‘The wheels start to fall off’: Brad Hogg opens up about dark days after cricket

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From the age of five, Brad Hogg focused on one dream: playing cricket for Australia.

Growing up on a sheep farm, he had plenty of space to practice, and cricket was his life for the next 32 years.

Former Australian Test cricketer Brad Hogg shares his experiences at AgQuip on Wednesday.

In 2010, two years after he retired from Test cricket for his family, Hogg found himself on the brink of divorce, arguing with his parents and struggling to see a way forward.

“You’re living a dream where millions of people would want to be in your shoes, playing cricket for Australia. Then all of a sudden, you make a bit of a sacrifice and the wheels start to fall off, and you’re digging yourself into a bigger hole,” he said.

“I’ll leave everyone to fill in the dots … there were a lot of thoughts going through my mind.”

Hogg is now an ambassador for Lifeline WA and the Farmer Mates Mental Health program. He spoke publicly about his struggles at an AgQuip field day in Gunnedah on Wednesday to raise awareness about the mental health crisis facing rural communities.

Brad Hogg grew up on a sheep farm in Western Australia.

Almost half of all farmers have had thoughts of self harm or suicide and 30 per cent have attempted it, according to research published in March by the National Farmers’ Federation and dairy group Norco.

Hogg told the farmers that he realised he needed to shift his thinking and did so through writing a list of 13 goals. A year later, he was in a new relationship and back playing cricket in the T20 competition.

He said it was critical farmers reached out to check in on each other regularly, given their isolation made it easier for negative thoughts to take root.

“I probably had the issues as a youngster as well. Driving back after cricket [to the family farm, 200km from Perth] , sometimes it could be pretty lonely.

Brad Hogg trains at the MCG after annoucing his retirement in 2008.Credit: Vince Caligiuri

“If you’d got out for a duck, or not done well, you’d have these negative thoughts [while] going back to the farm … then all of a sudden the relationship with the old man on the farm, there was a bit more tension.”

The Farmer Mates program consists of forums at events like AgQuip and Hogg said he was glad he could help others by sharing his own struggles and stories.

“We have had a couple of success stories with the tour so far – a couple of instances where people have come up and shared what they’re going through. I’m fortunate to help them get the resources that can help them out.

“Everyone copes differently. The biggest thing I learnt through cricket and life, and the experiences of people I’m with, is that you have got to understand what makes you tick when you’re at your best, and what are the [negative] cues that take you away from that.”

Flooding in Forbes in November. Record floods destroyed crops and wiped out roads critical for harvest.Credit: Nick Moir

Grain Producers Australia chief executive Colin Bettles said mental health problems were already worse in rural and regional areas than other parts of Australia, before being exacerbated by recent natural disasters.

“It’s necessary for farmers to invest in having a break and getting off farm, booking a holiday … it changes your thinking and helps you solve more problems because you get more objectivity,” he said.

Farmer Mates is run by Grain Producers Australia and Grain Growers, with support from Nufarm, Lifeline and Rural Aid.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Rural Aid Mental Health and Wellbeing Team 1300 17 55 94

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