Lenton loving second chance

30 January, 2017
In his words, it has been a "topsy-turvy" few years for New South Wales and Sydney Thunder wicket-keeper Jay Lenton.

An injury-replacement player for Chris Hartley, Lenton has made the most of his BBL opportunity, posting a string of impressive performances, with the bat, and behind the stumps.

Glowing of the environment at Sydney, the Manly-Warringah player is in awe of both the culture and the players that he has the opportunity to play with this BBL.

"I guess I love the comradery in cricket in general, but especially at the Thunder, it's such a great tight knit group," Lenton said.

"To be able to play with superstars such as Eoin Morgon, Andre Russel, Shane Watson is something that you dream about, and all of a sudden you're standing next to them on the field, it is just a phenomenal feeling."

Lenton's experience in the first-class system in Australia has been unusual, if not unique. On contract in 2013 as a 23-year-old Rookie, he found himself delisted after just one year in the system where he admits to not taking the opportunity that was given to him.

"I guess I was a bit overawed by the whole scenario and moving from the central coast down to Sydney was a big thing for me," Lenton said.

"So I obviously didn't have the greatest year and lost my rookie contract after that."

Lenton has since come to terms with the reality of being delisted, but credits the work of ACA NSW Player Development Manager (PDM) Justine Whipper for helping him to 'get out in the real world.'

"It wasn't a great feeling, it took me a couple of days a couple of weeks to get over that feeling, but with some help it got me out there and looking in the real world you could say," Lenton said.

Whipper was the PDM in New South Wales when Lenton initially fell off contract, before being briefly substituted by Carla Dziwoki while she was on maternity leave.

The role of the PDM is to assist with planning for the future, identifying skill gaps, development needs and accessing the right career and education programs that will prepare players for the next phase of their life and career. For Whipper, assisting Lenton was helped by being"such a positive person" who used the experience of being delisted as motivation to get better.

"With Jay, it was really good to work with him as he had already done a degree in Sports Coaching and Admin, so once we wrapped that up we organized some practical work experience at Cricket NSW," Whipper said.

"When he was on his work experience, he was just awesome, he was so diligent and responsible, and it was easy for everyone to see how good of a worker he was."

Following this stint of work experience, Lenton earnt the opportunity to be appointed to the staff of Cricket NSW in a paid role, starting once his contract ended.

"I was fortunate to be the NSW Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association administration officer. So it was a mouthful," he laughed.

"It was a great opportunity as obviously, I wanted to stay in the building and stay in the precinct.

"Darren Goodger, the Executive Officer, come over to me said: 'look, I have heard things haven't gone great for you contract wise.'

"So through Justine and Darren I applied for the job and I went through all the interview process, it wasn't something handed to me it was something that I had to work for.

"I was lucky enough to get that role and see a different side of cricket."

While perhaps only a stepping-stone to the next phase of his career, the job allowed him to be still involved in New South Wales cricket, which motivated him to be back with the Blues sooner rather than later.

Carla Dziwoki, ACA Transition Manager and then substituting for Whipper as the New South Wales PDM, played a pivotal role in showing Lenton that he still had a future in cricket.

"Carla came to cricket NSW about a year into my job at Cricket New South Wales, and taught me that cricket was still there as an option."

"Having Carla in an office a couple of doors down, was handy to be able to go in and speak to her; she always had her door open."

After a strong season in Premier Cricket Lenton earnt selection for three New South Wales matches from outside the squad, before being offered a full contract two years after initially losing his Rookie deal.

"It was a proud moment to get back on. I was proud of myself because not many lose a contract and then be able to regain one, and especially for me to get a full contract," he said.

"To get the call in to say that you are going to be contracted next year was just a very proud moment for me."

Lenton has since represented New South Wales in Futures League, played a starring hand for the Thunder and hopes to be considered for selection for New South Wales upcoming Sheffield Shield games. He feels that with the changing landscape of cricket, that players now have many opportunities to not only successfully transition out of the game, but to remain in the game for longer than ever before.

"I am only 26 and I feel that I have gone through so much already. And to be perfectly honest I am still so young in the game.

"I was a late rookie, I was 23 when I got the contract, off-contract by 24, I have had two years' experience in the workforce and now back on contract now and I am only 26.

"So, I think the only bit of advice I have is that there is so much time [in your cricket career] that you don't know about until it actually happens."

© Australian Cricket Players Limited
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
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