I finally got into the Australian Test side at the start of 2009 off the back of the home loss to South Africa and there was a feeling of change in the air after being dominant for so long.
We headed out to South Africa for the return series as a pretty young side given next to no chance. Ben Hilfenhaus and the late Phil Hughes were also debutants on that Tour so I wasn’t by myself.
We got off the plane from Johannesburg, checked in at the hotel and went to a steakhouse across the road. I’d never properly spoken to Ricky Ponting before but he pulled me to one side, got a beer each, and told me he liked what I do and not to change who I am.
That instantly made me feel comfortable and it’s a measure of how good a captain he was, putting people at ease – I then got my century on debut.
It took me four years to establish myself in the Western Australia team after making my debut at 18. I’d been dominant in youth cricket for so many years that it was quite a reality check.
It was definitely harder than I thought it was going to be. I made my debut against Victoria and I suddenly had Paul Reiffel coming at me. I got 15 not out in that first game, but only had that opportunity because so many of the players – like Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist – were away.
It took me until the 2001/02 season to make my MCG debut, soon after that I scored my first 100 in Queensland and only then I knew I could perform at that level.
Then there was selection in the Australia A side to face England – two young blokes in myself and Michael Clarke were in that team, playing the likes of Michael Vaughan. It was a TV game with lots of pressure, I made 33 not out and I was pretty pleased with the way I handled myself.
The 2009 Ashes was the ultimate achievement and I was lucky I’d played a lot of county cricket and knew the conditions. After what had happened in South Africa there was huge positivity.
Unfortunately for us the Test in Cardiff, where England batted out for a draw, was a horrible end even though I was one of four to make a century. The big one for me was making a 90 to help save the match at Edgbaston, that was really satisfying, and also the century in the victory at Leeds.
After those personal highs came the lows. I couldn’t buy a run against Pakistan and my Test place was in jeopardy for New Zealand, but I got selected and the same thing continued in the nets. Ponting came over and changed my stance, and together with Langer I spent four hours a day nailing down the technical changes just a few days before the first Test. I went and made a 100 in a big partnership with Clarke, who had his own demons to battle at the time after splitting up with his fiancée, so it was special.
My international career ended late in 2010 following a series loss to India and a poor start to the Ashes. I was the last bloke to come into that side so I was the first out, and that was fair enough.
I’m extremely proud that I became the first player to appear for six counties, and the North-east has been a second home to me for the last 14 years.
I met my wife Joanne there while playing league cricket for Gateshead Fell and after retirement, we decided that to return there was a scratch we wanted to itch.
At the moment I’m trying to step up my own Australian wine business, doing media work for Sky’s IPL coverage and still picking up my bat for South Northumberland.
This article was originally published in The Cricket Paper, May 22 2015