ACT export Matt Gilkes says the revamped cricket pathway in Canberra could open the door for more to follow his footsteps towards the bright lights of the Big Bash.
The former Western District wicketkeeper's phenomenal rise is set to continue when he suits up for the Sydney Thunder against the Melbourne Renegades at Manuka Oval on Wednesday.
Gilkes is one of nine former Canberra grade players plying their trade on the domestic or international circuit in a list headlined by the likes of Nathan Lyon and Jason Behrendorff.
But the Canberra pathway has come under fire from some quarters in recent years after an alignment with Cricket NSW saw the rebadged ACT/NSW Country Comets brimming with Sydney players.
However more ACT products have begun forcing their way into the National Second XI competition alongside 20-year-old NSW rookie Gilkes this season.
Many are adamant Canberra grade players must continue to be picked in those representative squads to lure country players to the ACT and strengthen the local competition.
Now there are more opportunities to do so following the ACT's return to the national country championships and the ACT Aces' inclusion in the Twenty20 Regional Bash.
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"Definitely, the pathways coming through there are awesome," Gilkes said.
"I followed the pathways through when I was younger, and the coaches there throughout helped me immensely when I was going through. It's definitely really good.
"It's very special to me [to be playing at Manuka Oval this week], I obviously played a lot of cricket in Canberra and still continue to play there with the Comets.
"It's definitely really special to get back there. I absolutely love playing my cricket down there."
The Thunder are preparing to meet a winless Renegades outfit whose 0-9 start has them in the midst of the worst start to a title defence among major men's sporting leagues this century.
But Gilkes is refusing to take Aaron Finch's side lightly as he continues to find his feed in a new role for a finals contender in the Thunder.
"It's been a bit different for me this year, batting in the middle order. I usually bat at the top of the order so it's definitely something I'm not used to," Gilkes said.
"Going out there having different plans for throughout the middle of the innings and just backing myself is the biggest key for me.
"Every team in the Big Bash has got such quality players and you really have to work hard to win any game.
"There's no team that's a walkover, so we're going to have to put in our best performance and hope we can come away with another win."
The Thunder squad will host a booked-out junior clinic at Phillip Oval on Tuesday afternoon.
BIG BASH LEAGUE
Wednesday: Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Renegades at Manuka Oval, 6.10pm. Tickets from Ticketek.