Nick Larkin is now an established First Class cricketer and was a star performer in the Melbourne Stars side that reached last season’s Big Bash final, but he still looks back on two years spent with North Down as the platform that set him up for success.

Larkin arrived at the Comber club in 2013 not knowing where cricket was going to take him and he had been working as an accountant back home in Australia.

His quality was immediately clear as he scored 83 in the Premier League against Waringstown before following it up with 96 in an Irish Senior Cup defeat to Merrion.

Across the two seasons, Larkin registered 1,134 runs, which included eight half-centuries, and helped North Down win the 2013 Twenty20 Cup but now has taken his game to another level with New South Wales and in his latest innings scored 161 against Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield.

“I think about it regularly,” he said.

“There’s a young guy who plays for my club in Sydney that I was speaking to at the weekend encouraging him to go and play in Ireland because his family is from there.

“I told him it was the best thing that I did for my cricket.

“I was 22 when I first went across. I was at a bit of a crossroads in a sense because I had been working as an accountant for nine months before I came and it was the last tilt of really looking to see what I could do with my cricket.

“Luckily for me, a guy called Ian Moran that I had played club cricket with in Sydney had played for North Down previously and said they were a great club and I would be silly not to go.

“In terms of the development of my cricket, I look back on those two summers as crucial in me stepping into the professional scene and it was probably that 18 months where I improved my cricket drastically.

“I often tell people that Irish cricket is so much stronger than people give it credit for.

“When you’re over in Australia people don’t understand it but with the pitches it’s a different challenge and you face a lot of crafty spinners.

“If you’re the professional you’re also tasked with getting the job done and that was a unique challenge that I really enjoyed.

“I didn’t dominate for North Down the way I would have liked but the experience was really good for me.”

Larkin’s performances earned him a spot in the Northern Knights squad and his 247* against Leinster Lightning still stands as the highest individual score since the competition returned in 2013 while he also represented Ireland A on two occasions against Sri Lanka A.

His goal was to be selected for the 2015 World Cup squad but as that door closed the New South Wales one opened and Larkin settled in Australia.

“There was a lot of thought about it (staying in Ireland full-time),” said Larkin.

“It was one of those sliding door moments.

“I was pushing really hard to make that World Cup squad with Ireland and was close but missed out.

“I came back and was on the cusp with New South Wales and luckily for my sake, a few guys got picked for the Australia Twenty20 side and I got a chance with the Blues.

“That was the moment that firmed up my path here rather than going back to Ireland which I probably would have done.

“I’m an Australian guy and still want to play for Australia.

“I want to empty the tank here and see if I can play for Australia and if not, hopefully the door is open in Ireland still.”

The 30-year-old’s dream is ultimately to play international cricket and he hasn’t ruled out a return to Ireland, who will compete in the Twenty20 World Cup in India next year.

“The door definitely isn’t closed,” Larkin said.

“My focus is firmly on trying to dominate for New South Wales and the Stars and my dream would be to play for Australia.

“Ultimately, international cricket is something I would love to play and with the way my cricket journey has gone, one door closing has always led to another opening and I would never say never.

“There were some conversations in the year after I left and in ensuing years since then.

“I’ve always been under contract here so it makes it very difficult because I would have to walk away from my contract with New South Wales and Melbourne Stars which complicates things a lot.

“My wife is working as a doctor here so there would be a lot to think about.

“I’m not 21 anymore. I’m 30 and there’s a lot to think about but I’d certainly never say never.

“I’m going to keep playing as much cricket as I can and see where that leads me to.”

For now, Larkin’s full attention is on the Big Bash with the Stars getting their campaign underway against Brisbane Heat.

He will be team-mates with the likes of Jonny Bairstow and West Indian international Nicolas Pooran and has his sights set on going one better than last time.

“We’ve reached the final for the last two years and we have a really exciting team again this year,” he said.

“It’s a pretty exciting list and there’s a lot of hunger in the team because we have gone so close the last two years. It would be a shame not to get some silverware.”