By LAURA MACINTOSH
The reaction has been incredible since Cricket Fiji named their new National Coach last week. Shane Jurgensen’s appointment – mainly due to the most recent line on his resume reading Head Coach of Bangladesh – has made headlines not just in Fiji, but also around the globe. But apart from the incredulousness of the move from coaching a test-playing nation to one that is not even currently in the World Cricket League, we wanted to know more about the man who will hopefully be leading Fiji back to the heights that Fijian cricket once knew…
Born in Redcliffe just north of Brisbane, you could say that Shane’s career in cricket started out just like any other young Aussie hopeful – in the backyard. He would spend hours bowling to himself, and also recalls watching lots of cricket with his family as a youngster.
Shane’s first recollection of playing organized cricket was when he went to a local under-10s training session.
“I don’t know why, but I tried to bowl like Terry Alderman,” Shane recalled, referring to the former Australian pace bowler from Western Australia, which is ironically also where Shane first embarked on his first class career.
After performing well at his initial training session in the under-10s age group, Shane spent the next five years playing local club cricket in the age group a year above him. After hitting a six and taking a wicket in his first ball of his first game, it seemed that Shane found the right sport.
Despite playing with boys who were all older than him, Shane consistently made representative teams and played at state carnivals. However at this stage Shane still didn’t consider that cricket could be a career for him.
“They were just fun days back then,” he recalled.
Aged just 16, Shane played in his first first-grade cricket side in Brisbane. Although this was a remarkable achievement at such a young age, Shane still remembers cricket just being another ‘thing’ that he did; along with also playing basketball, and finishing his final years at high school.
Upon leaving school, Shane spent his first years out in the ‘real world’ attending the Australian Cricket Academy (now known as Cricket Australia’s Centre of Excellence) in Brisbane. He was a member of the Australian Under-19 side that toured twice to India during his stint at the Academy, but in hindsight, Shane said he was probably too young at the time to realise how unique an opportunity it was in order to make the most of the experience.
“I then had to play catch-up for the rest of my playing career,” Shane said upon reflection. “However this did, I feel, help me prepare to become a coach, and appreciate the effort it takes to play at a high level.
Shane remained living in Redcliffe and training in Brisbane until he turned 20, when he moved to Perth in Western Australia in a quest to play state cricket, and ultimately, represent Australia
“When I finally got my first contract (to play) for Western Australia I was 23,” he said. “I’d had a good club season the year before and my first contract was $5000 for the year. I laugh about that now…I thought I was loaded then!”
Although Shane did not reach his ultimate goal of representing Australia as a test player, he did go on to have a stellar first class career. He ranks his career highlights as a player as the two 11-wicket hauls he had towards the end of the 2001-02 season. The first was against New South Wales at Bellerive Oval in Hobart, Tasmania – which included a hat-trick – and the second was in the Sheffield Shield final (the final of the Australian domestic cricket competition) against his home state of Queensland at the ‘GABBA, back in his home town; Brisbane. The latter was particularly significant, seeing it was the first 10+ wicket haul in a Sheffield Shield final – a feat which still remains a record today.
Despite such a prominent start to his career as a young player, Shane retired from playing at the tender age of just 31.
“I loved winning games,” Shane said of his playing career, “and being a big part of or contributing to winning games…whether it be with the ball or bat.”
“It was bizarre retiring from (playing) cricket because…I never expected it to happen so early,” Shane continued. “…I thought I would play until I was 40. I retired from state cricket when I was 31…I played the next year as my club’s player/coach, and then when I bowled my last over (for the season) I walked off and said to myself ‘that’s it’. I…walked in the door (at home) and told my wife and kids that’s it. (I) Simply knew it was time to move on to what would be the more successful part of my cricket journey; coaching.