Australia’s top players, including Test captain Steve Smith, face the prospect of being left homeless after Cricket NSW was told by the state government there was not yet an alternative site for training facilities at the SCG, which will be knocked over as part of the $700 million rebuild of Allianz Stadium.
A Cricket NSW delegation including chairman John Warn, chief executive Andrew Jones and other board members met with Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Sports Minister Stuart Ayres this week, a fortnight after they were informed that a design change in the project meant they were in the demolition zone for the new Allianz.
That development had blindsided officials, having been told only two months earlier that they were safe, and there is even greater concern now after learning that there is no plan yet in place for a new headquarters.
Cricket NSW has been silent on the impending bulldozing of its base since news of the government’s updated plans emerged but Jones made the organisation’s predicament clear on Thursday.
“The facilities crisis facing CNSW is now urgent following the decision to demolish our headquarters and indoor high-performance facilities as part of the Sydney Football Stadium reconstruction,” Jones said.
“As things stand our elite male and female players, junior representative teams and many thousands of community cricket users face being without any alternate training facilities.”
While there have been suggestions that the CNSW administration offices could be relocated down Driver Avenue to the Entertainment Quarter the far greater issue is the absence of a viable new high-performance base.
The facilities at the SCG are home for Smith and the other five NSW players in Australia’s Test XI – David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood – when they are not on tour with the national team, often including long periods in the off-season and pre-season.
Some of Australia’s leading female players, including vice-captain Rachael Haynes, all-rounder Ellyse Perry and wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy, are also based there.
Smith, for instance, can often be found training on his own in the indoor centre, sometimes with his fiancee Dani Willis feeding balls into the bowling machine.
While the outdoor nets at the SCG will remain in a new-look Moore Park precinct, and the indoor centre is expected to stay until the 2020 World Twenty20 tournament, the government’s $2.5 billion stadiums policy as it stands leaves many of the country’s best players staring at not having anywhere to properly train, with the gym to also go in the knockdown.
Time is quickly running out for an alternative high-performance centre to be put in place at a new site. Cricket NSW has to be out of its offices by the end of the year.
Even the existing facility is considered well below the standards of those of other capital cities.
Brisbane has the $29 million National Cricket Centre, for example, while a new $40 million high-performance centre will be opened at the Junction Oval in Melbourne next month.
But what is currently in place at Moore Park is significantly better than nothing at all.
The ultimate goal of NSW officials is for centres of excellence in Sydney’s east and west, at Moore Park and Sydney Olympic Park.
“CNSW had a positive initial meeting with the NSW government [on Monday] about our short- and long-term future,” Jones said.
“For some time Cricket NSW has been seeking a two clubs two hubs strategy based around the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers Big Bash League clubs, with high performance, community and cricket administration centres in western and eastern Sydney to solve this facilities crisis.”
Cricket is not the only sport to be affected during construction of the new stadium, with fellow tenants Sydney Roosters, Sydney FC and the Waratahs also relocating.
“The NSW government is working with the SCG Trust to develop relocation options in consultation with Cricket NSW,” a spokesman for Ayres said.
“The delivery of a modern stadium on a tight footprint of land administrated by Sydney Cricket Ground and Sports Ground Trust will cause disruption to existing tenants.”