WHILE he may not have enjoyed the on-field success that he has savoured with Eaglehawk, Anthony West looks back on his seven-year stint with rival club Sandhurst as a key period in his maturity as a cricketer.
Eaglehawk will always be home for West, but his journey to 200 first XI games in the Bendigo District Cricket Association, which he brought up this round against Bendigo, also takes in a period with Sandhurst when he made the move in 2005-06 to cross to the Dragons.
Across the two clubs West’s first XI breakdown is 113 games with Eaglehawk and 87 with Sandhurst.
West had already tasted first XI premiership success with the Hawks in his debut senior season of 2001-02, but having struggled to cement a place in the side in the ensuring years made the decision to join the Dragons.
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“I was playing in the B Grade the year before I made the move and probably stopped enjoying my cricket a bit through that period,” West said this week.
“Maybe I was still a bit young and naive and wanted to be playing at the highest level and some may say that I took the easy option to go to Sandhurst at the time.
“But going to Sandhurst was one of the best things to help my cricket… I had to grow up a lot quicker and took on a lot more responsibility while I was there, even though I probably wasn’t ready for it. But I believe that turned me into a better player.”
West spent seven seasons at the Dragons, the last two as captain, which included being the skipper when the club finally broke its lengthy finals drought.
The Dragons hadn’t played first XI finals since 1986-87 before West led them into a 2010-11 semi-final against Bendigo United at Harry Trott Oval – a game the Redbacks won by three wickets.
“I look back on that year and was really happy to be part of that team. It was one of those seasons where there was a lot of wash-outs and we won the games we needed to,” West said.
“It was a great feeling to be back part of the finals again.”
After seven seasons at the Dragons, the urge to return to Canterbury Park with a point to prove given he had earlier left the club as a seconds player drove West’s desire to head back to Eaglehawk in 2012-13.
And he has been not just a permanent fixture, but a key pillar, in the Hawks’ first XI top-order since.
“I always had an ambition to go back to Eaglehawk, which has always been my home club,” West said.
“I had a bit of a tough year in that second season as captain at Sandhurst where there was a bit of a feeling that the players just expected it was going to happen again coming off making the finals.
“It got to the point where I felt I had done all I could at Sandhurst and wanted to go back to Eaglehawk and prove that I was good enough to play A Grade cricket there.
“Matt Fitt was captain of Eaglehawk at the time and has always been one of my closest mates and I was really keen to go back and play with him again.”
Since returning to Eaglehawk for the 2012-13 season no Hawks’ player has made more than West’s 2594 runs; the next best is Andrew Smith (1820).
He has scored three centuries since his return, including a career-high 132 against White Hills in 2012-13.
West’s three Hawks’ tons – which also include 120 against Kangaroo Flat in 2015-16 and 117 n.o. in an outright win over White Hills earlier this season – complement a century for Sandhurst when he made 100 against Golden Square in 2008-09.
His four career tons in the BDCA is stiff not to be five given he also has a 99 to his name when he nicked a delivery from Kangaroo Flat’s Brent Hamblin through to the wicket-keeper in a game at the QEO last season.
The 36-year-old, long known as one of the competition’s most dangerous fielders, is a dual premiership player with the Hawks.
As well as the premiership in his debut season in 2001-02 when the Hawks beat Golden Square by 39 runs – he was dismissed by Grant Connelly for a duck in the grand final – West added a second flag 15 years later.
He was also a member of Eaglehawk’s 2016-17 winning grand final team against Bendigo United by three wickets.
West made 12 in the grand final, while a year earlier he top-scored with 86 in the 2015-16 decider when the Hawks surrendered a position of strength and lost to Strathdale-Maristians by seven runs.
“Winning that second flag a couple of years ago is something I’d worked really hard to get back and do,” West said.
“The year before when we lost against Strathdale… I didn’t take that very well and didn’t play well that next year and, to be honest, was probably lucky to stay in the side.
“But Cory (Jacobs, captain) and the boys kept backing me in and it was great to be part of that premiership after so many years of trying to get another one.”
West’s 4650 career first XI runs from 183 innings includes a split of 2957 at Eaglehawk and 1693 at Sandhurst.
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