As a blind outsider landing right in the plum job of Cricket Tasmania boss via the Sydney Thunder, it didn’t take Nick Cummins long to scratch his head.
He heard all the hyperbole about state partisanship and it being carved up into halves, sometimes thirds all on regional lines.
The very thought to the Melbourne-raised Cummins of Tasmanians pulling against each other he found “totally absurd”.
There’s been no better example of this than with the increasing popularity of the Hobart Hurricanes.
When Cricket Tasmania announced it was shifting one of its five scheduled matches from last summer to Launceston, the response from Hurricanes supporters in Hobart on social media went totally viral.
That went to new levels the following year when the decision to introduce a home and away season, pushing content from 10 games to 14 per club and an extra two fixtures in Tassie, was enough to convince Cummins to add a second match for UTAS Stadium.
The cries down South that the Big Bash club is Hobart’s team only grew louder.
But it was Cummins that enabled the new catch cry that it is “Tasmania’s team”.
All this as Launceston favourites George Bailey, James Faulkner and Alex Doolan – which none started out donning the purple – are embraced statewide.
“It’s so important they do support us,” Cummins said of Hurricanes supporters in Northern Tasmania.
“We’re playing against other teams that have a catchment area of two, three or four million even.
“To think we could take on those teams just with the population of Hobart behind us is totally absurd.
“We need to have every single Tasmanian, living in the state and living on the mainland, behind the Canes.
“We’re an inclusive club, not an exclusive club.
“It’s not about telling people they belong or don’t.
“If you want to be a part of the Hurricanes, we want you a part of the club.”
The attendances will back that the hard work to bring the BBL side to Launceston has been well worth it.
After a series of midweek fixtures last year, Hobart has played games twice on Friday nights for crowds of 10,478 and 12,920, and one in the prized Christmas eve slot for just 9172.
Launceston held a Sunday night clash and attracted 12,445. Last summer the 'Canes also pulled a strong 16,734 out to UTAS Stadium.
“It’s all about engagement, isn’t it?” Cummins said.
“The more you engage and present yourself, the more people will respond.
“We’ve had really good results from an attendance perspective and I think the amount of purple in the crowd showed how much Launceston people have got behind the Hurricanes.”
The mentality of division is one Cummins is keen to break up after close to three decades of anything cricket being centralised out of the Bellerive headquarters.
That last time Launceston hosted a Sheffield Shield match was back in 1990-91.
That’s a handful of times since the grand old NTCA Ground had played out state 50-over games – but even that was at least a decade on.
After Cricket Tasmania administrations of the past amid insider accusations of being a Hobart boys’ club had ignored the North, Cummins plans to change this with new content.
“Fixturing will present us with the opportunities – at the moment, it doesn’t, but that’s not to say that’s how it’s always going to be looking at the structure at the moment,” he said.
“But just in the last two years, we’ve been playing WBBL here, WBBL in Burnie, playing Big Bash here and we have started talking to the [Launceston] council about having an MOU and locking that in. I want that to be something we do every year as business as usual.
“[Coach] Adam Griffith being from the area is very sympathetic to the North and is always thinking about ways to play more content here like Shield cricket.
“Certainly it’s on the cards – it’s just got to be the right opportunity with the right fixturing, but when we’re thinking about cricket in this state, we’re thinking about the whole state.”
The opportunities in Launceston alone were given a boost last week when Cricket Tasmania announced plans to fund new practice wickets next to UTAS Stadium and to be run by Mowbray Cricket Club.
Work on the turf nets will start soon and is expected to be ready for next summer before preparations hit their peak within two seasons.
That had been a major stumbling block to bring red-ball cricket to the city despite a Futures League game – that lasted just three days on a bowlers’ friendly strip – testing out the waters.
Cummins said by the 2021-22 season, frontline cricket will be a part of the Launceston landscape.
“I think Griff’s view as coach is that is something he would like to see,” he said.
“Fixturing has to work the right way and all those considerations. But certainly, we are very open to playing top-level content anywhere in Tasmania, actually.”
While the naysayers will argue Tasmanian cricket in the North has largely gone ignored, Cummins said that has never been off the radar in his time in charge.
“I think critically we are here every day,” he said.
“Cricket Tasmania has staff that are based out of Launceston.
“We are a part of the community and we have to make sure we are giving back to the community.”
We’re playing against other teams that have a catchment area of two, three or four million even. To think we could take on those teams just with the population of Hobart behind us is totally absurdCricket Tasmania chief executive Nick Cummins on the Hurricanes' need to play Big Bash games in Launceston