Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
State of play: how teams are shaping up for new season
A look at how each state is returning to training amid COVID-19 restrictions and the latest buzz from the off-season transfer market
21 May 2020, 04:42 PM AEST
The annual leave period for Australia's professional cricketers is officially over with many resuming training around the country amid the gradual loosening of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
While the coronavirus has forced an unfamiliar start to pre-season, it has also delayed the state's player contracting, which remains under embargo.
Several big-name moves have already been touted, including a couple of Australia stars changing states as they look to further their opportunities at first-class level.
Australia's nationally contracted players will train with their state squads until there is further clarity on how the international fixtures look. There are no training camps scheduled and the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, normally a hub of activity in the winter months, remains closed.
Permitted activities vary from state-to-state, with Cricket Australia using the Australian Institute of Sports overarching framework – developed with input from CA's chief medical officer Dr John Orchard – as a guideline.
Below, we run the rule over each state to deliver the latest on their return-to-training and potential moves on the transfer market.
New South Wales
Training details: The New South Wales Blues players will report for pre-season fitness testing from tomorrow, 22 May, with the exception of the nationally contracted players, who face their sports science testing from next Wednesday.
The NSW Breakers squad – including female nationally-contracted players – will report for duty on 1 June.
Skills-based training for the men's squad, in line with the state government's restrictions, will also commence on 1 June.
While the NSW government – at the time of writing – allows gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors for sport, the CNSW headquarters at Sydney's Olympic Park has been cleared to hold activities indoors for groups of up to 10 because it is deemed a workplace.
That means professionally contracted players only will be able to use the indoor facilities.
Access to the indoor centre will be heavily restricted: players and coaches will have exclusive use of a designated rear entrance that leads directly to the indoor facilities and they must have their temperatures recorded on entry. Players will be required to clean and disinfect the equipment they use, and avoid interaction with the next wave of players arriving.
Nets will be restricted to a maximum of three people – one batter and two bowlers or one batter, one bowler and a coach – and bowlers will be required to fetch their own ball.
List management: Despite the contract embargo preventing an official announcement, it's one of cricket's worst-kept secrets that the NSW Blues have added Adam Zampa and Chris Tremain to their list for the 2020-21 season.
Zampa refused to confirm the state move when he spoke to reporters recently, but South Australia high performance boss Tim Nielsen had already publicly wished the leg-spinner well on his return to his home state of NSW.
The Blues will be without Steve O'Keefe for the new season after he retired from first-class cricket, while promising youngster Jack Edwards is recuperating from an off-season ankle operation.
Training details: Some Queensland players have begun an informal return to training with one-on-one sessions in line with the state government's restrictions and social-distancing guidelines.
Queensland Cricket has helped facilitate this by introducing an informal online booking system for players and coaches, with the men's and women's squads officially reporting back on June 1.
The one-on-one sessions are optional and involve light work – for example, spin coach John Davison posted footage of the work he has been doing with Bulls tweaker Matt Kuhnemann on technical drills on his delivery action outdoors at Allan Border Field.
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First official day back on the tools for @mattkuhnemann. He has nailed his rear leg drive over the isolation period. 🙌 We have now progressed to tightening the front arm path. The first clip shows a drill that creates an awareness of where we want his front arm to be at release. And once he has felt that he can continue to his finish position, as shown in the second clip. #crackingday #cricket #cricketer #cricketcoaching #cricketcoach #spinbowling #thespinwhisperer
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At the time of writing, the Queensland government is in stage 1 of its 'Return to Play' roadmap for the general public, which allows gatherings of up to 10 people for non-contact outdoor activities, but not community sport.
Professional sporting bodies, however, need state government approval to return to organised training activities, and Queensland Cricket is understood to have made such an application, which would allow the state squads to come tougher in groups of 10 for outdoor training.
'Stage 2' of the state government's restrictions – due to come into effect on June 12 – would allow groups of 20 for non-contact indoor and outdoor community sport.
List management: Queensland's pace bowling stocks are expected to take a blow with last summer's leading Sheffield Shield wicket-taker Cameron Gannon linked closely with Western Australia. Meanwhile, 22-year-old quick Jack Prestwidge has signed with a Victorian Premier Cricket club to confirm his exit from Queensland.
The Bulls have had state captain Usman Khawaja return to their list after he missed out on receiving a national contract, but did see both Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne receive CA deals.
The emergence of talented opener Bryce Street last summer will surely see him handed a full contract after he began last season on the rookie list, while the towering Australia Under-19 quick Matthew Willans is highly rated by the state's hierarchy and is among those expected to make the leap from rookie list to full contract this season. Fans of outrageous hair can also look forward to seeing more of Nathan McSweeney.
Top order batsman Matthew Renshaw has been linked with the Adelaide Strikers, but the addition of a custom putting green in the lawn of his Brisbane home in recent weeks doesn't suggest a player on the move.
Training details: The South Australia's women's programme has resumed this week with sports science screenings of players on Tuesday and Wednesday. They will do their 2km time trials in early June.
The men's squad returns next Monday, 25 May with a 2km time trail and sports science screenings throughout the week.
The state is planning for small groups to begin training from June 1, starting with physical sessions, before moving towards skills-based activities later in the month.
At the time of writing, the South Australian government allows a maximum of 10 people to participate in outdoor-only training sessions.
List management: The loss of Adam Zampa will be a blow to the Redbacks plans in one-day cricket, but will have a minimal effect on their Shield cricket – a lack of opportunities there is reported to be a major factor in Zampa's move to home to NSW. It opens the door for flame-haired leg-spin cult hero Lloyd Pope to play more of a role for the state.
The Redbacks are believed to have also held onto potent left-arm seamer Nick Winter after he was heavily courted by Tasmania.
Former Test player Matthew Renshaw – who made his debut at the Adelaide Oval – has been closely linked with the Adelaide Strikers, and would appear to be well-suited to the Redbacks, but it remains to be seen if they've managed to prise him loose more permanently from Queensland.
Training details: Tasmania are believed to be still finalising their return to training plans. At the time of writing, the Tasmanian government allows up to 10 participants at outdoor training for sporting clubs, not including coaches and staff.
Tasmania's pre-season in recent times has centred around a 45m x 25m marquee at Blundstone Arena to allow training on high quality turf wickets protected from the winter elements.
One player who will have a gentle introduction to the pre-season will be Matthew Wade after the 32-year-old underwent minor surgery on his knee earlier this month.
List management: Tasmania are set to make a splash with two of the bigger recruits of the winter, and look set to land both D'Arcy Short from Western Australia and Peter Siddle out of Victoria.
The big-hitting Short is a fan favourite in Tasmania for his exploits with the Hobart Hurricanes, and has been courted to join the Tigers' one-day and first-class set-up too.
Head coach Adam Griffith told the Hobart Mercury: “We see D’Arcy as a genuine allrounder who has done so well for us in the Hurricanes space with the ball as well as the bat.
"We see that as such an enticing option for us, having someone at the top of the order who can also be a frontline spinner.
“D'Arcy is super-skilled and a talented batter who when he puts his mind to it, can do a lot of things that a lot of batters can’t. I think it’s a case of if he really wants it, then why can’t he do it? That’s the attitude that he has to take and that’s the attitude we’ve taken in why we want to recruit him.”
The 35-year-old Siddle retired from international cricket last summer but his nagging accuracy, tireless work ethic and experience would make him an enticing package for the Tigers.
Gurinder Sandhu, the 26-year-old seamer who moved to Tasmania from NSW two years ago, has been reported to have been dropped from the state's list.
Training details: Victoria's men's and women's squads will return to action on June 1. Cricket Victoria has made major internal changes in recent times, and this week redeployed Lachlan Stevens as the head coach of the state women's team and the Melbourne Renegades WBBL outfit.
Stevens had been acting as Victoria's men's team head coach and that role remains vacant for now as CV finalises its plans for testing and training to meet the state government's COVID-19 restrictions.
At the time of writing, the Victorian government will allow professional sports teams to resume full training, provided they have a comprehensive risk management plan in place. Once approved, they would be allowed to use both indoor and outdoor facilities, but only one team at a time.
List management: Victoria are expected to bid farewell to veteran Peter Siddle, who has been linked with Tasmania, with an injection of young talent from interstate expected to make its way onto Victoria's list.
Jack Prestwidge, who has been on the fringes of the Queensland set-up since his first rookie contract in 2016-17 and has played with the Brisbane Heat, has signed up with a Victorian Premier Cricket Club, as has young Sydney quick Henry Thornton, who was once likened to Brett Lee but failed to secure a regular spot in the NSW side.
The state has also seen batsmen Peter Handscomb and Marcus Harris return to the state books after missing out on national contracts, and Eamonn Vines has gone on record to confirm that resulted in him being cut from the Victoria's contract list.
Nathan Coulter-Nile – who is on a long-term deal with the Melbourne Stars – is also a candidate to make a permanent move across the Nullabor after he was cut free by Western Australia, while Simon Mackin has also been linked with a move to the state.
Training details: WA's men's and women's programmes returned on Monday with a 'soft start' to pre-season, beginning with health screenings, small group meetings and optional light physical work.
Western Australia entered 'phase 2' of the state government's roadmap to easing COVID-19 restrictions on Monday and the state now allows indoor and outdoor gatherings and non-contact sport for up to 20 people, including gym work.
List management: State coach Adam Voges has set his sights on winning a Shield title for WA and has looked to beef up his bowling stocks to do so, with last summer's leading wicket-taker Cameron Gannon reported to be joining from Queensland. Voges was unhappy with the consistency in his bowling group last summer and with Jhye Richardson having recently undergone another operation on the shoulder he dislocated last year and Jason Behrendorff still on his way back after a major back operation, the state went shopping for reinforcements.
Gannon, understood to have been lured west by a multi-year offer from the Warriors, will have high expectations placed on him.
"We've got some really good young talent coming through but perhaps don't have that real senior banker that can perhaps play a full season for us," Voges said on Perth radio recently. "We're certainly in talks."
The state identified they had too many one-format players on their books, which lead to the decision to cut Nathan Coulter-Nile from the contract list, but Voges has left the door open for him to continue to push for selection in the One-Day Cup.
Simon Mackin has also been linked with a move to Victoria, while the spin-bowling, big-hitting allrounder D'Arcy Short has been courted by Tasmania.
WA are also understood to be looking to develop their spin-bowling depth by bringing the best local rising talent onto their rookie list.