Campbelltown cricketer creates community connection in Thunder Nation Cup

Thimothy Shanon. Picture: Sydney Thunder
Thimothy Shanon. Picture: Sydney Thunder

Cricket was a large part of Thimothy Shanon's youth - and Sydney Thunder has helped make it a large part of his adulthood.

The Campbelltown resident was raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and whether he was playing in the local streets with friends or participating in school competitions, cricket was never far away.

Through the sport, Shanon was able to engage with friends and the community where he often faced challenges as a Tamil man.

Sri Lanka was plagued by civil war for decades, between the rebel Tamil group and the Sri Lankan government.

But Shanon taught himself Sinhalese (the dialect of the Sinhalese people, who make up more than 75 per cent of the Sri Lankan population) and English to complement his native Tamil dialect, as he knew it was important for his development.

"I started playing cricket ever since I was eight," he said.

"It was a good opportunity for me because I was the only Tamil guy who was in the team, out of eleven, and that's how I learned Sinhalese.

"Up until that point I couldn't even speak a single word of Sinhalese. Now I can speak fluently."

Participation in his school cricket team taught him resilience and fortitude, and also reinforced the importance of belonging and inclusion.

"I experienced exclusion once when I was playing under-13s," he said.

"I was meant to play for the 'A' team but me and another Tamil boy were put into the 'B' team.

"The 'A' team started losing lots of matches and we had a match between 'A' team and 'B' team, and 'B' team won and that's how the problem came out to the college board.

"They sacked the coach and a new coach came in. He wasn't racist at all and my friend and I were promoted to the 'A' team.

"A lot of talented people often miss out because of politics in Sri Lanka."

In 2014, Shanon set himself the dream of moving to Sydney.

Four years later in 2018, this dream was realised as Shanon was accepted into a tertiary course in Accounting at MIT after completing a foundation course at the Swinburne Campus in Colombo.

"I always wanted to come to Sydney, I don't know why," he said.

"Even if you go through my Facebook cover photos, there's a photo of Sydney saying, 'My dream'."

While in Sydney, Shanon came across a post on Sydney Thunder's Facebook page promoting the Sri Lankan Community Trials, as part of the Thunder Nation Cup.

The Thunder Nation Cup is an initiative that engages nine different communities across the Thunder Nation, with a focus on connecting with community and celebrating culture.

Shanon was selected as the team's wicket-keeper at the Sri Lankan Community Trials, where he represented his community in the Thunder Nation Cup Finals Day.

Through the Thunder Nation Cup, Shanon has connected to a local cricket club and gained employment, via a connection from the Sri Lankan Thunder Nation Cup team.

"Apart from three people, I didn't know any Sri Lankans in Sydney because all my friends who did first year with me moved to Melbourne," he said.

"But through the Thunder Nation Cup, I met lots of new friends.

"I was happy to meet some Sri Lankans because I live far away from Sri Lanka and had no connection at all but then through the Thunder Nation Cup, I made lots of Sri Lankan friends.

"That's how I got invited to play for Sydney Lions Cricket Club too."

Shanon encouraged people from culturally diverse backgrounds to participate in the Thunder Nation Cup, as it helped provide genuine opportunities within cricket and beyond the boundaries.

"I was so happy because playing for the Sri Lankan community meant a lot to me," he said.

"The Thunder Nation Cup was the first time that I'd played cricket in Australia.

"It was a good opportunity to get to know more people and make contacts. For example, I got a job at Woolworths."

Shanon has also had the opportunity to volunteer with Sydney Thunder at KFC Big Bash League home games and community events.