed someone else has stood up. That's how it should be to be honest," Casey said.
COLTS still lack an imposing strike force of bowling but their current group are doing more than a fine job.
Casey himself has far and away been the pick of the bunch, with 15 wickets, while Josh Toole (9) and the ever-improving Tom Murray (8) are next on the list.
Angus Daymond and Dave Henderson, on six each, will be eager to come to forefront over the back half of the competition.
The lack of regular match time from former Western talent Matt Stephen hurts a lot though the club continue to make inroads each week in the field.
"I think I've taken the most wickets, which is a worry, but Stevo hasn't been able to play as much cricket this year. That's a big loss but we'll take him whenever he's available to play," Casey said.
"We only really have one strike bowlers, which is Hendo, and he took the most wickets last year. But back then he was bowling opposite Stevo and people were trying to score off him.
"This is probably where we've struggled a bit, with the ball, and mostly in the two day games trying to bowl teams out. One-dayers aren't a problem because we've got plenty of blokes who can get through the eight overs."
PLAYERS READY TO FIRE
CASEY doesn't believe we've seen close to the last of what Gardner has to offer.
He sees no reason why the leading run scorer can't maintain his great run of form, and expects several other batsmen to build upon their positive play in the lead up to Christmas.
With the club finally realising their potential with the bat they have to keep the momentum going.
"Hopefully Russ keeps going the way he has been. Other than him I think Hendo would be keen to take a few more wickets than he has," he said.
"He'll want to kick into gear a bit more. With the bat, we've had different people scoring at different stages. I'd say Henry [Shoemark] and Tooley and Dave Sellers can be just as effective as Russ has been."
COLTS will definitely be gunning for as many points as they can get from these three remaining one-day games.
While there's more points to be made in two-day cricket it's in the 50-over version where Colts can really put the foot down and try to solidify their place inside the top four when playing their dominant format.
If the team can give themselves a good buffer and stay in touch with the current runaway top three sides then it takes some pressure off towards the back end of the season.
And that starts with this Saturday's game against fifth-placed Rugby Union.
"We have Rugby this week, who are only a couple of points behind us. If we can win this game that will help us shoot clear of them and really help us try to cement ourselves in the top four," Casey said.
"We have Kinross in the last game of our two-dayers so hopefully we will get to play them this time. If we need big points to get us up a couple of positions then that's a game for us to look out for."
As it stands, Orange City, Cavaliers and St Pat's are all bunched together at the top of the ladder on 36, 35 and 34 respectively.
The fbattle for fourth brewing between Colts, Rugby, Bathurst City and CYMS is going to be great to watch unfold over the final rounds.