Sydney Thunder turn away from messiahs and look on bright side of life

Sydney Thunder finished last summer with huge claims on the title of the worst team in Australian sport but it will be a different outfit on show this season.

Hope may spring eternal at the start of any campaign but, under the stewardship of new general manager Nick Cummins, the Thunder are already making strides after two horrible Big Bash tournaments.

For starters, they have already earned a provisional tick from Cricket Australia, which is encouraged by their engagement with the people of western Sydney. Their on-field prospects also appear brighter after shedding the ''messiah complex'' that landed them in a massive hole.

Thursday night's season launch may as well have been the start of a new age so unrecognisable is the side that failed to win a game last summer and has lost 13 matches on the trot.

The Thunder have practically a new staff, headed by a new general manager and coach, while former marquee signing Chris Gayle is gone - so too the preferential player treatment he came to embody.

Cummins, who has replaced John Dyson as the organisation's general manager, was not part of the team last season but can already detect how markedly things have changed in such a short time.

''For me having only been in the job since September, it's hard to get context to how well you're going compared to last year but a lot of people who had involvement with the club last year are saying that the feeling is a lot more positive,'' Cummins said.

''Positivity alone doesn't win you games but it certainly can't hurt.''

Winning counts, of course, but Cummins has been careful to avoid the approach taken by Kevin Costner's character Ray Kinsella in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams.

''Kevin Costner had a bit to answer for when he said, 'Build it and they will come.' I don't think that's the right strategy at all,'' Cummins said. ''[Last year was] 'Let's just think of the highest-profile players we can sign, then win, and everyone will come.'

''We actually need to build passion and awareness with the club, and they will come.''

Thunder have sought a closer relationship with western Sydney - one of Australia's most culturally diverse regions and what has traditionally been a nursery ground for some of the nation's best players.

Among the initiatives were the usual shopping centre visits but also new concepts such as the Thunder Nation Cup - an eight-a-side cricket tournament featuring 11 different communities and nationalities - and a schools program that Cummins said involved 28,000 NSW students.

Cummins has also visited almost every grade club in Sydney to illustrate the player pathway.

''We've changed our focus from being top-down to bottom-up and working a lot more closely with those areas,'' Cummins said. ''We've worked tirelessly, we've put in a lot of hours to get out there and talk to people and understand what the bigger picture and opportunity is.''

Once derided by CA for their off-field performance, Thunder are receiving glowing report cards from city hall.

''If you look at the objectives of the team off the field, their engagement with the community in Sydney has gone to a different level and will be a benchmark for all other teams at the end of the season,'' Big Bash League chief Mike McKenna said.

''We have to bring communities in with the cricket clubs. There's no point having them separate. It's all part of an objective that cricket is working on but Nick's done a really good job of getting their market connected to their team.''

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