WHEN things get hard in sport, good players stand up.
Enter Fletcher Cozens.
The West Warrnambool all-rounder blasted an unbeaten 57 to steer his side to a stunning upset of Wesley-CBC in the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association under 17 grand final on Monday.
Cozens built the innings and with the Panthers needing just four from the final over, co-captain Josh Lucas hit the winning runs, sending supporters into raptures on the sidelines.
The triumph secured a three-peat of under 17 premierships for the Davidson Oval-based club and stamped its status as a junior cricket powerhouse.
Having those wickets in hand at the end was the key for us.Fletcher Cozens
Cozens, who has established himself as one of the brightest prospects in the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association, said the Panthers felt in control late in the match despite the trying conditions and quality of Wesley-CBC's bowling.
"It did sort of feel like you could get yourself out if you tried to swing or played across the line or something," he told The Standard.
"It felt like hitting (singles) was the smartest option.
"Having those wickets in hand at the end was the key for us too."
Lucas, who went to the crease with West Warrnambool at 4-92, said he battled strong nerves on the sidelines but tried to keep things simple.
"I was bloody nervous," he laughed.
"When it came to be my time to bat, I wasn't really thinking too much.
"I just thought 'try and get us over the line' as much as I could and 'try to find the gap' to get Fletch back on strike to be honest."
Noah Dawson was the Panthers' best performer with the ball, claiming 3-28 off 6.5 overs, while Cozens (0-5 off seven overs), Sam Slattery (2-16 off six overs) and Tom Knight (2-20 off five) also contributed heavily.
Flynn Wilkinson was Wesley-CBC's standout, hitting 30 runs and clinching 2-23 off six with the ball.
Cozens and Lucas said it was "pretty awesome" to defeat Wesley-CBC, which held top spot on the under 17 ladder for the majority of the campaign.
They said they were proud to be involved in a three-peat with the club.
Cozens said a group of "five or six" under 15 players had formed a key nucleus in the Panthers' under 17 ranks.
"They've been our main players, they've been our core," Cozens said.
Lucas said the players had executed their roles to perfection.
"Taj (Atchison) really stepped up for us in the top order," he said.
"That's all we've been asking of him. He played the ball and took his shots and ticked the strike over.
"He did a really good job. Most of our bottom-age players bowl for us as well."
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