Ashton Turner’s leadership abilities have experienced a remarkable surge in recent years, positioning him as a potential candidate for the role of Australian captain.
Five and a half years ago, Ashton Turner entered the Western Australia Cricket Association’s headquarters, where he was greeted by a group of individuals including CEO Christina Matthews, head coach Justin Langer, chair Ken Michael, and psychologist Matt Burgin.
Following Adam Voges’ retirement, Ashton Turner and Mitch Marsh were both considered as potential candidates to take over as the captain of Western Australia.
The task of filling Adam Voges’ shoes was daunting. Voges had an impressive record of 97 matches as captain for the state, including leading them to a 50-over title and two Shield finals during his five-year tenure. He also won two KFC BBL championships as captain of the Perth Scorchers.
“It was essentially a job interview,” Turner recalled on cricket.com.au’s Unplayable Podcast.
Although he joked that he “clearly didn’t do that well” as Marsh was ultimately selected, the experience planted the seed for Turner.
While he had previously led teams such as a Cricket Australia XI and the Australian Under-19s, presenting to Western Australia cricket’s top executives had ignited something different in him.
According to the 30-year-old, “The process of having to articulate your thoughts on leadership and group management through writing and presenting to others is an incredible skill and valuable learning opportunity.”
“Up until that point in my career, I’d probably never been asked to do anything like that.”
The process helped Turner evolve into a leadership student. He has since read numerous books on the subject, studied other successful leaders, and is frequently invited to present on leadership to various groups.
Although he consistently reflects on his own leadership style, it has led to the hard-hitting right-hander being recognized as one of the top captains in Australian cricket. Retired T20 skipper Aaron Finch has even suggested Turner as a potential replacement, despite not currently being on the team.
Turner questions, “For individuals who possess natural leadership tendencies, how can they direct these instincts effectively?”
“How can you use the skills that you’ve acquired over a long period of time at the right time, and have an impact on other people?
“The lesson of writing down my beliefs and being clear on what I stand for has served me well,” Turner remarked.
“As I continue to develop and gain more experience, and am invited to speak to various groups, reflecting through writing has been a valuable practice to prepare and communicate effectively. It’s not something that is commonly done in professional sports and should perhaps be done more often,” Turner stated.
Turner expressed, “There’s something therapeutic about it. It’s like studying for an exam that equips us for future situations, and I have gained substantial knowledge and personal growth from this process.”
Although he captained Western Australia at the under-17 level, Turner considers himself to be in the category of “developing leadership skills”.
Turner’s leadership qualities are indisputable as he has led the Perth Scorchers to consecutive BBL titles with crucial performances in both finals. Additionally, he is close to leading his team to a third Marsh Cup title as captain when they face South Australia at the WACA on Wednesday.
“It’s a position that I have grown into, but we are always a work in progress,” he remarks.
“Would you have looked at me when I was 16 and said, ‘he’s going to be a leader?’ Probably not,” he admits.
Turner acknowledges that he wasn’t a great leader as a junior, but he’s evolved into the role over time. He believes that this growth is exciting because it shows that people have potential beyond what they’re naturally given at birth and shouldn’t be pigeonholed into certain roles.
Turner says that if he’s offered the position of the nation’s next T20 international captain, he’s “as confident in [his] leadership skills now as [he has] ever been”.
“I am currently in a great position where I am playing for successful teams, performing well individually, and simply enjoying the success,” Turner expressed.
Turner states that he will continue to play his role and score as many runs as possible to help his team be successful, regardless of the team he represents in the future.
Turner stated that he shares the same aspiration as all the other domestic cricketers in Australia who hope to play international cricket again someday.
If the off-spinning allrounder makes a comeback to the Australia squad, it will be a vindication for the “sturdier” procedure on his right shoulder. The shoulder problem, along with the return of David Warner and Steve Smith, contributed to his omission from the 2019 ODI World Cup. He recently returned to the Sheffield Shield squad of Western Australia after more than two years out of the red-ball format.
When Turner underwent his fourth shoulder reconstruction in a Sydney hospital in 2019, he accepted that he would no longer be able to bowl or throw, and was simply hoping to restore enough function to the joint to continue playing and batting.
The Latarjet procedure, which is uncommon among cricketers due to the range of shoulder motion required to play the sport, involves relocating bones to increase shoulder stability and prevent dislocation.
Turner describes the Latarjet procedure as his final option after three unsuccessful operations.
In essence, my right shoulder requires bone breakage to dislocate. While the Latarjet procedure is suitable for some elite athletes, it had not been attempted in cricketers due to the risk of reduced range of motion.
“I took the risk because I didn’t have many other options at the time. The potential benefit was being able to play cricket without my shoulder dislocating, but the downside was potentially reducing my range of motion.”
Turner considers it as an advantage that he has been able to bowl more overs this summer than in the past few years, including taking 4-41 in a second XI match before his selection in Western Australia’s 13-player Shield squad last Tuesday.
“I certainly never expected to be able to contribute as much with the ball or in the field as I’m able to at the moment,” says Turner.
Turner compares his current situation with his red-ball cricket days, where he did not expect many opportunities, and his bowling was also limited.
Turner finds bowling fun and sees it as a bonus to be able to contribute with the ball, as he never expected to do so much in the field. Even if his bowling doesn’t go well, he did not expect to bowl and hence has the freedom to enjoy it without pressure.
Although Turner has had many on-field achievements, including potentially becoming WA’s most decorated one-day captain if successful against the Redbacks in Wednesday’s Marsh Cup final, his greatest legacy on WA cricket might be his ability to inspire the next generation of leaders in the state.
Turner acknowledges his fortune in being able to learn from remarkable leaders, witnessing their impact on games, series, and individual careers.
The way leaders can positively influence their teammates and their careers has been inspiring for Turner, who has been fortunate to witness the impact of some amazing leaders in his career.
Turner considers himself fortunate to have been surrounded by outstanding leaders throughout his career, including Simon Katich, Adam Voges, Justin Langer and more recently, Voges again.
Turner finds it humbling that he has the opportunity to learn from influential leaders in West Australian cricket, such as Simon Katich, Adam Voges, and Justin Langer, and now take over some of the roles they once had.
Turner believes that his role as a leader is to empower the next generation of leaders in Western Australia.
Turner believes that his role as a leader is to empower everyone, ensuring that they have a voice and are heard and listened to. He feels that this is the best way to achieve successful outcomes and believes that as a leader, it’s his responsibility to empower the next group of leaders in Western Australia.
Yes, it certainly seems that way. Turner’s leadership, along with the guidance of other influential figures in WA cricket, has led to success for the team.