A Summer Abroad
A Summer Abroad in OZ - Living the Dream?
For cricket players and aficionados, Australia resembles something of a holy grail when it comes to the sport. A land of sun, beaches, and cricket as a national sport - it’s everything we wish England could be. Going to watch the Ashes down under is on every fans bucket list, but how about actually going to play there?
If you are a club player, this may seem far-fetched. However, in cricket hotspots such as Australia, New Zealand, and a lesser extent South Africa, there are hundreds of deals out there for players of all ages and standards. Cricket clubs are always looking to take on English players to try to improve their team, help with coaching juniors and maintain the social life of the club on and off the field. It is an amazing way to see the world and experience another culture, all the while playing the sport you love and making new mates for life.
I have now played 3 summers abroad, all spent in Australia. I have never played county cricket or minor counties for that manner. However, despite never classing cricket as a full-time occupation, there are still plenty of opportunities out there that are a viable option (both financially and playing-wise) for club players.
The Strength of the Deal & Standard of Cricket
In conjunction with any job, the strength of the contract you receive will depend on your performance and experience. If you are a good 1st XI player and have the stats to back it up, you may find you’ve nothing to pay at all. This could include flights and accommodation, plus a job during the week when you aren’t playing. Negotiating a match fee, or run’s and wicket’s bonus may be possible, but this depends on the individual and what the club can offer.
If you aren’t a 1st team player averaging 40 every season, or you are a junior just making his way through, then fear not. There are still plenty of clubs out there looking for players. Please don’t assume that clubs won’t be interested; you will be surprised at what you can get offered. Although you may have to pay flights or your accommodation, it is still worth it. Your game will considerably improve, plus you will gain unforgettable life experience.
As an overseas player, be open to the fact you are essentially the club’s main man. The pressure of being the overseas and ’win at all costs’ Australian nature will ensure the standard is tough and extremely competitive. Sledging is a part and parcel of it, and as a Brit abroad, you will be in the firing line for this. Most of it is good-natured though, and the opposition will be the first to have a laugh with you after the game. No matter what level you play, you are bound to improve if you apply the correct attitude towards it. Training and nets are also taken more seriously than in England, and you’ll come on leaps and bounds if you get stuck in.
Many clubs are also fine with players taking a girlfriend/partner with them. Often they will have to pay their way in terms of flights and jobs, but the club will accommodate both of you if they can. Although I have never done this myself, I have played with overseas players that have. It has worked well for them, and at the end of the day, it comes down to personal choice. Spending 6 months away from your other half would be a test for anyone, so be conscious of this.
Lifestyle & Where to Play?
In a country as vast as Australia, this is a good question. Do you prefer the beach or the city? The countryside or bright lights?
· Melbourne – Not only is it a beautiful city, with the River Yarra running directly through the middle, but there is a great music scene, and plenty to offer in terms of nightlife. The MCG is potentially the best stadium in the world, and if you can get to the Boxing Day Test or the AFL finals it is a must-see.
· Sydney – Sydney is huge, vast, and has a mass of people and things to do. The weather is more tropical and humid than Melbourne and has a variety of packed beach spots such as the world-famous Bondi. It is also full of backpackers and Brits abroad; it will feel like a home away from home when you arrive.
· Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth - Although the other cities are seen to be quieter, they are just as vibrant, with plenty to do and see. They also have some of the greatest beaches in the world. If the beach is your calling, go for this (although they aren’t bad in Melbourne/Sydney either).
· Tasmania - Many players love it here and describe it as one of the most scenic places to play in Australia. It offers a greener, more English style location, with plenty of sun and amazing countryside to match.
If city life isn’t for you, then don’t worry. My first summer was spent in a coastal town, around two hours north of Brisbane. It offers a more authentic Australian experience, and you will encounter more wildlife, scenery and the outback too (if you wish to explore it!)
If you prefer the quiet life, then staying out in the countryside or an idyllic, reclusive beach town will be perfect for your needs. In truth, the decision may be taken out of your hands. Although you’ll have an idea of where you want to play, it is up to the cricket agency to find you the best deal in your preferred location.
Visas & Work
When it comes to visas, cricketers normally travel on one of the following options. There are further options out there, such as partner or education visas, but these are more specialist areas.
· Working Holiday Visa - This is a good option if the cricket club is unable to provide you with work, or you wish to find a job yourself. It will give you the freedom to apply for anything you like, and there are lots of options for work – especially in the cities. You can only use this once, so use it wisely.
· Tourist Visa - This is generally used by people who are going on holiday or travelling. It works on a 3-month basis, but you can extend it for a small cost to stay the whole 6 months. I have twice travelled on this visa and had no issues, and many people do it every season.
Australia has an expensive cost of living, so finding a job on the side is essential. To give some perspective, everything is roughly twice the price of the UK. An average food shop will cost north of $100, and a beer will be $10+! Even items such as clothes and cricket kit are more expensive, so just be aware of this before you go. Additionally, if you wish to travel the country during the Christmas break or at the end of the season, you will require considerable savings to do this. This could be a one-time opportunity, so make the most of it while you can.
In terms of work, the jobs provided will normally be affiliated with the club. This might include office work, working on the cricket grounds (often teams will have 2/3 pitches), or labouring with tradesmen. Although this is a lot of fun at times, labouring under the sun isn’t for everyone! It’s always a good idea to try and arrange the job with your club before you go, to avoid any confusion when you arrive.
Alternatively, if you have your coaching badges, there will be the option to run your own sessions. In my own experience, I found one to one coaching very popular amongst juniors, and I made enough income to get by with this. The club may also pay you to help with junior training, which is a great way to give something back at the same time.
Is it worth it?
For enhancing your game and becoming a better player, it is the best experience that can be offered. Many players will attribute a winter spent abroad as the turning point in their careers. Even for club players, you will often find you’ll have your best summer yet once you return to England. Playing all the time will constantly improve you, and you will learn to play in different conditions, which can only help.
At times it will be hard, as spending 6 months away from your family, friends and potentially your partner is never easy. When you return to England it may also be tough financially, as you will have to start again from scratch. As mentioned earlier, Australia is a tough place to save money!
If you can cope with this, and embrace the easy-going nature of the Australian lifestyle, you will have the time of your life. Being integrated into a sports team is a wonderful way to travel and experience another culture, and takes out a lot of the worries of heading to a new country by yourself. For a cricket player, you won’t find a better way to spend a winter.