Updated: January 25, 2015 10:40:10 am
It’s a pleasant winter morning in mid-2006. Brad Williams has just woken up in his house on the Gold Coast. It’s been over six months since he played his last competitive cricket match. Only 18 months ago, he was opening the bowling for the Australian ODI and Test team. Now he’s struggling to get out of bed. Not because he can’t. But because he doesn’t want to. He lies there staring at the ceiling. Then with much effort, he drags himself up. The next 15 minutes are spent on the side of the bed, staring at an empty wall. Then he gets up and grabs a bottle.
Unfortunately for Williams, this has been his daily routine for a few days now. And it will last for many more days to come. Things haven’t really gone his way of late. It started with him suffering a public sacking, with the cameras flashing, at the WACA. Then he shifted base from Perth to the Gold Coast at the behest of his wife. A move that resulted in divorce. Now, here he sits, stripped of his celebrity status, alone, and depressed.
And as Williams recalls now, without any purpose left in life.
“It was a fall from grace. I was having a drink for breakfast. That’s how bad I became. You start having silly thoughts. You are blurred and not thinking clearly. The alcohol doesn’t help. It makes it 10 times worse,” the 40-year-old says.
“I had begun thinking ‘Life is too hard’ ‘What do I do with myself?’ I just felt like I had no purpose in life anymore. I was never a believer in depression till then,” he adds.
These days, Williams is a professional builder and runs his own construction company. He calls it Willbuildit and attracts clients by giving them a chance to ‘build with a champion’. But eight years ago, he had seen his entire life crumble down around him. All that was left was the rubble of what had once been a promising cricket career.
At his pomp he had been good enough to play four Tests and pick up 35 wickets at 23.25 in 25 ODIs. Not to forget strike Sourav Ganguly on the helmet and send him off the field.
“At that point I don’t think I was even focussing on what I had done. I was just so lousy you couldn’t even appreciate what you’d actually achieved,” he says.
Williams needed help, desperately. And it came in the form of a new girlfriend, who would become his life partner. She first ensured that the Victorian ended up getting help from a psychologist and then also coaxed him into moving on from his former passion. Before long, Williams wasn’t afraid of waking up anymore, and he had also commenced his second innings, this time as a construction worker.
“I was plastering, painting houses, fixing framework. Even building pergolas for people. People would come up to me and say, ‘Mate, weren’t you playing for Australia till like last year?’ I would just smile and nod. It’s tough to walk away from a sport that you loved so much. But this was my new life and I was focused,” he explains.
Williams even enrolled himself in a certification course from a TAFE institute nearby to learn drafting and other facets of building, including carpentry. Though he completed most of his course through correspondence, there were times he had to sit in for exams with men much younger than him.
But this was the path he had chosen, and there was no way of breaking away from it. He also became a born-again Christian. “I had no qualification when I quit cricket. I was 30. I needed a job. While playing cricket I had renovated my house quite significantly. And I enjoyed doing it, and it became a passion. You go from being at the height of one career till you are the starting of another. It’s like falling off the ladder and climbing again,” says Williams.
Though he does regret having missed the T20 gravy train, Williams still watches cricket these days. While he’s forgiven and forgotten over time, the bustling pacer still feels he was hard done by the Western Australian Cricket Association, and the shabby manner in which they treated him.
“I had been bowling for them with needles and painkillers despite injuries. Then one day, the chairman of selectors takes me to the top of the stairs at the WACA and says I’m dropped with the media waiting with cameras downstairs,” he recalls.
Williams didn’t take the decision too well but what happened thereafter pushed him over the edge. “My WA teammates were barred from contacting me and talking to me. There was a lot of politics going on then and I guess I paid for poking my nose into it,” he adds.
Williams credits his present wife greatly for his redemption. “I really didn’t understand love at the time. But now I do. Thanks to her,” he says.
And as a result of having put up his contact number on his website, he reveals to still get calls from random people wanting to speak to Brad Williams the cricketer rather than Brad Williams the construction magnate.
“One out of five calls I receive everyday is someone wanting to take to an ex-cricketer. They don’t want any houses built,” he says.
But business has been good of late, he adds. Recently he finished constructing a 620 square metre residential house at Gold Coast. Last year, he did eight town-houses. He even talks about one day probably building a house for an ex-teammate but admits that he might have to provide a discount rate for them to agree.
At times, his thoughts do wander back to the time he sat and stared at walls rather than draft plans for building them. But he does so with no regrets and no apprehension anymore. He says, “It’s not a spot I want to ever get back to. It hasn’t been easy. There’s a lot of hard-work to go. I’m on the right path and halfway there.”
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