Year in Review
AFL deal that changed everything
So, it’s 2010 and I’ve played my fourth season in the NRL. I’m absolutely loving it. I’ve been lucky enough to play for the Storm, the Broncos, Queensland and Australia and it’s better than anything I could have dreamed of when I was a young kid cheering on the Broncos after school back in Minto.
Then I receive a call out of the blue. It’s the AFL. They have started a team called Greater Western Sydney and they want me to be a part of it. I had never played AFL before – never even considered it – but they are adamant they want me. And the offer is really, really big.
I’m nervous. I’m happy playing league and not sure how I’d go making the transition to the AFL. But my Dad is keen. ‘The AFL offer is too good to turn down,’ he says. ‘You can improve the lives of everyone.’
I was hurting inside, but I didn’t talk back. My family was – and still is – everything to me. I didn’t want to be the son that was selfish and arrogant and let his family down. So I did what my Dad wanted me to do and signed.
It was probably the most important moment of my life.
After the first over, it felt like I’d just completed a really, really hard fitness session.
After the second over, it felt like I had done the hardest gym session of my life.
After the third over, I just wanted to vomit.
My mind was delirious. You’re trying to force yourself to think, ‘I’ve got to figure out a way to get the batsman out,’ but, really, you’re just wondering how you’re going to get through the next over without falling in a heap.
Every night I would go back to the hotel, crash and sleep for 12 hours straight.
There was one day when we spent all three sessions in the field. Drinking fluids made me feel sick. I was taking anti-nausea tablets to try and keep the water down. It didn’t work. I lost six-and-a-half kilos in a day.
In just seven days I saw a change in the way Australia sees the Matildas. And a change in the way we see ourselves.
Yes, we knew the Tournament of Nations had attracted quite a bit of publicity back home. But those games were in the USA and many of us returned to our overseas clubs straight after.
Coming home was incredible and, in many ways, quite overwhelming. Record crowds. Green and gold everywhere. Tons of media attention. And so many young girls and boys there that knew all our names.
I think the Matildas will soon be household names in Australia. We were saying after the game in Newcastle: imagine if we’d played that match on the weekend. We would have had 20,000 fans in the stadium watching us!
It was another level to anything we’d known before. Mainstream. As a team, we felt a difference within ourselves. We could perform with the eyes of the nation on us in a big game, against a football powerhouse.
It’s still hard to get my head around sometimes – the honour of leading your country in the biggest series there is so soon after feeling worn down to the point where quitting felt like the only option.
I hit the wall this time last year. I was really struggling.
I hadn’t represented the national team in more than three years, I was working fulltime and handling an ever-increasing training load with NSW.
I’d always been able to juggle work, studies and cricket throughout my career. But this was different.
I was thinking, ‘What have I got myself into?’
We were really inexperienced. We had to work massive hours to get the car ready each round. I’m pretty useless at most things in life, but I was trying to help with the basic stuff. I was making my own seats, which is quite a big job. Cutting it up, sanding it back and all those things.
I would have deadest laughed in your face if you’d told me we’d win Bathurst 12 months later.
It seemed so far beyond our reach.
So, the million dollar question: How the hell did we get here?