Dave Mudaliar, earnest and articulate as West Tamworth’s new captain, spoke to his players after the side’s commanding performance against Bective East at Riverside 1 on Saturday. And although the discussion was for his players’ ears only, there was a fair chance he uttered “fantastic” – perhaps more than once.
In a post-match interview after Wests had maintained their perfect start to the season with a third straight win, Mudaliar summoned the word on several occasions to describe his side's performance to date.
It wasn't meant to be like this. Wests were meant to struggle after suffering an horrific player exodus at the end of last season.
North Tamworth captain Brendan Rixon summed it up best last week when he said he “wouldn't have predicted” Wests’ flyer to start the season.
“But they’re playing well as a team, and good on them,” he added.
Against a Bective East side missing five starters, Wests were expected to win. But it was the manner in which they dispatched the underdogs that impressed Mudaliar the most.
And as was the case in Wests’ season-opening win over Norths, in which Mudaliar, the reigning player of the year, smacked a century, the skipper again led from the front.
His 91 to open the innings, after Wests won the toss and batted, included nine fours and helped lay the foundation for a 8-221 total off 40 overs.
His third-wicket partnership of 139 with Shawn Mepham, whose 74 included 10 fours and two sixes, was the match highlight.
Three Bective players picked up two wickets – Cooper Barnes (2-46 off eight overs), Rod Fensbo (2-30 off eight) and Lochie Barton (2-38 off seven).
In reply, Bective were dismissed for 176 in the 37th over.
Bective skipper Adam Jones top-scored with 75. He clubbed nine boundaries and a six.
Brock Ridgewell finished with 3-42 off eight overs to be the chief destroyer, while Steven Nathan (2-25 off seven) and Alex Cook (2-14 off two) were also effective.
Wests’ players exodus included their three frontline pace bowlers.
Mudaliar said: “It’s been a fantastic effort to the start of the year … It’s been a fantastic start, and the bowling has been a real, real eye opener. Blokes have really stepped up.
“Look, it was a tough one [losing so many players] … it was an era of great players that left at once. And it's really tough to turn up when you’ve got so much talent leaving the club.
“But at the same time you look around, and you look at certain blokes, and you think [about] how much they bring to the side and you think, ‘You know what, we’ve still got to focus on what we’ve got and be competitive with that’. And fantastic.”