Ryan Carters and Mike Hussey, from the Sydney Thunder, at the University of Canberra following the announcement of a sponsorship deal between the UC and Thunder. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Canberra is still dreaming of its own Big Bash League team but it can now stake a bigger claim in its partnership with the Sydney Thunder.
The Thunder, which already has four ACT players on its extended roster this summer, will also play with the University of Canberra logo on its strip after signing a one-year sponsorship deal.
Cricket Australia has put expansion of the BBL on the backburner but the UC sponsorship is a positive sign that Canberra may have the corporate dollars to match its growing talent pool of players if and when the competition does grow.
The strong Canberra presence in the Thunder's playing ranks begins with wicketkeeper and batsman Ryan Carters, who is on the full-time roster with allrounder Jason Floros. ACT Comets duo Blake Dean and Greg West will train with the squad as supplementaries.
The ACT Comets will play a trial match against the Thunder in Sydney next week. Thunder general manager Nick Cummins - a fan of Canberra's partnership model with AFL club the GWS Giants - said there was also the possibility of bringing a pre-season game or a BBL fixture to Manuka Oval as early as next summer.
''We'd love to in the longer term, whether it's for points or whether it's a practice match is a longer strategic conversation we have with Cricket Australia,'' Cummins said.
''Canberra is very important. We are the team for western Sydney but we are also the team for the ACT, so we want to build connection and meaning here.''
The presence of ACT-developed players is increasing across the country. Test representatives Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon are with the Sydney Sixers, fast bowler Jason Behrendorff is at the Perth Scorchers and Jono Dean and Ben Oakley get their opportunity with the Adelaide Strikers.
Former Australian batsman Mike Hussey will lead the Thunder this summer and he believes the Canberra connection is a perfect fit.
''Canberra is part of our territory, so we're always looking for future players,'' he said. ''Hopefully we can provide a lot of exposure for UC not only in Australia and NSW but overseas,'' Hussey said.
''The Big Bash goes into India and Sri Lanka, so there's a lot of exposure for the University of Canberra to try and attract students.''
The UC deal, which includes an option for the 2014-15 summer, will see the UC logo on the Thunder playing strip and signage at home games at ANZ Stadium.
It comes as The Canberra Times understands UC is close to extending its major sponsorship of the ACT Brumbies for another three years. The Brumbies already train at the UC campus but will move to a new $15 million headquarters on the Bruce campus in March.
UC is keen to increase its presence in Sydney as it offers courses in the harbour city for the first time at the Northern Sydney Institute and Western Sydney Institute of TAFE.
For the first time, the BBL will be shown live on free-to-air television in Australia on Channel Ten.
The sponsorship with the Thunder also opens doors into India.
The BBL will be broadcast in the subcontinent on Star Sports, which has an estimated 33 million subscribers.
It gives the UC valuable exposure to potentially attracting more international students while at the same time consolidating its presence in sport.
''UC wants to be the leading Australian university in sports scholarships, sports research and sports promotion,'' UC vice-chancellor Stephen Parker said.
''We're doing a lot in sport already and this is a natural extension to help cricket.
''This is a really effective way of promoting the brand of UC and especially in sport.''
The Big Bash League season starts on December 20.