Burt Cockley stays warm in Darwin

NEWCASTLE-bred fast bowler Burt Cockley has turned to Darwin grade cricket to try to keep his first-class ambitions alive.

Cricket Australia is poised to announce its trimmed contract list when the players’ memorandum of understanding is signed in the coming week.

The previous 25 contracted positions are tipped to be slashed to 17, which in turn will increase the number of cricketers relying on state-based contracts.

Cockley’s two-year contract with NSW has expired and he has not played for the Blues since late 2009 due to a horrendous run of injury, including a knee reconstruction.

The former Waratah junior played several matches for the NSW Second XI in the back half of last summer and opted to move to the Northern Territory two weeks ago to prove to state selectors that his injury woes were behind him.

‘‘Because I have missed so much bowling I needed to play cricket, so I wanted to make sure once the season started I was fully fit and I’ve got no second thoughts in the back of my head about my knee and if it’s 100per cent yet,’’ he said.

‘‘Funnily enough, it’s the best it’s felt.’’

The Darwin and District Cricket competition is played during the top end’s dry season.

Cockley is playing for Waratah Cricket Club in Casuarina.

He considered moving to England for the off-season but decided on Darwin after he received a poor offer from north London club Finchley.

In his first two-day match, completed on Saturday, Cockley took match figures of 4-30 off 26 overs against Nightcliff.

NSW have a wealth of talent vying for state contracts, especially fast bowlers.

Axed Test players Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith could all lose their Cricket Australia contracts and add greater competition at a NSW level.

‘‘I’m just hoping they’ve seen I’m past my injuries and I’m fully fit again and show a bit of faith, so I can repay them as well,’’ Cockley said.

‘‘It’s going to be hard in NSW as there’s so many Australian contract guys and we don’t know who is coming back, but we’ve just got to sit tight.’’

If cast aside from NSW, Cockley will not hesitate to follow the lead of fellow Novocastrian quicks Michael Hogan and Adam Maher in searching interstate for a contract.

‘‘I don’t want to be playing grade cricket and trying to force my way in,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve done a lot of hard work before on my injuries and shown I can be a first-class cricketer and compete, so if NSW can’t fit me in that’s fine.

‘‘I’m a professional cricketer so I’ve got to go and be used by another state really.’’

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