Ryan Hadley was not always the six foot six upcoming superstar Australian fast bowler that people know him as today.
With only two years after graduating from Doonside Technology High School with school captaincy under his belt, Ryan delayed further education to focus on pursuing a career in his once weekend sport.
Before gaining himself a two-year rookie contract with Cricket NSW in 2018, Ryan received a lot of support from family and friends through his junior years of cricket that has significantly contributed to his success.
“I was always encouraged by friends and family to do what I want to do kind of thing and there wasn’t many rough patches growing up… I lived almost a perfect childhood and I wouldn’t change anything if I could, so I suppose that contributes a little bit to where I am today,” Ryan said.
Whilst making a life and career out of his beloved weekend sport is inspirational, it is also rare. Not every kid’s dreams and passions will follow through and lead them to do what they love.
“Like any kid, I started off playing in the backyard with my brother,” Ryan said reminiscently.
In 2005, being short of a player, the coach of Blacktown’s Under-10s (U10s) cricket team contacted Ryan’s parents, Cheryl and Graham Hadley to see if Ryan wanted to fill the team at six-years-old.
“My parents were a bit hesitant, I was a fair few years younger than the rest of the boys but this coach was adamant that I’d be able to have fun, enjoy myself and do okay… Me and my brother were playing in the same team and my first year of cricket, I was only six but it was good to be able to play my first team sport with my brother … Like every Australian kid, it’s the dream of playing with your brother in the backyard then playing with him in a real game of cricket,” Ryan said.
Growing up in Western Sydney and playing for Blacktown since he was six years of age, Ryan is used to diversity.
“You don’t really realise it at the time when you play your indoor sports and you’re around all these cricket players but there’s heaps of people from all walks of life. I’m from Western Sydney, so that’s a different demographic to the people from the Eastern suburbs of Sydney and there’s completely different people at times,” Ryan said.
Hadley also played in age group cricket, state-wide and national competitions from an early age. He describes a clear timeline of what he has achieved through his transition from his childhood memories, his weekend sport and to where he is today.
“One day, one of my coaches suggested to my parents that I try out for the local representative’s team, so they get the best age group players in the area. I ended up making that in U10s and U11s and right through until the end of U14s. At that stage they start picking what’s called an emerging blues team with the Cricket NSW Academy,” Ryan said of his junior cricket days.
With a running streak of playing in an older age group, he was selected to play in the NSW U17s team. Since then, he was able to push through injuries that set him back and he worked harder to be given the opportunities that many young aspiring cricketers don’t experience.
“I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity when I was only 15 to train with the U17s NSW team and I managed to make that team until I got injured with a stress fracture in my back, so I was out for nearly a year,” Ryan said.
He has competed in two Under-19 state competitions with Cricket NSW along with playing for Australia against Sri-Lanka in the U19 Series in three one-day matches and a three-day test match.
Injury saw him miss his NSW Metropolitan U19 team mates’ win against the Cricket Australia XI team in the U19 National Championships Final in 2017.
“The year after that I made the U19s team, played with the U19s team a year after that when I was the right age, until I got a side strain in one of the games and missed the rest of that… Eventually after I got over my side strain, I was lucky enough to be picked in the U19s World Cup side,” Ryan said.
Given a taste of international cricket, Ryan Hadley had returned three wickets from his five matches against Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea, England, Afghanistan and India.
“We ended up coming second to India and I suppose that’s not what kicked things off but that’s kind of the peak of age group level cricket,” he said.
“At the end of the day, you learn from every injury. You learn about your body and how you come back from things and you learn about yourself more importantly,” Ryan said.
In May 2018, Ryan was recruited as a rookie for the NSW Blues. He has always been chasing his dream of becoming a professional cricketer, and as of this year, is confident that this contract is only the start of his career.
“I managed to earn myself a rookie contract with NSW so that basically classifies me as a professional cricketer. You get to do cricket as your work and not have to go to work Monday to Friday. You get to train or play cricket,” Ryan said.
He is also looking after his education and future career prospects by studying a Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science at university part-time.
“[I am] studying university part-time while trying to face the strain of being a professional cricketer because it’s only here for a certain amount of time and education can come and go whenever … It’s been quite a long time, about 12 years now so … hopefully it’s only the beginning,” Ryan said.
I never knew how important a sport could shape somebody’s world around them. I would have never thought that getting amongst the atmosphere in a team sport, with a group of people like yourself would lead to taking away valuable life lessons and skills you cannot get anywhere else.
Playing across Australia and New Zealand, Ryan has taken away valuable life lessons and skills from cricket that he cannot get anywhere else.
“You just pick up little things here and there and when you take that back into your life away from cricket you notice the differences between character … It’s taken up a big portion of my life and it has shaped my life in a way that nothing else has really, at all. It’s pretty special knowing that something that can seem small to some people that you play can turn out this big in someone’s life,” Ryan said.
Ryan reminisces about meeting his cricket idols as a child and what it meant to him.
“I had some incredible opportunities to meet my own idols from when I was a kid … Being able to meet them … You get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a professional cricketer and whilst it’s tough, it’s something that I’ve wanted to do and it’s just a stepping stone to the ultimate goal which is obviously playing for your country,” he said.
Whilst there are short term goals like staying fit and healthy, Ryan is looking at the big picture too.
“The long-term goal is to play for Australia and play test cricket for Australia, I think that every person in my position won’t stop trying to achieve that until they’re done, and their career is over … As a set goal, they’re the two things that we need to strive towards and better ourselves to achieve,” he said.
With a promising future ahead, Ryan does not forget where his success first came from and the people who supported him in his journey.
“I can put a lot of that [my success] down to my upbringing and how well my parents have done with me … It’s good to know that strong base is coming to who I am today,” Ryan said.
With his high level of determination for success, Ryan is currently training in Brisbane at the Bupa National Cricket Centre – National Performance Squad alongside fellow young and upcoming cricketers, readying himself for the cricket season ahead.
Author: Bianca Exall