He might possess the build of a rugby flanker or a medley swimmer, but Hilton Cartwright has long had his sights firmly fixed on a career in cricket.
Cartwright, the Zimbabwe-born allrounder who made his Test debut against Pakistan at the SCG last month, was tonight honoured with the prestigious Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year Award at the annual Crown Lager Allan Border Medal presentation.
The 24-year-old joins a select roll call to have won the prize, for which players aged 24 and under who have played 10 or fewer first-class matches are eligible, which includes Brett Lee, Shane Watson, David Warner and the late Phillip Hughes.
But Cartwright’s road to a Baggy Green Cap is vastly different to most who have trodden the path before him.
The son of a Zimbabwe tobacco grower who was forced to leave his property in 2002 at the height of the ailing African country’s aggressive land reclamation movement, Cartwright had initially honed his cricket skills on the sprawling acreage.
And aspired to emulate the considerable feats of star all-rounder Jacques Kallis, in neighbouring South Africa.
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But he also established as a promising junior swimmer, which explains the broad shoulders and muscular torso that defines the hard-hitting allrounder who was aged 11 when his family relocated to Perth and then devoted himself to cricket upon attending Wesley College.
An institution renowned for its sporting pedigree, which boasts Australia representatives Chris Rogers and the Marsh brothers – Shaun and Mitchell – among its alumni.
Indeed, it was fellow allrounder Mitchell Marsh who took on the role of mentoring the younger Cartwright and who continued to encourage his WA teammate, even when Cartwright effectively supplanted him in the Australia Test squad this month.
“He (Marsh) has always been a role model in a way, he’s always been the year above me, he’s taken me under his wing quite a lot,” Cartwright said on the eve of his Test debut in which he scored 37 and took 0-15 from four overs.
“Even when he found out I was in the squad he was one of the first guys to come up and congratulate me.
“He’s just as stoked for me as for anyone else so I think it’s bittersweet for him, but he’s just as rapt as anyone else.
“And he’s always helped me, no matter what situation it’s been.”
Cartwright first came to national attention when he was added to Australia’s squad for last December’s three-match Chappell-Hadlee Trophy ODI Series against New Zealand.
And even though he did not play a game and was not included in the 14-man squad that will return to NZ for the reciprocal series later this month, it was clear that the batting allrounder was at the forefront of the selectors’ thinking.
During the voting period for the Bradman Young Cricketer Award – from 11 December 2015 to 9 December 2016 – Cartwright’s 926 runs at 44.10 in domestic first-class, one-day and T20 competitions as well as for Australia A – was second only to South Australia’s Jake Weatherald who was runner-up for the honour.
With Cartwright’s 17 wickets at 38.71 from his useful seamers placing him ahead of Weatherald and Queensland’s Matthew Renshaw (who also made his Test debut this summer) in the final voting.
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“My goal at the start of the summer was to hopefully try and get a game for the Aussie A after the quad series,” Cartwright said prior to receiving his Baggy Green Cap from former Australia Test allrounder Tom Moody at the SCG.
“I did that and I was rapt.
“To be where I am now is definitely somewhere I never expected.”
And a long way from that tobacco farm in Zimbabwe.