A tall, neatly dressed young man with shiny shoes matched with a slight roll of the pant leg, enters the double doors of the South Australian Cricket Association.
It is a usual Monday morning in September. The aroma of scorched Nespresso pods filter through the office and the meeting rooms are already filled with plans for the new season.
Footy is still in full swing and the goalposts are standing tall where over summer there had been a rope. Inside, Cody from Human Resources is taking around the latest batch of SACA starters. The usual pack huddled nervously around her but not the guy in the crisp Tommy Hilfiger business shirt. He moved forward.
“Hi, my name’s Nick. Looking forward to working with you this summer.”
Perhaps the first meeting of Emerging Redback Nick Winter and his new colleagues in the SACA media department that day should have alerted them of a talent akin to the young quick’s swing bowling.
Winter had arrived for his first day at his new job having lost his contract just months prior. But nobody would have guessed it – for all the frustration and doubt that plagued him in the winter months, his punctuality and commitment he displayed from the outset disguised from onlookers the reality of the “really weird time in his life” he found himself in. And who could blame him?
Winter is at home at Adelaide Oval.
Since arriving in Adelaide from Canberra following a call from SACA high performance manager Tim Nielsen during Eastlake Cricket Club’s presentation night in 2012, Nick had lived the life of a professional athlete. Representing Tea Tree Gully in Premier Cricket, Nick was juggling his commitments with the Redbacks.
Headed by SA great Jamie Siddons and bowling guru Rob Cassell, he spent countless hours in the gym and in the nets trying to prove himself among the established pace-haven at South Australia’s disposal. He was picked for SA’s One-Day Cup campaign and watched from the sidelines when the Redbacks were beaten in the 2015 final. When his contract wasn’t renewed at the end of that season, due largely to a lack of opportunity and a side strain injury, a life he was thrust into without forewarning, had just as suddenly ended. He was in a different State and he was in limbo.
So he seeked change. His academic background inspired him to apply for the ACA’s internship program in careers outside of cricket. And a position in the SACA communications team came to the fore. At the same time, he moved to Adelaide University Cricket Club which allowed him to easily continue his International Studies and Politics degree at Adelaide Uni.
He fitted in seamlessly with the tight-knit media department and he was tasked with editing videos and producing website content. There was no time to lament a fading dream.
Instead, he sat in the office and wrote story after story and began to see the logic in his exclusion from SA’s contract list. He came to terms with the fact the stringent budget of list management had to squeeze in the likes of rookies David Grant and Wes Agar, along with seam-bowling superstars Chadd Sayers, Kane Richardson, Daniel Worrall and Joe Mennie. But there were positives. He was still a part of the Emerging Redbacks squad and he was performing for Uni.
Nick Winter celebrates with team mates after taking the wicket of Moises Henriques of the Blues.
He was still able to run down to the nets and train with the main squad while helping manage press conferences and working the social media accounts. On the weekend he would go out and play for Uni or in the Toyota Futures League when required and it kept the fire burning, instilling in him a glimmer of hope he would still yet make his first-class debut for his beloved adopted State. And shortly after he finished his remaining hours in the office after returning from the end of his last BBL deal with the Melbourne Renegades, he received the call for which he was so desperately waiting. He had earned his first senior contract after a year in the cold.
“Nope, I never lost hope,” he said when asked if the prospect of sending a media release instead of sending down 130km/h inswingers was a preferable career option.
“There are times when you’re frustrated and you look at our bowling attack and sometimes you think, am I ever going to get a go, especially with our bowlers so dominant at Shield level and just missing out on Australian selection.
“But I backed my ability. I don’t think giving up was a realistic thought. It was probably a lack of opportunity and you probably get frustrated at that … but thankfully it’s come and it’s now been five years since I’ve moved and it’s all sort of unfolded. It’s been a pretty epic journey so far.”
It’s a journey which reached its pinnacle at Adelaide Oval just a month ago, when Nick was presented South Australian cap No. 633 by fellow left-arm paceman Mark Harrity.
And he’s made the most of his long-awaited chance. After claiming a five-wicket haul in his debut match against Victoria, he took five wickets in both innings against New South Wales at the SCG the following week.
“I was standing at fine-leg while ‘Franky’ (Daniel Worrall) was bowling and looking at the SCG in the background and I had a little bit of a tingle thinking I’d just come away with a 10-for and that every time I walk into the rooms now I will be able to see my name on the honours board. So it is really special.
“Someone from Canberra, I never thought I’d have my name up there. It’s been pretty amazing so far, this Shield cricket stuff.”
And now, as Nick begins the final subject of his double degree having taken 34 wickets from just five Shield matches, there is no doubting which side of the media banner he belongs.
By Adam Trombetta