When I was 14, I was asked by Peter Charles (QLD legend and Nudgee Coordinator 🙏) if I would like to come to Nudgee to play cricket and go to school there. I was a country boy who loved home, loved being around mates and loved mum and dad, so moving to Brisbane didn’t really tick any boxes for me.
My parents growing up were absolutely incredible (still are). They were the parents who did all the volunteer work, built a clubhouse, drove me everywhere and eventually had to work even harder to send me to boarding school. I am forever grateful for my parents and the work, travel and sacrifices they made to give me an opportunity to succeed. Personally before going to Nudgee, I was travelling down to Brisbane to play Taverners cricket and I would stay with Ian Bartlett and I would play on a Saturday, and then travel back on the bus on a Sunday, it was tiring for all involved, but it was working.
My parents sat me down and spoke about going to Nudgee and the benefits for my cricket and for my schooling. School wasn’t a huge thing for me, sport was it. Cricket 25 hours a day 8 days a week. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it. Eventually I had agreed with my parents that going to Nudgee was going to be a good thing and potentially something great for my cricket as well. I had already started playing cricket with Norths and was well looked after by the club (even though Roger was the craziest driver ever) and I could play cricket for Nudgee as well. For me it was absolute heaven.
I didn’t understand school cricket or what it was. In Hervey Bay, our school had one team, if we were lucky and our captain was Josh Bryen who I though was an amazing cricketer. We weren’t great but it was always a big challenge to play school cricket. So for me I just thought I was going to play in the Nudgee side.
I arrived for my first week at school and I remember how hard and sad it was saying goodbye to my parents. I had been billeted before and I had stayed away for carnivals before but nothing like this, nothing like being completely alone in a huge place that just felt like it could swallow me up whole. That week was probably the hardest of my life, meeting new kids, starting school, getting used to training, learning laundry, beginning to study 2 hours a night, the list goes on. I was incredbily lucky that I boarded next to an amazing group of kids. We were from everywhere and a few of them had been boarders since year 8, so they knew each other better, but there were kids like me who were just starting, a few of us clicked together straight away.
I remember the conversations were about what we did etc, and all of them were like my brother or father came here or we are here for Rugby. When it came around to me, I said I am here to play cricket. I told them a bit about me but not much more was said and we got into our first week of school. It was honestly like a blur to me. Meeting everyone and meeting cricketers, seniors, teachers it just felt so surreal. Going from Urangan State High to this huge school, it was almost freaking me out.
During that week it was told I was going to be in the 1st X1. I had no idea what that was or how big of a deal it was. I just thought it was the cricket side we had to play in. I later realised there was about another 50 sides at Nudgee and this was the best side you could be part of. On the Friday before the first game I saw how big of a deal it was. Accepting my cap in front of everyone and having kids shout warcries and do posters for you, was out of this world. I had never seen anything like it in my wildest dreams. Fair to say that my mates in my dorm quickly realised that I was there to play cricket and play at the next level.
My years at Nudgee playing cricket were tough. I didn’t perform anywhere near where I would have liked. My first year was fantastic, 2nd year was pretty good, but my 3rd year I really tapered off. I was playing other rep stuff and I had issues with everyone including my own ego. But at the age of 16/17 you don’t realise this and unfortunately it’s over before you know it.
When I am coaching kids these days, I to can sense how much pressure they place on themself. They may not mean it, but they do. They are all searching for that amazing delivery, or that incredible cover drive, or even that feeling of impressing your peers at school. I feel the weight of the world on their shoulders when they are training with me. I feel the pain they are going through when things aren’t going right. It hurts me when they are doing this to themself, because I was once them.
If I had the chance to go about and sit with the 15 year old Nathan, I would tell him this…..
“Mate these next few years of your life are going to be the most exciting years of your life. Yep you are going to have good days, and yep you are definitely going to have bad days. I know you want that Baggy Green more than anything in the world. It takes time, patience and a lot of hard work to get there, and then when you get there its ten times as hard to stay at that level. This is why I am telling you this right now. Don’t put to much pressure on yourself. Play the game like you do in your front patio, Enjoy each and everyday you get to play cricket with your mates because these mates you have, you will have for life. Enjoy each and every day you get to hang out with your friends and family. Tell your mum and dad everyday how grateful you are for everything they have done for you, but most of all mate, I want you to smile, have fun and remember it’s just a game!”