Brett LeeInterview published with the Australian cricket fast bowler. It has no layout, and was done so long ago, I can’t even remember who published it. I do remember meeting him, though, which is something.
I want to concentrate on your early carpentry career, if I can.
Jeez… we’re going back a long way now.
Did you consider this a possible career?
At first, yes. I was about 14 when I first started, when i was looking for a bit of extra pocket money. I’ve always liked working with wood – I like making pinball machines and other contraptions. My dad was the same – he made chairs, tables and so on, all by hand. At about 16 I rang a few places and told them I had no experience and would work part-time and see what happened. They took me on, so every afternoon after school I’d go down there and learn my trade. Which was making kitchens.
So Brett lee was doing a part-time carpentry apprenticeship.
Yep, just part-time after school and on holidays. It lasted about 12 months. Most of the rest of the guys were between 25 and 40 – I was the youngest there by far. We used to go into people’s houses and install kitchens.
Somewhere there are people with kitchens installed by Brett Lee. This is my biggest scoop.
Well, it was my very early days…
Can you remember where they were?
How could you choose professional cricket after that?
I really had to choose whether or not I wanted to keep playing cricket. I knew that if I wanted to play cricket for Australia I had to leave my home town and go to Sydney. So at 16 I made the move to Campbelltown, then moved up to Sydney.
Was that with the Academy?
No, I was playing Green Shield at 16. I played first grade at about 16-and-a-half.
What was it like playing against the older guys?
It was different at first, because they were big – bowled pretty quick and were very good batsmen. But after a couple of games it started to click. And having Shane there as a brother and a captain made it a lot easier.
How did the older batsmen take being bowled by someone of 16?
Heaps of them said, “You shouldn’t be playing. You’re just too young.” But once I got a few wickets they shut up.
How fast were you then?
When I was 16 I was a little bit slower than Shane. But when I turned 17 I took him over – and he was always the quickest guy around. That’s when I started to grow a bit – growing up I was always very short. Now I’m six foot one.
Do you have to be tall to be quick?
[Glenn] McGrath’s about six foot six, but if you look at most of the very quick bowlers: Thompson, Donald, Shoaib Akhtar, Darren Gough – they’re all between five foot eleven and six foot one.
Shouldn’t fast bowlers be huge?
No. people keep expecting me to be really broad or tall, but it’s like a rhythm thing. You don’t need big muscles. It’s like a golf swing – all timing and rhythm. Sometimes, the faster you try and bowl a ball the slower it comes out. McGrath is a one in a million bowler – he’s got the perfect action, perfect rhythm and great accuracy.
Have you had a lot of help from Dennis Lillee?
He’s been my bowling coach since I was about 17. He’s brilliant.
Surely you need some muscle?
You need to develop certain muscle groups to protect your stomach and back. I broke my back two or three times growing up, so I had to change my action. Stress fractures right through the verterbrae. I’ve broken my arm as well. Look [shows huge scar near elbow].
How did you do that?
Throwing a ball.
Yeah, I went to throw it during a game and snapped the ulna bone right through, not to mention the medial ligaments and tendon. The doctors said they could actually feel the bone moving – it had separated a whole centimetre. I had to get a bone graft off my hip.
How is it now?
Feels fine. The doctors told me I’d never play cricket, let alone bowl, ever again.
Doctors always say that and they’re always wrong. They must just say it so you try and prove them wrong. Did the injury affect your Ashes series?
Probably. I’m not going to make excuses. I didn’t bowl as well as I had been doing in the previous 24 months. But what hurt me was I was expected to do things too quickly. I’m generally impatient to get things done too, but after speaking to Shane Warne after he had his op done on his shoulder, he said it takes around six months to come back to your best. By the time I was asked to bowl in a test I’d only been back bowling for three weeks and hadn’t yet gone off the long run. Suddenly I was playing in an international game. It was a bit weird.
How did it go?
As the Test went on I felt a lot stronger and the action was getting better and the pace quicker. If I’d been playing in a seven or eight-test series by the end I would have really been there. As it was, by the fifth test I started feeling good.
Tell me about your band.
We’ve got a CD out, which is going quite well.
What’s it called?
Six and Out – self-titled. We’re working on some new songs. The producer’s Garth Porter from Sherbert, who is pretty handy to have – he’s got some pretty good connections.
How do you think it’s all going to go?
Oh, man, it’s just a fun thing for us. We don’t think we’re the next Powderfinger, we’re just having fun.
What is it about celebrities who want to do more than one thing? Look at Russell Crowe.
It’s a challenge. You think you’ve got a bit of talent and you just want to see how far you can push it. We’ve been lucky – we’ve done some stuff with Tim Farris and Darell Braithwaite.
How much have you performed?
Over the last 16 months we’ve done about 80 shows around Sydney and we’ve toured Melbourne and Perth – and the country. People don’t expect too much. perhaps they just think, “Cricketers who play music? Lets go and check it out.”
Everyone in the band is a cricketer?
Yep. There’s myself and Shane, Gavin Robertson, Richard Chikru, Brad Macnamara, and my younger brother Grant.
Does Grant play?
He played for NSW under 17 and under-19, but gave up. He felt the pressure of being mine and Shane’s brother. Very talented. But he’s an accountant for KPMG and a musician, so very talented.
What’s the biggest crowd you’ve played in front of?
We did about two grand at Castleville Tavern…
I was talking about cricket again.
In that case, about 80-odd thousand.
Which one was the bigger buzz?
It’s different. I’d always pick the cricket – it is my number-one thing. But with the band it’s a different sort of crowd. With cricket I don’t get nervous – it’s just natural. With the band the crowd are right there and it’s very nerve-racking. I wouldn’t back myself as much as I would playing cricket. There are so many more things that can go wrong.
What was it like playing in front of a crowd in England?
Playing in an Ashes test in front of an English crowd at Lords was fantastic. The crowd gets stuck right into you, but that’s just part of it. It’s great. Most people are saying stuff to try and put you off your game. But the stuff we cop over there they probably cop twice as much over here.
Did you enjoy the Ashes experience despite not playing so well?
Yeah. I took about nine wickets and it would have been nice to take 20-odd. But just being part of an Ashes side was a dream come true, as was being part of Steve Waugh’s last match on English soil. Seeing Warney’s 400th test wicket…Mark Waugh’s record catch… Glenn passing Dennis Lillee’s number of test wickets… heaps of records were broken…not to mention winning the Ashes and being part of one of the all-time great sides.
Who’s the team’s best sledger?
Sledging’s more the verbal stuff. What we try and do now is play mind games: Setting a really positive field for example, or the way the bowlers are rotated. The captain is so positive too, which helps. That fourth test [which England won], we could quite easily have played for a draw, but we always think we have a chance of winning – it doesn’t matter what the situation is, we think we can roll them.