THE 2019/20 season will forever be known as Matthew Gilkes' breakout campaign.
During his first season with the NSW Blues, the Ulladulla product made 10 appearances, five each in the Sheffield Shield and One-Day Cup, which saw him score a total of 340 runs.
To ensure he built on this campaign, the Ulladulla High alumnus had big plans for the off-season. However, that all changed when the COVID-19 lockdown hit.
"During the lockdown, I was based back home in Ulladulla," Gilkes said.
"Unfortunately, I didn't have any access to any gym equipment, so I just did plenty of running to keep myself fit.
"I also went nearly two months without hitting a cricket ball, deciding to give my body and mind a rest.
"Although it was a tough time for a lot of people, I made the most of my time back home, spending plenty of time with family and refreshing the body after my busiest season to date."
The 20-year-old and his squad then reunited at the end of May, to start preparations for next season, which is still be planned out by Cricket Australia.
"First up was all our fitness testing which was followed by our yearly medical checks, to ensure we are all fit and healthy," Gilkes, who has played for the Sydney Thunder the past two Big Bash seasons, said.
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"Although we didn't have an off-season schedule, all the coaches wanted us to come back into camp in good condition and gradually build during the pre-season.
"We then transitioned into work in the gym, with our weights and running programs, before finally returning to the nets.
"Admittedly, I was a bit rusty with the bat to start with but the rhythm is starting to come back now. It's great to get back into it with the boys."
However, due to the coronavirus restrictions, the pre-season is vastly different from Gilkes' last one.
"During this initial block, we are only allowed in the facility [Sydney Olympic Park] three days a week, with a maximum of 10 people at once, while following the social distancing guidelines," Gilkes, who's squad gets their temperature checked, apply hand sanitiser and log-in to their COVID app before training each day, said.
"We've all be broken into different groups, with me working with people like David Warner, Baxter Holt, Ryan Hackney, Nick Larkin and Kurtis Patterson.
"At this stage, all of us players are being put through numerous group drills, which will start to become more specific as we get closer to the season.
"Full credit to all the staff for the work they've done to get us back to training - hopefully, as restrictions start to ease, we will be able to train as a full squad again."
Whenever the season's first ball is bowled, Gilkes' goals won't change.
"The biggest goal for me going into year two is building off last season and trying to cement my spot in the team," the wicketkeeper/batsmen said.
"I learnt a lot from spending all that time with the boys and have tried to implement some of those aspects into my own game - they all have a wealth of knowledge, that'll help me take my game to the next level.
"They reiterated how important a consistent routine is at the crease and that's one of my main focuses during this pre-season, because if I can stay calm at the crease, I'm confident the runs will follow."