When a new cricket season dawns, there are always new players that catch the public eye.
Since September, Queensland Cricket has welcomed one female and seven male players to the ranks of the Fire and Bulls, while we have had one claim his first Baggy Green cap.
We have seen Queenslanders star on the international stage, most recently with Usman Khawaja’s match-saving century in Dubai - one that will live for generations, while Beth Mooney, Jess Jonassen and Delissa Kimmince are busy preparing for the Australian Women’s Cricket Team’s tilt at the World Twenty20 in the West Indies.
One of Queensland Cricket’s strategic pillars is to Enable Players to Achieve Their Dreams, where playing international cricket is the pinnacle.
While the Sheffield Shield may not receive the coverage it once did, its importance to Australian cricket and Australian cricketers has not diminished. Queensland Cricket values State cricket as a key pillar of a player’s representative journey, and as an enduring beacon of the history of wearing the maroon cap.
Image: Marnus Labuschagne, Peter George and Ben McDermott receive their Queensland caps
For those of us within cricket, it can seem a trifle incongruous to hear discussions about selection 'bolters'. That a player can ‘come from nowhere’ to be selected in an Australian squad is a substantial exaggeration. Australian cricketers are picked on performances for their state, which comes from a pathway of Premier and underage representative cricket from a young age. Any judge worth their salt will make it their business to monitor the performances of players who sit just outside the national male and female squads.
Despite what you might have heard, State cricket remains the ultimate breeding ground for international cricket, and likewise Premier Cricket plays the same role for our domestic competitions.
As such, it is the responsibility of Queensland Cricket to make Premier Cricket and our junior representative programs as strong as possible, so we can prepare players for State and National honours.
No matter where they may live in this state, Queensland Cricket’s representative framework allows promising young athletes to be identified and their skills and physical conditioning enhanced by QC’s High-Performance coaches and staff.
The specialist coaches, talent officers, medical and administration staff stationed throughout the State support these athletes as they join and progress along the Queensland Cricket Talent Pathway. These athletes play their cricket within the club system, which act as the local hubs for junior and senior players.
Marnnus Labuschagne and Josie Dooley are two recent examples of young Queensland cricketers who have made their way through the system, taking advantage of the opportunities provided to them both.
Through their respective journeys, both players have seen evolution in the selection and playing opportunities within Queensland and Cricket Australia’s systems
Marnus played his juniors with Cleveland Thornlands, which sits under the Redlands Tigers umbrella in the Queensland Premier Cricket competition.
Redlands Tigers are justifiably proud of the pathway the club creates for promising junior players through the Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket U19 and U17 Rookie Programs, the U15 Academy Squads and the Queensland Academy of Sport Youth Female Squads.
Marnus played Premier Cricket for the Tigers and youth cricket for Queensland. Along the way, his potential displayed in strong performances saw him receive opportunities at 2nd XI level for the Queensland Academy of Sport. In October 2014 he became the 490th male player to represent Queensland at first-class level, scoring his maiden Sheffield Shield century the following season.
His Test debut this month followed strong showings for Queensland and the Brisbane Heat in one-day, four-day and T20 cricket, and came off the back of impressive efforts for Australia ‘A’.
Image: Marnus Labuschagne in action for Redlands
Josie Dooley, 18, has recently returned from an Australia ‘A’ tour of India. She has also followed a clear and straight-forward path, notwithstanding of course a lot of hard work.
Starting off playing junior cricket with clubs such as Kenmore, Souths Juniors and Wests Juniors, she was identified as a player of potential in her early teens. She was given opportunities within the Queensland 15 and Under Girls State Challenge, the Queensland 15 and Under Girls' team and the Queensland Under-18 Girls.
She also commenced her Premier Cricket career with Wests.
Her efforts at national youth titles earned her selection in Cricket Australia Youth squads, including the National Performance Squad, as well as playing opportunities in CA XIs and the Governor-General’s XI.
She made her Women’s National Cricket League debut last season and has started the summer well for the Konica Minolta Queensland Fire, culminating in selection in the inaugural Australia ‘A’ touring squad. She has also recently been awarded a Women’s Big Bash League contract with the Brisbane Heat.
Image: Josie Dooley in action for the Queensland Under 18 Team
After some fallow years, Premier Cricket has been rightfully identified as a key element within the overall framework of cricket for high performing players. It represents the vehicle for players who are of interest within the clubs to test themselves and demonstrate their skills and resolve, at the same time strengthening the overall depth of the competition.
As they string together performances, they become players of State and National interest, and the process continues, often in lockstep with each other, as performances and potential drive the player to higher levels of contest.
Queensland Cricket’s commitment to Premier Cricket is highlighted by the significant investment that has been made into the improvement of pitches and facilities. As we recently announced, a joint curatorial initiative between QC, our Premier Clubs and the Brisbane City Council has been launched that will see 14 curators employed by Queensland Cricket to oversee the long-term development and ongoing preparation of Brisbane’s Premier Cricket wickets and grounds.
While Josie and Marnus are examples of players coming through representative ranks to earn international recognition at the beginning of their careers, it would be remiss not to mention players like Andrew Gode who earn their State stripes after several strong years of performances in Premier Cricket.
Andrew has been a consistent performer for Valleys in Queensland Premier Cricket for many seasons and has played for Queensland’s 2nd XI since 2011. When he made his Bulls debut in the JLT Cup earlier this season at age 28, it was a reminder that the door for higher honours should never be considered closed and that all Premier Cricket players are selection options for the Queensland Bulls and Fire.
Image: Andrew Gode bowls for Valleys in the Bulls Masters One-Day Final
The value of experienced players within the Premier Cricket and 2nd XI systems should not be undersold. With the support of the Australian Cricketers’ Association and the backing of bodies like the Bulls Masters, older players or those not long out of the State contracting system are encouraged to play on with their clubs, and thereby benefit the development of other players with potential.
Cricket is a unique sport within the Australian landscape in that we are a global game and have multiple formats available for players to pursue dependent on where their strengths lie. This is something we should embrace and promote as we look to secure cricket’s health for the next generations.
As we have seen with Josie, Marnus and other players who have reached international heights this year such as Michael Neser, Jack Wildermuth and Sammy-Jo Johnson, the journey from junior cricket to the international stage is a clear and evident one. These are not players who have risen to where they are by luck. Their place amongst the elite is from years of training and determination.
Theirs is a story we are proud to tell.