Bulls place heavy accent on youth
They may have produced the powerhouse state team of the last decade but Queensland cricket administrators have today shown that they have little inclination to rest on their laurels. Flagged amid the announcement of their initial list of contracted players for 2001-02 is a clear statement of their desire to fast-track the development of an outstanding crop of emerging youngsters.
It has principally been the retirement of two veterans, the relocation of a one-day specialist, and the possible move south of another formerly contracted player which has made the promotion of the newcomers a viable option. And, even where the offer of new full-time deals has not been possible, the advent of Australian cricket's innovative rookie contract system has also opened up important opportunities.
Heading the new wave of talent is former Australian under-19 pairing Mitchell Johnson and Chris Hartley.
Johnson, 19, is a tall left arm paceman who has been plagued by stress fractures in his back for much of the last year but who has consistently impressed good judges with his speed, stamina and accuracy during his junior career.
Hartley, for his part, is a very promising 18-year old wicketkeeper-batsman who has been a regular member of Queensland underage sides since his mid-teens.
Also winning full-time contracts for the first time are Nathan Hauritz and James Hopes, each of whom played in Mercantile Mutual Cup matches for the state late in 2000-01. They similarly come to the squad with glittering junior records behind them.
And, as part of Queensland Cricket's desire to retain the services of all of the players who took the Bulls to triumph over Victoria in last summer's Pura Cup Final, Jerry Cassell and Brendan Nash have also been included among the batch of new signings.
Reinforcing the accent on youth, the Queenslanders have also named the first recipients of the rookie contracts introduced as part of the newly-signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Cricket Board and Australian Cricketers' Association. All products of Queensland Under-17, Under-19 and ACB Cup teams, batsmen Craig Philipson and Duncan Betts and fast bowler Damien MacKenzie will be the inaugural recipients of deals which allow the state associations to offer retainers of $10,000 to previously-unsigned players under the age of 23.
The five players missing from last summer's Bulls' squad are all-rounders Scott Prestwidge and Geoff Foley, off-spinner Dale Turner, and fast bowlers Brendan Creevey and Matthew Pascoe. Prestwidge and Foley have retired, Turner is returning to Sydney, while Pascoe is understood to be seriously considering an offer to shift to Tasmania.
All six states' initial lists of contracted players for 2000-01 were lodged with the ACB today. Queensland's list is the first to be made publicly available and it is expected that the remaining five will each be released via the ACB next Tuesday.