Cricket: Tom O'Neill earns NSW Country call-up

Well-deserved: South Tamworth quick Tom O'Neill will head to Western Australia in early January to play for NSW Country at the Australian Country Cricket Championships.

Well-deserved: South Tamworth quick Tom O'Neill will head to Western Australia in early January to play for NSW Country at the Australian Country Cricket Championships.

The hard work is paying off for paceman Tom O’Neill.

The South Tamworth spearhead is set to join Souths and Tamworth team-mate Tom Groth in NSW Country colours after being called into the Bush Blues side for their Australian Country Championship tilt.

“It is pretty exciting to make the team. I’m really looking forward to it,” O’Neill said.

One of the top honours for a country cricketer, O’Neill has come into side for the January 3-11 tournament in Geraldton for former first class cricketer Burt Cockley.

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He put his hand up for selection with a strong performance for Central North at last month’s [Northern] NSW Country Championships in Inverell.

A standout for the home side in their opening day loss to Newcastle, taking 1-37 from his 10 overs with two maidens, he claimed 3-39, including three maidens, against Western on the second day.

“I thought I bowled reasonably well,” O’Neill said.

“I probably let myself down on the last day. I didn’t bowl that well.”

In fairness there wasn’t a lot in the wicket. He still finished with a tidy 0-30 from his 10 overs.

It was O’Neill’s second campaign with the senior zone side after making his debut at last years carnival in Narrabri.

He didn’t really get a lot of opportunity though, not playing the first day and being only five overs into his spell when the rain hit and washed out the remainder of the carnival.

Used as a change option last year, this year he was very much the leader of the attack.

Arguably in career best form, O’Neill credited that to a big focus on fitness. 

“Since I’ve come back to Tamworth – this is my third season in Tamworth – I’ve done a lot of fitness,” he said.

“That’s the major factor that’s helped me out.”

“I do Cross-Fit four to five times a week. I started it last year just before the start of last season.”

It’s enabled him to bowl more consistently for longer, something that no doubt the country selectors liked.

“I like to come in and try and stay at the same pace through the spell, and hit the same line and length,” he said.

“When you get tired you get sloppy.”

His country commitments mean though he has had to forgo coaching the Central North at the Kookaburra Cup (under 14s), with the carnival on at the same time as he is in Western Australia.

Something (coaching) he had been thinking about getting into, O’Neill said he had been looking forward to the carnival in Armidale. 

“I’m really enjoying it. There’s some really good young cricketers around,” he said.

He is looking after the side with Andy Craig and will head to Coffs Harbour this weekend to watch their trial against North Coast.