The trek down the freeway to Sydney is a well worn path for many Newcastle sporting folk.
And it seems the drive has been worthwhile for Josh Westwood.
It was only a few pre-season training sessions with the Manly club, but the recently turned 20-year-old Toronto batsman can already feel the difference in 2018-19.
“I went down to Manly for a few Sunday training sessions in the pre-season,” Westwood said.
“Just being down there you see how hard they train and how high the level is in the Sydney competition.
“It was a good learning experience and I think it’s helped me.”
Despite the stop-start nature to the Newcastle District Cricket Association season, Westwood has begun in consistent fashion by notching up three half-centuries from four innings at an average of 46.75.
Batting at No.3 for the Kookaburras, he has 52 against Waratah-Mayfield, top scored with 51 against Merewether and, in his only dig under fifty, 31 against Belmont.
The shift away from Tom Locker Cup one-day fixtures (40 overs) hasn’t stopped the run either, making 53 against Charlestown in the first innings of a two-day encounter (90 overs) on the weekend.
Partnerships have also been a feature of his time at the crease, with 81 for the second wicket alongside Jeremy Ford in round four and 113 for the fourth wicket next to skipper Adrian Chad on Saturday.
But like any willow wielder, Westwood still wants more.
“It’s not a bad start to the season,” he said.
“Three out of four [fifties] so far, but I wish I’d got a ton.”
That milestone has already been reached by Westwood in first grade, but last summer with a maiden hundred struck in round four against Wallsend at Ron Hill Oval.
The right-hander has another senior century (104) in seconds the campaign prior.
Overall this marks Westwood’s fifth season at Toronto and despite hailing from Warnervale and playing juniors at both Doyalson and Charlestown, he feels at home on the west side of Lake Macquarie.
“Definitely [it feels like home], they [Toronto] have looked after me really well,” he said.
Westwood feels the Toronto squad is well poised to have a crack at the club’s breakthrough premiership.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance this year,” he said.
“The back end of last year winning seven from seven and adding another four new guys helps even more.”
Westwood, who is undergoing his Certificate III in fitness studies at Gosford TAFE, said he was “considering” following in the footsteps of Toronto teammate Griffin Lea and playing a season in England next year.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.