Nash crashes, Hauritz hangs on
The curious rollercoaster ride of Brendan Nash, the Queensland opener and occasional folk hero, has taken an unwelcome twist with the news that he has not been offered a state contract for next summer.
Also on the outer for 2004-05 are batsmen Daniel Payne and Stephen Farrell. The 22-year-old left-armer Mitchell Johnson, fearsome of reputation but fragile of limb, has been lopped off Queensland's list too because of ongoing back problems. Dennis Lillee once hailed Johnson as "one of those natural talents who come along once in a lifetime"; periods of injury-free bliss, alas, have proved almost as rare.
Nathan Rimmington, a 21-year-old fast bowler whose 49 grade wickets last summer won him the Peter Burge Medal, joins the squad. Meanwhile Nathan Hauritz, the cool-headed but hitherto unfulfilled offspinner, has chosen to remain in pineapple country after resisting approaches from South Australia.
The demise of Nash, a combative if stoic left-hander, is the most poignant of Queensland's ins and outs. The son of a Jamaican Olympic swimmer, he top-scored with a match-clinching 96 in the 2001-02 Pura Cup final against Tasmania and attained something approaching cult status. University students in Brisbane founded the Brendan Nash Fan Club, distributing Brendan Nash T-shirts to members and setting up an email mailing list.
He started the following summer with the double of his life, accumulating 176 and 81 not out against New South Wales. Ever since, he has been on a steep downhill plunge. He failed to reach 40 in his next 20 innings, took 88 minutes to get off the mark against Tasmania in Hobart, and didn't play a single Pura Cup match last season. Out of luck and runs, he struggled even to crack a spot in Queensland's 2nd XI.
Things looked up sufficiently for Nash to be named 13th man in a losing team in last summer's Pura Cup final. He is bound for England shortly to play league cricket. State officials, with fingers crossed and an eye to the future, hope he can work his way back to within cooee of first-class calculations via the Queensland Academy of Sport.
The 25-year-old Payne, a year younger than Nash, has an equally intriguing background but has endured a slightly less turbulent journey. A man of Japanese, Javanese, Dutch and Aboriginal ancestry, he has played 10 first-class matches over three largely fruitless summers for an average of 14.
Four players have been offered rookie contracts: Ryan Broad (son of Wayne), Nick Kruger, Grant Sullivan and Steve Paulsen. Also among the newcomers is the allrounder Shane Watson, back from Tasmania, whose return to Queensland helped convince his old junior team-mate Hauritz to hang around. "I was happy to meet with South Australia," said Hauritz, "but it didn't take long to decide my immediate future lies here."
The other absentees from last year's list are the fast bowler Steve Magoffin, who has moved to Western Australia, and Stuart Law, who has said enough's enough.
Cheeky and aggressive, ruthless and forever graceful, Law was both the glue that held Queensland's batting together and the polish that set them apart through 16 consecutive summers. Captain of their first Sheffield Shield-winning side, he was also the last link to the bad old days of Border and Thomson, Chappell and Dymock, Trimble and Tallon, when Queensland couldn't be relied on to pilfer a game before Christmas let alone the whole Shield.
Of few players can it be said the game will be less fun, less momentous, without them. With Law, it is indisputably so.