Greater Northern Raiders have made a huge statement of intent with the signing of Tasmania, Victoria and Big Bash League star Evan Gulbis.
Described by newly-appointed Raiders coach Tim Coyle as "the ultimate all-rounder", the 34-year-old has been living in Launceston since he finished playing with Tasmania in 2016 and sees the opportunity as a perfect fit while Melbourne sport is shutdown by COVID-19.
"I'm excited to be a part of it all," Gulbis said. "I think the Raiders is a really important concept and that's why I want to be a part of it.
"A team that gives players in Launceston a stepping stone to become first-class cricketers is really important because unless they move to Hobart they don't get to play against the best.
"For a young kid in Launceston to be able to face players like Jackson Bird or Riley Meredith is invaluable and to have that team here allows those guys to have a pathway to reach as far as they can get."
Despite playing just 21 first-class matches, Gulbis has a top score of 229 (the highest Sheffield Shield score for a No.8 batsman), best bowling figures of 5-104 and was a Ricky Ponting Medallist in 2014.
I view myself as Tasmanian nowEvan Gulbis
Since 2011 he has became established as a valuable BBL commodity with both the Hobart Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars.
Settled in Launceston with fiancee Kristi Seymour and their children, Violet, 2, and William, 1, Melbourne-born Gulbis said he is getting used to life on the southern side of Bass Strait and is excited to be reuniting with the man who helped launch his career.
"I view myself as Tasmanian now, the Melbourne boys even say I bring the weather with me when I go back.
"I really enjoy the lifestyle here. To be able to play in Launceston and help out coaching a younger group is a really good challenge.
"If I can help guys in Launceston achieve what they want to then that's what I'm about.
"Tim was the coach of Tasmania who gave me my crack at first-class cricket. He's seen my development first-hand and I really respect him and hope I can learn about coaching from him.
"With the amount of experience he has and the great players he's worked with and helped achieve their dreams, you know he has a wealth of information about what works for each individual.
"The amount of expertise he has in coaching is exactly what the Raiders need for success in the next few years."
A teacher by trade, Gulbis remains captain-coach of the Carlton Blues, who won this year's Victorian Super Slam title, and will return to that role when coronavirus restrictions allow.
"As soon as the borders open up I'll be back over there but this gives me a really good prep for when that competition starts up again.
"That gives me four or five games at least but it could end up being half a season or even the whole year so it's an opportunity to play cricket when potentially I wasn't going to be able to.
"And I guess with a marquee player associated with the brand, it could create a buzz and get more players involved."
Coyle described Gulbis as "an excellent signing" for the Raiders.
"I've had a fair bit to do with Evan over his course to Tasmanian cricket," he said. "He was one of the people we recruited while I was coaching and even back then you could see the big influence he could have with bat and ball.
"He's the ultimate all-rounder so brings two major skills to our program. He is a very experienced cricketer, a proven performer in big games and an excellent in for us after losing Jake Williams to Glenorchy.
"We are looking to use him in a coaching role as well, particularly around our younger players where I think his influence will be significant."