AFTER three frustrating years punctuated by injury, former Newcastle paceman Burt Cockley is back and firing.
Cockley made a triumphant return to first-class cricket, taking five wickets and hitting the winning runs in Western Australia’s thrilling two-wicket win over a Ricky Ponting-led Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield in Perth on Sunday.
His Shield heroics followed 2-91 from 13 overs in a one-day loss to Tasmania.
Next on the agenda for the 26-year-old is securing a full-time contract with WA.
The Warriors take on South Australia at Adelaide Oval in the final Shield game of the season next week.
The squad for that clash is named on Sunday.
‘‘Hopefully I have done enough to get another crack,’’ Cockley said yesterday. ‘‘It was just good to be back playing at that level. Getting through the whole process of playing Shield cricket again. I really missed it.
‘‘Back-to-back days, back-to-back spells and sessions. There is nothing really like it.
‘‘It really shows where you are at. It is a test of fitness and skills, all those sorts of things.
‘‘For me to get back to that and pull up really well and improve throughout the game was great.’’
Cockley played 10 Shield games and five one-dayers for NSW in 2008 and 2009 before a horror injury run, including stress fractures in his back and knee surgery.
He left his home state for the West this summer and believes it is the best place to revive his career.
‘‘It has taken me all this time to finally get my body back to where it is hardened for cricket,’’ he said.
‘‘I am back [bowling] at 140km an hour again and I am improving on that.
‘‘I want to stay here and hopefully I can sort something out.
‘‘I have really enjoyed playing under Justin Langer.
‘‘He lives his life by certain standards, and if you are not willing to give him 100per cent, he doesn’t want you.
‘‘He says either get on the train and bust your backside or go play somewhere else.
‘‘I love that approach to cricket. He will get every ounce of ability out of you.’’
Cockley returns to Newcastle on March 29 before leaving for the US to visit his girlfriend on April 2.
‘‘WA are aware of that and said they would sit down with me before I leave. Ideally I would I like to have something locked in so when I come back I can get straight into pre-season training.’’
Burt Cockley celebrates with Michael Hussey after taking a wicket last week. Picture: Getty Images