Canberra quick Nick Winter’s time as a poor student helped him cope with being a poor cricketer.
The 24-year-old signed his first full state contract for South Australia on Tuesday and had to spend a couple of months training full-time unpaid while the Aussie cricket pay dispute raged.
But Winter spent last season without a contract, going to university and playing district cricket on the injury comeback trail, which meant nothing had changed.
While his form playing for Adelaide University warranted a contract with SA – he was the club champion – he had to wait until Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association argued over the new pay deal before he could sign one.
Winter spent three years on a rookie contract with the Redbacks, but the left-arm quick tore a muscle in his side about 18 months ago.
He rushed to get back to play for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League only to tear it again on his return.
It meant he missed out on a contract with SA, but after a season playing district cricket he’s back.
“I found out in April that I was looking likely, but the MOU negotiations meant that they couldn’t put anything in writing,” Winter said.
“That was a little bit disappointing, just because you like to secure your future, but when that was all sorted out and I was given the contract last week that was really good … I was pretty excited.
“It was a pretty unique situation … for me the good thing was because I wasn’t getting paid from cricket from the last year being delisted it was no real different situation for me.”
Winter has played two 50-over domestic games, along with four Twenty20s in the BBL, but was yet to make his Sheffield Shield debut.
That’s his goal for this summer, when he wants to use the upcoming one-day domestic competition to launch his career in the four-day game.
His cause will be helped by the absence of Kane Richardson, who was named in the Aussie T20 squad alongside fellow Canberran Jason Behrendorff.
With Richardson off to India in September, it opened the door for Winter to stake a claim for a spot when the ODDs start in Brisbane next month.
“I’ve played two one-day games since I’ve been across here. I was in the 12 for a Sheffield Shield game last year and didn’t get to play,” he said.
“That’s a bit of a step that I want to do this year is make my Sheffield Shield debut.
“Obviously before that we’ve got the [ODDs] so hopefully I get an opportunity there.”
While missing out on a contract due to injury and spending a season playing at a lower level might seem like a setback, Winter felt it helped with his life balance.
It allowed him to concentrate on his uni – he’s studying a Bachelor of International Studies and Politics – which he expected to complete this year.
He felt it gave him something to “fall back on” if the cricket career didn’t go according to plan.
Winter joked it could also see him perfectly placed for a return to his native Canberra for the start of a diplomatic career.
“It’s been good because it helps that life-away-from-cricket balance and my family were pretty keen on me always having that back-up plan,” he said.
“So however long I have left in my cricket career, I’ve got something to fall back on as soon as that’s done.”