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United by song

Papua New Guinea is such a diverse country, but our players and staff come together with our victory song in the language spoken by the Motuans, the indigenous ethnic group of PNG.


The song is great fun, and sums up their enthusiasm and character perfectly. I’m learning bits and pieces and there’s some English at the end where I join in, but mostly I just try to find something to bang on to the rhythm and the beat.


It’s about being one culture and one team and one country. Despite their differences, the song is about what makes them a united group.



They’ve come a long way. The great coach Vic Williams told me that on the first tour the Barramundis went on they lit a fire in a hotel room to cook their dinner, and didn’t realise that was inappropriate.


You still have guys who are a little more worldly than others, potentially a bit more educated and understand places like Dubai, where we qualified for the T20 World Cup, more than others.


The world is an expensive place for these guys and because the income is being shared they tend to save a lot of their allowance when they’re away.


They don’t tend to venture out as often. They’ll be sitting in their rooms, playing cards or another favourite – rock, paper, scissors.


They often amuse themselves the way they do when they’re back in the village and there’s no money or electricity. Not needing to have an iPad to amuse themselves also contributes to that sense of togetherness.


We have a lot of laughs together. The staff and everyone have been brilliant, and looked after me well in a strange place. But I’m still the boss.


I’ve got a good relationship with the boys but I’m also the one who gives them a kick up the arse when they’re not doing the right thing, so they are still a bit shy around me.


They steer me in the right direction up here. There are some places you don’t want to go to, and they look after me.


We get on well, but there’s always that aspect of the culture of the expat up here being the boss, so there’s always that bit of separation to try and break down.




Dancing and a few bottles of rum

October 27 was probably one of the longest, and greatest, days of cricket I’ve ever been involved in. With PNG’s first-ever World Cup qualification on the line we faced Kenya, needing and expecting to win, and in a flash we were 6-19 and I’m thinking, ‘how the hell did we mess this one up?’.


One of the main themes we’ve had in my 18 months here has been that to achieve things we’ve never done before, we’re going to have to do things we’ve never done before. We got the players fitter and stronger, challenged them with some new skills and instilled a real belief that they can win from anywhere.


For them to come back from 6-19 to win a game of T20 cricket by 45 runs is an amazing achievement. It shows the character we’re building, the fight this group has and the belief they have in their abilities.



It still wasn’t a done deal and we gathered in the stands to watch the Netherlands v Scotland, knowing that if the Dutch didn’t chase down a target inside 12.3 overs we were going to the World Cup.


The moment it happened the balcony exploded with jubilation that we’d achieved history, and a lot of relief as well. It was special to be a part of.


There was a big night of singing and dancing, beer and few bottles of rum.


One of the boys over-celebrated and got up during the evening and dropped stuff out of his guts at a great rate of knots. He happened to be in the room next door and woke me up, so he ‘won’ the red jacket (an old team blazer from 6-7 years ago) for the idiot of the week to wear around for the following days.


The game of cricket can be your best friend and your worst enemy and when it’s your friend you want to enjoy it.




You’re changing lives

I’ve been on the road now since 2011 so if there’s a downside it’s not being home. I’m only three hours up the ‘road’ but eventually I’d love to return home and work there.


I have a passion for Australian cricket, that’s the goal. But at the moment I’m looking forward to this World Cup next year and see what happens along the way.


It has been an amazing experience for me. It is my first opportunity to be a head coach. To do it up here with all the complexity that entails, coming into a program that didn’t have a lot of structure to it, didn’t have a vision, to be able to run with your ideas and implement them. It’s been rewarding to achieve what we’ve achieved this year.


The boys have bought into the vision we put in place and that’s been awesome. The great joy of this job is not only are you teaching cricket, you’re changing lives.


One of the staff I took to Dubai is a youngster, Tommy, who we’ve recruited and are trying to teach the analysis side of the game. Before we left, batting coach Nathan Reardon asked if he had ever been on a plane before. He said ‘no’ and Nathan said, ‘it’s all right mate, not many crash every year, you’ll be fine.’


I walked over to see him later that day and caught the poor bugger Googling ‘aeroplane disasters’.


The first time on a plane and the first place he visits is Dubai and we go up the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, all 828 metres of it. We’d told him there were only elevators to go up and he had to parachute down. It had him worried for a couple of days.


The second tallest building in the world certainly isn’t in Port Moresby, so you can imagine it was an eye-opening experience for the young fella.


One of the first few days we went to buy a laptop for him to do his analysis and he didn’t own a bag to put it in. I took him to a shopping centre and bought him a milkshake from Wendy’s.


It was the first milkshake he’d had in his life and his eyes opened wide and he said, ‘wow, that’s like ice cream!’


Back home that might sound a bit silly, but you’re providing experiences for guys who have never had the chance.


The level of fanaticism for cricket is worlds apart but India, and my time there, is probably a great comparison in a lot of ways.


One of things I like to do, as an old fast bowler, is have a bowler’s dinner some time on a tour.


I did that with India as well, getting the new guys to tell their stories about how they ended up sitting at a bowler’s dinner with the Indian cricket team.


One of the quicks we had there, Ashok Dinda, told the story of how his father had passed away and he was then tasked with earning the money for his family.


He wasn’t allowed to play cricket because it wasn’t making him any money. He would sneak out, smear some cow dung over a paddock and roll it to make a cricket pitch for himself to practice on.


When his family found out, he was disowned. Eventually, though, he started making money from it so he was accepted back into the family. 


Finding people who have come from really diverse, challenging places on earth and their determination to succeed, that’s where the similarity is.


There are big differences too.


We rely a lot on help from outside, especially Australia. We have some great relationships with Keith Dudgeon Sports in Brisbane and JP Gavan who help us out with gear. The men and women Adelaide Strikers players know how the players up here struggle for gear and at the end of the Big Bash they throw a big pile of gear in the corner for me.


I get regular calls from Andy Bichel, through my relationship with Queensland, and he’s got some bags of gear for me.


We’re always looking for more support. The more we get for these guys the better.


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