Heir Jordan: Silk's road from rookie to role model

As the only man still playing from the last Tigers XI to win a Shield final, the skipper is passing on vital wisdom while continuing to evolve his own game

The reinvention of Jordan Silk arrived in something of a hurry on October 8, 2021. After nine summers spent opening the batting, it had been put to Silk late that pre-season that perhaps the best move – for him and for Tasmania – would be to shuffle into the middle order.

"Ali de Winter had just taken over as interim coach, with Greg Shipperd down, and I remember there was a conversation that was had maybe three weeks, a month before the first game," he tells

"'Wadey' (Matthew Wade) had always been adamant that I should be batting in the middle order; he found it ridiculous that I was playing middle-order roles in white-ball cricket and then having to mould to this different batsman in red ball at the top of the order.

"He thought my strengths would be better suited in the middle order, and that it would then allow me to train a similar way throughout the whole season and not feel like it was such a big jump to go from red ball to white ball and back again."

Despite Wade's longtime overtures, the idea wasn't one Silk had ever seriously considered. Yet with Caleb Jewell viewed as an ideal candidate to move in the other direction and a young Tim Ward finding his feet as an opener, it suddenly made perfect sense.

And so on day one of the Tigers' first match of the 2021-22 Marsh Sheffield Shield season, he was relegated to the unfamiliar role of spectator as his side made it to 3-285 at stumps.

"The boys called me a coward," he laughs, "because Lawrence Neil-Smith went in as nightwatchman."

The next day, Silk peeled off an unbeaten 100 from just 131 balls to validate Wade's claims and plot a new path for the back half of his career. His only teething issues were mental rather than technical, as he struggled that first season to reconcile the notion of being a "failed opener" versus the astute tactical switch it actually proved to be; in three summers since, his 1,580 runs are the seventh-most in the Shield (Jewell is one of the players above him), while his average through that time of 40.51 is almost 25 per cent above his career mark of 32.51.

"It made sense at the time, and it probably did change the way I looked at red-ball cricket," he says. "It allowed me the freedom to go out and play in the manner I like to play in my white-ball cricket.

"But I would never trade it for the world, the way it's panned out – opening the batting has given me such good habits, and I loved my time doing it. Just the timing of it, it came at a stage where I was starting to get some good consistency in my white-ball cricket, so (the fact) I'd been doing it well in two other formats gave me the belief I could then translate it across to the red ball and have some success there."

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The last – and only – time Silk won a Sheffield Shield title, he was surrounded in the Tigers team by national captains of the past, present and future. Lining up alongside him in that drawn 2013 decider against Queensland were Ricky Ponting, George Bailey and Tim Paine, three influential Tasmanians among a host of other seasoned professionals.

Silk, meanwhile, was playing his third first-class match. History details the then 20-year-old scored his second hundred to cap off a dizzying rise, as Tasmania's men added a sixth trophy in nine seasons to put an exclamation point on their finest era.

As one walks into the home changeroom at Blundstone Arena, a photo of that team hangs proudly on the wall, among the state's other champions. Silk still shakes his head sometimes when he looks at it and casts his mind back.

"That feels like a different world," he says. "It's ridiculous to think that I was even remotely close to playing in that team.

"It's actually a hard one for me to reflect on. Obviously I'm so proud to have been a part of that, but I'd played two games and a final – I was just the new kid on the block – I hadn't been on the journey with those guys, and I was such a small part of it."

Silk (far right) is the only remaining member of Tasmania's last Sheffield Shield-winning side of 2012-13 // Getty

Eleven years on, Silk stands as the last playing member of the Tigers' most recent title-winning XI. The Penrith native has firmly adopted Hobart as his hometown in the intervening period. This summer he passed 5,000 Shield runs to enter the state's top 10 scorers, while his ascension to the captaincy at the beginning of 2022-23 indicates the love is reciprocal.

His experiences, which include working through a battle with his mental health, have moulded him into a compassionate leader who is in tune with his players, while a combination of personality and circumstance led to him adopting a collaborative approach. This summer, his second in the job, both elements have come up trumps for the Tigers.

"I think the timing was good," Silk says. "I'd settled in down the order at five or six, I was just heading into my thirties, and having played a lot of cricket, I had a really good understanding of our group and where we were headed. And it felt like I had the backing of the group to do it.

Silk went to stumps on day one of the 2012-13 final unbeaten on 82 alongside Ricky Ponting 20no // Getty

"I've also got to a stage now where I've just got a really good understanding of the journey of cricket, having experienced that myself – the highs and lows of the game, and particularly the lows, and the learnings I've taken from that.

"They're really helpful things for me to now pass on to other players. I do feel what some of our players are going through at times. Whether it's through injuries – which I've had in the past – or through selection, I feel like I've been through it all as a player and it's helped me have that empathy for guys who are going through similar situations."

Tasmania struggled their way to fifth place in the Shield last summer, with just two wins from 10, and collected the wooden spoon in the Marsh One-Day Cup. But Silk – who labels himself an optimist – banked valuable lessons as a new skipper. The defeats and the challenges made him grow up a lot, he says, and better manage the difficult conversations a leader must have.

This summer, having tackled the leadership as a foursome alongside his close friends (and peer voted 'leadership group') Beau Webster, Caleb Jewell and Charlie Wakim, the 31-year-old has felt more comfortable taking command of what he calls a "new wave" of Tigers in his own way.

"I just try to be there for players when they need to talk to someone," he says. "To guide them along their journey, share my experiences with them, and give them an understanding of how things can change quickly within this game.

"Everyone's journey is different, but I feel like I've got a lot more wisdom now that I can pass on."

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When he took on the captaincy, Silk was particularly conscious of not letting the extra duties and responsibilities affect his batting. Having averaged 57.11 the previous summer after aligning his training methods as an all-format middle-order batter – just as Wade had envisaged – he could feel himself moving into his prime. So while the captaincy was never something he was going to turn down, he didn't want it to become a case of two steps forward, and one step back.

Such awareness held him in good stead. In the third match of the summer, Silk produced the highest score of his first-class career, a rollicking 154no from 161 balls against a Victoria attack led by Scott Boland. His four-day form dipped through the remainder of the campaign but he finished on a high, adding a 10th Shield hundred to his name against Queensland in Hobart.

He has improved again this season. Silk took great satisfaction in producing an eight-hour 181 against Western Australia on an uncharacteristically low-bouncing WACA Ground wicket last October. It was a performance that underscored the fact he hadn't merely morphed into a counter-punching, total-setting middle-order man, but had in fact retained the useful tools of his former trade and worked out how to effectively employ them in his new role.

Silk goes big at the WACA with marathon 181

Then in February, with Tasmania jostling to maintain their place at the top of the Shield table, he overcame a challenging fourth-day Gabba pitch and a strong Bulls attack to steer his side to their 224 target with 84no across four hours.

For Silk, who had ticked the boxes of aggression and concentration in the past two hundreds he had scored, this fourth-innings, match-winning innings felt like an apogee.

"It's possibly my best Shield innings," he says. "Even compared to some of the hundreds I've been able to score, I'd probably put that innings right at the top of my list in terms of the tension, the ladder position, and first game back after a break and wanting to keep our momentum going. It was super hot, humid conditions as well, and to bat that long, I was really proud of how I was able to get the team through."

Silk was also pleased with the boldness he batted with, which aligned with the way the group has pledged to play this summer. In Brisbane, he led by example by manoeuvring around the crease, by walking at bowlers, and by dictating terms. It was a classic captain's knock.

Silk ices run chase for ladder-leading Tigers

"I had enormous belief that I could go out there and back myself to do it that way, and it came off," says the right-hander, who happens to average 64.75 from four Shield final innings. "It was hugely satisfying."

He knows very well however, that the satisfaction he gained that afternoon would pale into comparison to what he will feel should he lead Tasmania to a long-awaited fourth Shield title before this month is out. He thinks back again to that 2013 final, when his long road in Hobart was just beginning.

"It's crazy how the stars seemed to align for me that year," he says. "I hadn't been through any sort of ups and downs at that stage … so I've always said if I was to win another one, it would mean a hell of a lot more, purely because of my journey since."

Sheffield Shield 2023-24 standings

Matches played
No results
Batting Bonus
Bowling Bonus
Total points
1 Western Australia Men Western Australia Men WA 10 5 2 3 0 0 5.53 9.4 47.93
2 Tasmanian Tigers Men Tasmanian Tigers Men TAS 10 5 2 3 0 0 6.06 8.3 47.36
3 NSW Men NSW Men NSW 10 4 3 3 0 0 6.31 9 42.31
4 Victoria Men Victoria Men VIC 10 4 4 2 0 0 4.74 8.2 38.94
5 South Australia Men South Australia Men SA 10 3 6 1 0 0 5.19 9.3 33.49
6 Queensland Bulls Queensland Bulls QLD 10 2 6 2 0 0 3.54 8.3 25.84

M: Matches played

W: Wins

L: Losses

D: Drawn

N/R: No results

Ded.: Deductions

Bat: Batting Bonus

Bowl: Bowling Bonus

PTS: Total points