Shane Watson Tribute to the Great Rod Marsh
The Cricket Hero
Rod Marsh was a cricket hero, to do what he did as a cricketer during his playing days are what so many Aussie kids growing up dream of - someone who helped win games for their country and to be an integral part of building an incredibly successful era of Australian Cricket. Rod, along with his great mates, Dennis Lillee and Greg Chappell, just to name a few, built something that as a player, you dream of creating and playing a big part in. He built himself into one of the greatest wicket-keepers to played the game of cricket as well as entertaining everyone with his T20 Style batting style back in the 70's and early 80's. Now most people would be so content with themselves to have lived their dream as a cricketer, but Rod Marsh, he was not finished there with the game of cricket. He loved the game dearly, the history, the theatre, the drama and the life lessons it taught everyone around how to bounce back from failure, how to work bloody hard to get the best out of yourself and how to be a bloody good teammate to make the team better because of your presence and influence.
So what did Rod, the cricket lover do, well he thought it would be a good thing to build the best cricket university that has ever been on the planet and in my opinion, ever will be!!!
Building the Legacy
In 1991 it all started in Adelaide and OMG, didn't Rod build a platform for the best young cricketers to turn the talent they had into hardened cricketers who were ready, technically and mentally, to take on the best cricketers in the world. Just about every cricketer who played first class cricket from 1991 onwards until Rod finished up in the early 2000's had been through the tutelage of Rod's cricket academy. And what an era of Australian cricket it produced. The mid 90's through to around 2015 when the last generation of cricketers who went through the academy under Rod, was one of the most successful periods in Australian cricket.
The Steps to My Dream
For me as a young cricket lover wanting to live my dream of playing Test cricket for Australia, I had mapped out the stepping stones on how to get there. For me, these steps were - Queensland U17's, up to Queensland U19’s, onto the Australian U19’s, coached by Rod Marsh, who then if you did well and Rod picked you, the Cricket Academy was the holy grail. So many of my hero's in my teenage years, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, just to name a few, had all been through this incredible cricket finishing school. If I just could get to the Cricket Academy, and then do every single thing that Rod and his master coaches told me, then, I might be a chance of living my dream too.
I was so fortunate to be able to tick all of the things off on the way to get to the Cricket Academy in Adelaide, staying at the beautiful residence of Del Monte, at Henley Beach. And what an extraordinary time it was. I was a part of the 2000 intake that I had along with me, my great mate, Mitchell Johnson, my roommate Phil Jacques, Andrew McDonald, Nathan Hauritz, Chris Hartley and Adam Voges, just to name a few. And what I experienced during my four and a half months of being in cricket heaven is a time I reflect on now and realise the true fact that Rod built this all himself. We were so bloody lucky to have so many of his best mates like Dennis Lillee for the fast bowlers, Terry Jenner for any upcoming Leg Spinner, Ashley Mallett for any off spinner, Ian Chappell to develop your batting technique around the short ball and on how to play spin and John Inverarity for your technical batting development. Oh, those Inver drills were so simple, so good but the toe of my bat didn’t like them that much. For the aspiring fast bowling all-rounder that I was, to have the Lillee-Marsh combination totally in my corner to help me develop the skills I needed to be the best cricketer I could be, how bloody lucky was I.
Turning into a Bookworm
Rod taught us so many things about the game of cricket and about life. I was never a big reader of books at all up until this point in time, but one of the things Rod instilled in everyone was to understand the history of the game of cricket, to respect and appreciate everyone who had come before us. We all were given an assignment to read a book of his choice and give a detailed synopsis of the book. Rod gave me Alan Davidson's biography, who was one of Australia's greatest ever allrounders and from that moment on, I was absolutely hooked on reading. Whether that was autobiographies of the best cricketers who had ever played, like Sir Vivian Richards or other superstars who had achieved greatness that I could learn from. This love of reading and learning is still with me to this day. Thank you Rod!!!
The Invaluable Life Lessons
The lessons that I look back and reflect on now, I didn't appreciate at the time to the extent of what we were being taught, but my gosh, they were brilliant. We trained twice a day during the week, once on Saturday morning and we had Sunday off for recovery from the tough week of training and also the Saturday night of fun. During the week, we had to work during the day which Rod had found some very patient employers around Adelaide who would put up with aspiring cricketers with stars in their eyes. I had built a really nice rapport with Rod during my Aussie U19 time and he looked after me big time with the job that I had. I had an admin job around the Del Monte residence, which entailed dropping all of my mates off to work in the morning in the van and picking them up after work to take them off to the afternoon training session. I also had to do photo copying and various of other bits and pieces that were required around the residence. This meant I was able to spend some quality time with Rod during the day, just chatting about cricket and life. He was so incredibly generous with his advice and awesome stories of his playing days. The incredible lesson that we got taught was to see both sides of life, the professional cricketers life and the working 9-5 life and which one did you want to pursue. Some of the jobs that were on offer for the boys were a brick layer, a dish-washer and another was working on the ground staff at the Adelaide Oval. I definitely drew the best straw. Thanks so much Rod!!!
My time during the academy helped me develop all of the aspects of my game, batting, bowling, fielding and the fitness that I needed to be ready to take on any opportunity that might arise in the future. We used to get flogged by Crouchy, one of our fitness trainers, on a machine called a Versa Climber. I still get a little queasy when I see one now. We became physically hardened and we learnt what hard work really looked like. Every aspect of us was built from the ground up, so when we finished our time there, we were ready to put all of that skill development to the test by taking on some of the best seasoned cricketers around Australia in the 2nd XI competition, which the academy had a team in. And my gosh, during these 6 games before Christmas playing every state, my game went through the roof. I started to do things I only ever dreamed of. And Rod was there guiding me all of the way.
My Guiding Light
I was so determined and single minded that I wanted to play cricket for Australia that I used to worry quite a lot about where the opportunity was going to be after my academy stint, to get closer to my dream. Growing up in Queensland, meant that there wasn't much light at the end of the tunnel in the short term anyway, as it was near impossible to get an early start in First Class cricket, which was my next stepping stone to reaching my dream. Queensland had a built an incredible dynasty and were dominating the domestic competition and there were no opportunities for anyone under 23 to get an opportunity in this incredibly strong team. So I did not see a path to the top there and I knew that it was going to be quite a while of dominating grade cricket and 2nd XI cricket before I even came close to getting a chance to play first class cricket for Queensland. But guess what, Rod, the amazing man who really had become my guiding light, guiding me all the way to the top, was working on a pathway for me all in the background, unbeknownst to me.
My Tasmanian Journey to my Dream
One of Rod's good mates was Greg Shipperd who was coaching the Tasmanian team at that time. Rod must have continued to put in a really good word with Shippy, because out of nowhere, after playing Tassie in the 2nd XI game a week before Christmas, I received a call from Greg Shipperd as I landed back in Brisbane to have Christmas with my family in Ipswich, with an offer that blew my mind. Greg Shipperd was putting his cricket balls on the line to give me an opportunity to move down to Tasmania to play the last half of the season, five Sheffield Shield games and five One Dayers with no guarantees after this depending on how I went. Yes, I was and still am a very proud Queenslander, but the chance to play first class cricket at 19, wow, what an opportunity. I remember like it was yesterday, calling Rod on Christmas Eve, to get his advice and as always, he gave me the perfect advice. He said that this was a great opportunity to leap frog most of my mates that I had been at the academy with and he gave me the reality of what my situation looked like if I stayed up in Queensland. Rod then, so kindly spoke to my dad to put his mind at ease with this opportunity and straight after that phone call with Rod, and his super kind reassurance to my mum and dad, I was on my way down to Tassie to get one step closer to my dream.
And things went pretty well from there to progress pretty quickly to be on my first Australian Tour as a 20 year old, to play my first One Day International in 2002 and end up having a cricket career beyond my wildest dreams.
I am so Bloody Grateful Rod
None of my life that I have been so fortunate to live would have been possible without Rod becoming a father figure for me as an 18 year old. I know that I was one of many who was so fortunate to have a similar experience with Rod, but gosh, I am so bloody grateful for him seeing something in me, that made him want to put his time and effort into me.
The last couple of weeks have been the saddest of my life. Two of my biggest mentors, Rod Marsh and Shane Warne passing away on the same day. Rod lived a life that cricketers dream of, to inspire and entertain millions of cricketers around the world as a player, and then to influence and guide the next generation of cricketers to be the best versions of themselves, is a life that I know I aspire to.
Rod, thank you for everything that you did for me. You played such a huge role in me living my dream with your belief, your know-how on how to produce the best cricketers, and most importantly your care. You lived a bloody incredible life and the true indication of the quality of the life you lived, is by how many people absolutely adore you and are all so sad that you are not here with us anymore to share so many more special memories with you.
Until we meet again, love you mate - Rest In Peace Rod.