Sport: Pain of sharing young talent

Canberra’s success as a sporting “nursery” may be a hindrance as we revisit the possibility of getting teams back into men’s national leagues, says TIM GAVEL

WITH no teams in the male domestic one-day or 20/20 cricket competitions, none in the men’s National Basketball League or the A League soccer, Canberra is growing in its role in developing talent.

It’s a role none in the three sports seem to begrudge; instead, there is a sense of satisfaction in seeing young Canberra athletes better themselves by going elsewhere.

We used to do it in baseball before the Bushrangers and now the Canberra Cavalry. It happened in rugby union and rugby league before the Raiders and the Brumbies.

But, as the Brumbies and the Raiders discovered, there was initial resistance because teams outside the ACT secured plenty of talent from this region.

While there appears little prospect for Canberra’s A League aspirations and even less chance of our getting a team again in the NBL, ACT Cricket intends to get back into the domestic one-day cricket competition.

Concerns from other States that the ACT could become a competitor in hosting international matches saw the Comets ejected from the one-day competition at the end of the 2000 season. Since then, Canberra cricket has thrived in its role developing young players.

ACT Comets’ skipper, Jono Dean, is the latest in the growing production line of cricketers to come out of the Canberra system into the Big Bash after signing with Adelaide. He joins six fellow former ACT players – Ryan Carters, Will Sheridan, Nathan Lyons, Brad Haddin, Jason Floros and Jason Behrendorff – in the Big Bash.

It hasn’t been easy for Jono; he came to Canberra from Bathurst via the Sydney grade system to get a chance to play in the Futures League with the ACT Comets.

He has made the most of the opportunity in becoming the Comets’ leading run scorer and now, aged 29, he has finally secured a contract to play in the Big Bash with Adelaide, under the leadership of coach Darren Berry.

It’s not huge in terms of financial reward, but it’s a chance to prove himself on a stage, many thought, that should have come sooner after he hit a quickfire half century for the Prime Minister’s XI against India that, if nothing else, got his phone ringing from other teams.

ACT coach Mark Higgs predicts a bright future for Jono’s younger brother Blake, whose fast leg spinners, ideal for 20/20 cricket, are being monitored by Sydney Thunder.

It won’t be long before another player is plucked from the Canberra competition on to the main stage, but it is hard to see other centres and teams that benefit from the abundance of our ready-made talent embracing the establishment of an ACT side into the national leagues any time soon.

JUST on Canberra cricket’s field of dreams, Manuka Oval is undergoing a major redevelopment, with the scene of Sir Donald Bradman’s final game resembling a BMX track.

The playing surface has been entirely ripped up to lower the playing surface, improve the drainage and increase the seating capacity.

The hope is that Manuka will host games during the 2015 Cricket World Cup. A few more AFL games may also be in the pipeline.


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