For a cricketer best known for what he could do with the ball, new Tassie Tigers coach Adam Griffith can still play a mean straight bat.
The former South Launceston fast bowler faced a few bouncers as he announced the Tigers 2017-18 squad this week but rarely looked like getting caught out.
How much do you expect to have Jackson Bird? Why was George Bailey re-appointed captain? What’s your preferred first XI? And perhaps most contentious of all, will Tim Paine or Matthew Wade keep wicket?
Griffith handled each delivery with aplomb, suggesting a head coaching career dating back years rather than weeks.
Impressive strokeplay for someone who ended a 50-match first-class career with a batting average of 12.33.
But it hasn’t taken the 39-year-old long to share a philosophy of getting out of comfort zones.
Since retiring in 2011 from a nine-year playing career featuring two one-day cup triumphs, Tasmania’s inaugural Sheffield Shield victory of 2006-07 and Australia A representation, the Launceston-born former Glen Dhu Primary, Kings Meadows High and Launceston College student spent six years coaching at Western Australia under Mickey Arthur and Justin Langer.
No sooner had he signed a three-year contract with the Tigers than he was introducing a grueling pre-season fitness regime and taking his new charges into the wilds of their home state.
The assorted challenges of the four-day 46-kilometre trek along the Three Capes Track was intended to test mental and physical resolve while simultaneously bonding the group.
Surely no better place than the majestic, windswept Blade at the end of remote Cape Pillar to blow away lingering memories of four consecutive seasons finishing in the bottom two of the Sheffield Shield culminating in just one win from 10 matches last campaign.
Refreshed from the Tasman Peninsula and looking ahead to the squad’s next challenge in the more familiar cricketing surrounds of Mooloolaba, where the Tigers are holding a pre-season camp, Griffith talked through his first-season squad.
“After a lengthy process we are excited by the young talent we have been able to acquire from interstate, along with the continual development of local players,” he said.
“I’m really excited to see where we can go with this group. We’ve got our pre-season tour to Mooloolaba in two weeks. After that we’ll select our squad for the one-day tournament which gets underway at the end of September.
“We’re really happy with the guys that we’ve got this year. One of my big things was to get some young talent injected into the list and we’ve really achieved that.
“It will be a process over a couple of years to get the list exactly as we want it but this is a really good start.”
The squad includes paceman Jackson Bird and returning wicket-keeper Wade on Cricket Australia contracts, Bailey and James Faulkner after losing theirs and George Town quick Gabe Bell upgraded from the rookie list.
“We’ve gone for a range of different skillsets,” Griffith said.
“Charlie Wakim is a middle to top-order batter who has come down from NSW, (Queenslander) Nick Buchanan has been touted for a while as someone who has got potential to go the next level but hasn’t been able to get on the park a lot and we’re excited to see what he can do with a ball.
“Tom Rogers is a young all-rounder who was player of the year in Futures League competition last year with ACT. Aaron Summers is a young guy I know from Western Australia. He was in the under-age program over there, who went away from cricket to try his hand at footy. That didn’t work out but he’s done really well up in Darwin so we’re excited to see where he can go.
“A real good story for us is Liam Devlin, a local from Clarence who we’ve been working really hard on through our pathway system and it’s a credit to our staff to have someone of his character and skill level to come through onto our contracted list.”
Praising his group for how it handled the memorandum of understanding saga and declaring his first-choice XI still wide open, Griffith said he was excited to be working with such proven performers as Bailey, of whom he said it was a “no-brainer” to re-appoint captain.
He wished Bird well on the imminent tour of Bangladesh and hoped it led to continued national selection.
“Part of me would love to see him as much as we could but part of me hopes I don’t see him at all. I honestly hope he’s in that Australian team and playing every Test match. That would be a great outcome for us because it forces the rest of the squad to step up.
“He’s on the tour of Bangladesh and one of the five fast bowlers seen as very important for the upcoming Ashes.”
Griffith would have been expecting the Paine-or-Wade delivery, and dealt with it in a way that would have left both Hobart-born Test wicket-keepers wondering who was first-choice.
“We’ll look at that,” he said, diplomatically. “I still think Tim’s one of the best glovemen in the country but obviously Matthew’s the incumbent Australian wicket-keeper.
“Wadey’s decision to come home was based around family. He’s got a young family and his support network is down here and he’s a Tasmanian boy at heart. He’s been looking forward to the opportunity to come home again and set his life up down here. It’s been really exciting having him home and being able to tap into him and his leadership.”
Griffith concluded the conference with a slightly cliched but totally honest response to who he would like to see in his preferred XI.
”Once we’ve seen them play we’ll get a better idea of where they sit. Those guys that are taking wickets and making runs will get the opportunity.”
Nothing better than watching a No.11 batsman play a text-book straight drive.