In the second of our series profiling cricket’s next generation we talk to Tom Stray, the inaugural Victorian recipient of the Kerry Packer Scholarship
Whilst talking with Tom Stray, the inaugural Victorian recipient of the Kerry Packer Scholarship, it becomes clear that receiving the grant has had a marked effect on his life. After receiving the scholarship in June this year, Tom has been able to train full-time with the Victorian squad and not have to worry about trying to juggle work and study around his cricket commitments. As a result, Tom’s cricket is flourishing, as he represents Victoria in the Futures League competition, and was picked in the provisional squad for the tour match against England last week.
After first playing for Ringwood Cricket Club at the age of 14, 23 year old Tom Stray is a top-order batsman who has made his way up through the ranks of local cricket to be in serious contention for selection by Victoria. After the disappointment of missing out on a Victorian contract, Tom was approached by Cricket Victoria about a new scholarship that would allow him to give time to his cricket, whilst being able to focus on work and study.
Starting this year, the Kerry Packer Cricket Foundation has provided a $20,000 scholarship to one player per state. Ben Robertson, High Performance Player Development Manager for Cricket Victoria, explains that the scholarship is all about allowing players to get a good balance in their working life.
“The scholarship is a great opportunity to get some work experience that is flexible, so that the player can get a good wage, or some study, and still have the flexibility to train with the team” he says.
The idea of the scholarship is to give cricketers the opportunity to extend themselves outside of cricket, which will hopefully allow players to actually improve their game, as they will enjoy a more rounded lifestyle. For Tom, this is absolutely the case, as he’s been able to improve his cricket, whilst working in a gym, and completing a Diploma in Fitness by correspondence.
“The past six months have been great. I’ve been given the ability to pursue my career path, while at the same time being able to train and have a real crack at cricket” he explains.
Working two mornings per week at trewhealth, a personal training service based at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, Tom is able to commit himself fully to cricket without the concern of fulltime work. He explains that without the scholarship it is almost impossible to pursue cricket at a high level and try to balance work and study. As a result, Tom’s game has really improved since receiving the scholarship, as he has been able to relax about his life outside of cricket.
“It’s taken pressure off having to work and find a job that is flexible. My game is coming along great, particularly because I’m able to train fulltime with the team” Tom says.
Ben Robertson agrees, and suggests that Tom’s life after cricket will also be much improved because of the skills he will develop over this year.
“As his cricket progresses, he is also able to advance his career and build networks and pathways for work in the future” Ben explains.
At the moment, Tom is focusing on his cricket, and is enjoying the chance to represent his state in the Futures League competition.
“It’s been great! Good to play against the top players at my age level around the country, and also fantastic to experience the ‘tour life’” he says.
After the scholarship ends in June 2011, Tom feels that he will be able to maintain the great balance he has already achieved in the last half of 2010. The chance to gain great work experience and further his studies will certainly hold him in good stead for the future. However, his real dream is to progress his cricket and really challenge for selection for his state. Thanks to the Kerry Packer Scholarship Tom’s life is on track, and with his combination of professional experience, study skills and cricketing nous, don’t be surprised to see this top-order batsman transform into a star performer on the pitch and a proven performer in whatever career he chooses to pursue throughout his life.
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