Josh Clarke from Wests. Photo: Peter Cheung
When Josh Clarke moved to Western Suburbs two years ago, he was given a clear mandate – turn the First Grade team into regular finalists in the McDonald's Men's Premier Cricket competition.
After going 13 years without reaching the Belvidere Cup play-offs, the club which once boasted the likes of Bob Simpson, Michael Clarke, Phillip Hughes and Mitchell Starc was no longer willing to accept mediocrity.
The Magpies finished a respectable 10th in 2019/20 after stringing together a series of late-season wins and now find themselves fifth after a two from two start to the new season.
Wests are one of seven undefeated teams after two rounds of the competition.
Manly-Warringah and Bankstown head the table on 13 points from five teams all locked on 12.
Two teams will lose their unbeaten tags after round three, with two games involving top six sides.
Bankstown host Randwick-Petersham at Bankstown Oval and Northern District are at home to Sydney on Saturday.
It's early days at Wests and no-one is getting carried away, but Clarke likes what he sees as they prepare to take on Gordon in third round action this Saturday.
"It’s always good to get off to a good start. We had a good win first up over Blacktown and then chased down a big total (368) against UNSW," Clarke said.
"We haven’t successfully chased a score of over 300 for three or four years, so that's given us a lot of confidence.
"The hard work we did over the pre-season is starting to pay off.
"The challenge now is to keep it going because we know it's far too early in the season to relax."
A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to drag Wests away from the cellar.
A hard-working committee is backed up by an excellent coaching staff, which includes former Sheffield Shield batsman Mark O'Neill.
Clarke, who has scored more than 6000 First Grade runs, is leading the way on-field with major contributions from top order bats Nick Cutler and James Psarakis and bowlers Jono Cook and Lachlan Ford.
Clarke said: "The big push when I went there last year was to get this team into some finals cricket.
"That's been our big focus. I don’t think the boys really believed we could when I first got there but they're starting to now.
"They are starting to believe in themselves and believe we can make it.
"We don’t want to settle for anything less."
For the full teams click here
For live scores click here
Premier Cricket matches being streamed Saturday:
Sutherland v Campbelltown-Camden
Sydney Uni v Eastern Suburbs
UTS North Sydney v UNSW
Western Suburbs v Gordon