At the tender age of 22, Joe Austin-Smellie has decided that professional cricket is not for him. He has taken a nine-to-five job in Australia instead.
A contracted Wellington player last summer, the wicketkeeper-batsman was injured early in the season and never regained his place in the team.
It was said then, though denied by Cricket Wellington, that the former New Zealand age-group representative had had his fill of cricket and wasn't working particularly hard to get back into the Firebirds.
But Wellington's director of cricket, Robbie Kerr, confirmed yesterday that Austin-Smellie had moved to Adelaide, where he had no plans to don his wicketkeeping gloves.
"In many ways it's a mature decision and I know he's enjoying being in the workforce, which is a good thing. He's been right through the representative system and he's put a lot of time into it and he's not convinced it's necessarily for him," Kerr said.
Austin-Smellie's decision is not the first by a player of his ilk. Stuart Mills, a Wellington College, New Zealand age-group and North City player like Austin-Smellie, was another young Wellington wicketkeeper who fell out of love with the game and moved overseas.
Mills, now 30, played 13 first-class, 10 one-day and five Twenty20 games for Wellington between 2003 and 2007. Austin-Smellie has made 16, nine and two appearances for the Firebirds in those same three formats since his debut in 2009.
Kerr said that, at this stage, Austin-Smellie was talking about spending only a year away from the game.
"We'd obviously love him to be playing and enjoying it and he's certainly got the potential to be a good player. But your heart's got to be in it and you've got to love it," said Kerr.
Former Australian limited overs' representative Luke Ronchi will be the Firebirds' first-choice ‘keeper this summer, after part-timers Michael Papps and Craig Cachopa kept wickets in Austin-Smellie's absence last summer.
Ronchi has arrived in Wellington, from Perth, and is looking for a house before he decides which club he might play for. Another Aussie import, quick bowler Dane Hutchinson, will play for North City.
Former Central Districts medium pacer Seth Rance has linked up with Johnsonville, bringing fellow Wairarapa reps Jamie Holmes and Matt Stringfellow with him.
Johnsonville have lost batsman Barry Rhodes to Onslow, who have been busy in the offseason.
Auckland Twenty20 batsman Dusan Hakaraia has been targeted by a few clubs, but his move to Wellington remains up in the air.
Hakaraia has been named in a wider Aces squad to prepare for next month's Champions League T20 tournament in South Africa and will stay in Auckland at least until their touring party is named.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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