Warriors recruit ready for battle
The weather felt like England and the faces were different, but they were the only unusual experiences for Ashley Noffke after landing in Perth following his east-west move from Brisbane. After 10 years with the Bulls, Noffke provided the shock of the off-season by rejecting a one-year deal and quickly signing with the Warriors.
Noffke, 32, feared he was being squeezed out in his home state less than 18 months after representing Australia in their limited-overs teams and being part of the Test squad in the West Indies. He struggled with a hip injury for much of 2008-09, but proved his fitness during half a season with Worcestershire during which he was told of the Bulls' plans.
"At Queensland it wasn't likely that I would play much outside of the four-day team," he said. "I got the sense - nobody ever said it to me - that they were looking for the next generation and that's fair enough. But I didn't want to feel on the chopping block, and I didn't want to be squeezed out.
"Western Australia's only promise to me was that I'd be eligible for all forms of the game - I didn't get that at Queensland. I've definitely made the right decision."
Of course, Western Australia host Queensland in a FR Cup game on Sunday before a Sheffield Shield encounter from Tuesday, giving Noffke an early chance to reacquaint himself with the Bulls. "It'll be different," he said. "I'll have mixed emotions in the early stages, dealing with the fact I've been playing with those guys for so long.
"But these days I embrace the feeling of playing for so many teams, so it's game-on as normal. There'll definitely be a beer and a chat about pre-season after the game."
Trevor Barsby, the Queensland coach, said Noffke would be missed "a lot". "He's an outstanding player," he said. "The simple fact was he couldn't come to terms with QC on a contract. It's disappointing that he went, but what more can you do? QC offered a six-figure sum and has a policy of one-year contracts once players are over 30, so you don't get comfortable with your life. He wasn't comfortable with the one-year deal."
Pulling on a yellow cap instead of a maroon one will feel strange for Noffke, but he said he was used to facing old friends after playing for four English counties. Only in the past two weeks has the weather allowed him to train on turf pitches and when he arrived in August it was so cold it reminded him of the start of a county season.
Both the Bulls and the Warriors have evolving squads and Noffke has been impressed with what he's seen in Perth. "Queensland have a far different look and have chosen a different direction to go in," he said. "They've done it with their batting line-up - no Martin Love and no Clinton Perren - so it's an exciting time for them. It's a bit the same in WA, although I think we've got the better younger players than they do."
He has been impressed by the batsmen Mitchell Marsh, Luke Towers, Marcus Stoinis and Wes Robinson, but is more excited by the squad's attack. "The depth in bowling is really good and they've bought a few players in. Michael Hogan (NSW), Brad Knowles came over from Victoria last season and there's Jason Behrendorff (ACT), but he's a bit younger. Then there is Steve Magoffin, Brett Dorey, myself, Ben Edmondson and Drew Porter, an allrounder. That's a fair nucleus. There's talent there, but in Western Australia it's about providing the scores."
There were some eventful developments involving Warriors in the off-season, with the captain Marcus North securing a spot in the Test team and Luke Pomersbach losing his licence for drink driving and being suspended until the new year by the state. The ban on Pomersbach, 25, training with the squad has also been extended until next month to avoid his reappearance being a distraction to the side.
The rest of the unit should be quite stable, with North due to be available for half the summer and Michael Hussey and Mitchell Johnson the only big names who won't have much of a say in the domestic campaign. Last summer they were fifth in all three competitions, which is why they called on players like Noffke.
He has signed for two summers and will be 34 when the agreement expires. "I'm in a pretty happy place with my cricket," he said. "I know it's not going to last forever. I'm starting something afresh, so starting well is high on the agenda. I've settled in really well."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo