Sheffield Shield final: NSW on the cusp of remarkable turnaround

Sheffield Shield final: NSW on the cusp of remarkable turnaround

The adage that Australian cricket is strong when NSW are strong could not have rung more true in a summer where both country and state have made giant strides in the long climb back from the outhouse to the penthouse.

A season in which Australia regained the Ashes and toppled world No.1 South Africa could end with former domestic powerhouse NSW claiming the Sheffield Shield for the first time in six years if the Blues can avoid defeat against Western Australia in the final starting in Canberra on Friday.

Final countdown: Moises Henriques takes a screamer at Blues training in Canberra on Thursday.

Final countdown: Moises Henriques takes a screamer at Blues training in Canberra on Thursday.

Photo: Graham Tidy

That the Blues are in the final, let alone hosting it, would have been incomprehensible this time last year when the bloodletting at Cricket NSW claimed the jobs of the chairman, chief executive, coach and captain.

Adding to the feeling of disarray, the state's two Big Bash franchises were also on the lookout for new general managers after the departures of John Dyson and Stuart Clark, who had contrasting fortunes in their respective reigns with the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers.

But just as Australia began their rejuvenation in the winter so too did NSW, under the chairmanship of Westfield executive and former Manly-Warringah first-grader John Warn, with several key appointments.


First was the decision to hire Trevor Bayliss as head coach – something many NSW players privately feel should have been done by the previous administration three years ago.

Bayliss is one of several former Blues now working for the state as part of a concerted push by Warn and the board to "respect the tradition and heritage" and use guys who are "passionate, bleed blue and love the state". Others include Geoff Lawson, Phil Jaques, Mark O'Neill, Mark Cameron and Beau Casson.

Under Bayliss, who guided Sri Lanka to the 2010 World Cup final, the Blues finished second in the Ryobi Cup and the Sixers reached the semi-finals of the Big Bash.

Bayliss, like national coach Darren Lehmann, has succeeded in reuniting a once-fractured dressing room and improving team harmony.

"He's had a remarkable year," Warn said of Bayliss. "He's instilled discipline and a real calmness into the dressing room. He's a really methodical, pragmatic thinker and has a calming influence on the room."

Warn pointed to the sanctions handed to Test star David Warner at the start of the season as an example of how CNSW would crack down on players not doing the right thing.

Warner was read the "riot act" by CNSW and handed a one-match suspended ban after missing a grade game to concentrate on specialist batting and fitness training.

"That's a good example that it doesn't matter if you're the Test captain or the Test opener or the lunch boy, people's accountability for their own performance and behaviour is something we've really stuck to," Warn said.

"The principles about high performance is accountability and making sure it's 'we not me'."

While Bayliss has lifted morale inside the dressing room, the arrival of Andrew Jones as chief executive had a similar effect on Cricket NSW staff, with one independent source telling Fairfax how much more content current staff were compared to previous years.

On the Big Bash front, Nick Cummins and Dominic Reymond were hired to head the Thunder and Sixers respectively and have made strong progress on the commercial front.

The transformation of CNSW has also been noted by CA, which, Warn says, views his organisation "very positively".

"I attended a conference last week in Brisbane and feedback from the CA board is they couldn't be more happy with resurgence of CNSW, the way it's been done and our professional approach," Warn said.

"I made no bones about anything being achievable within 12 months and I think we've shown everyone we've meant business and we've delivered on that."

Andrew Wu

Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald

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