AFTER years plying his trade in the Shoalhaven District Junior Cricket Association, Lachlan Malcolm decided during the winter it was time for a new challenge.
Just like fellow South Coast prodigies Matthew Gilkes and Tom Engelbrecht, the Batemans Bay product, who was named SDJCA Player of the Year in 2019-20, decided the next step in his cricketing journey was in Canberra.
Following in the footsteps of current NSW Blues and Sydney Thunder star Gilkes, the Batemans Bay High student decided to play for the Western Districts Cricket Club, alongside former club-mate Matt Condon.
"I decided earlier this year that it was time to make the move to Canberra - it's a stronger competition to help me develop my game," Malcolm said.
"Training and playing alongside quality cricketers can only help that.
"Batemans Bay Cricket Club has had a relationship with Western Districts since I have been playing the sport, with yearly pre-season trial games, as well as them holding a bushfire fundraiser at the start of the year, with all proceeds going to my junior club.
"Another big factor in the decision to head to Wests was Matt Condon, a former Batemans Bay cricketer who has coached me on and off over the past few years.
"He's a current senior first grade player for Wests and is one of many talented cricketers at the club - they are really supportive and I am already learning a lot from them."
After getting through his maiden pre-season with Wests, in which he said was "fun, tough and surprisingly scary," Malcolm began his first season of ACT Premier Cricket.
During his first two matches in second grade, against Weston Creek Molonglo and Queanbeyan, Malcolm scored nine runs and took two wickets.
"My start to the season has been a little scratchy," said Malcolm, who guided NSW Green to a nationals bronze medal in March.
"I was warned by the club coach Blake Dean that the differing conditions and pitches can take a while to get used to.
"I feel like as I settle in, I'll be able to compete with the best."
These performances carried little weight though, as on Saturday, Malcolm made his first grade debut with Wests against North Canberra-Gungahlin at Jamison Oval.
"I found out I was debuting on Thursday afternoon when I received a phone call from Matt Condon, who let me know I had been selected," the 16-year-old said.
"I was speechless, excited and pretty nervous.
"It definitely came sooner than I expected - I hadn't even expected to be playing seconds at the start of the season, let alone first grade."
Unfortunately for Malcolm, batting at eight, he was dismissed by Siddamarakkalage De Silva for a golden duck.
But he responded with the ball, finishing with 0-1 from his two overs, including one maiden.
"The debut didn't go anywhere near as well as I would've liked it to, but that's cricket," he said.
"The standard was high but nothing I can't handle."
When play resumes on day two of the round six ACT Premier Cricket clash, North Canberra-Gungahlin at 3-54 chasing Wests' 375.
Looking even further ahead, Malcolm has a number of goals he wants to achieve this season.
"My goals for this season are to continue to play solid cricket, no matter what grade I am selected in," he said.
"Obviously, I am going to continue to try and knock on the first grade door but wherever I'm playing, I will continue to do my best to help my team and club get some wins on the board."