From being a landscaping worker, working at a construction site, being a furniture removalist, a teacher’s assistant at a high school, doing multiple shifts to pay the bills, to becoming the first man to take a T20I hat-trick in his first game, Nathan Ellis has endured more than his share of struggles en route representing Australia.
Although, he has played only a handful of games for Australia, but the 27-year-old, since making his debut for Hobart Hurricanes in 2019, has become one of the finest death bowlers in Australia. After his impressive outing in the BBL and with the national team, he found a spot in Australia’s victorious T20 World Cup campaign as a travelling reserve, and bagged a IPL contract with the Punjab Kings.
Switching jobs to paying his bills
At 22, Nathan Ellis moved from New South Wales to Tasmania to make a living out of cricket. He had no contract, no job, but the only thing that kept him going was the hunger to prove his nasayers wrong.
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“Back when I was 22, I moved from New South Wales to Tasmania to try and pursue a cricketing dream. I didn’t have a contract then, and I was moving out of home for the first time, so there were a lot of expenses that came with it,” Ellis told Cricket Australia’s YouTube channel.
“I had 5-6 different jobs back then to try and pay the bills. I started with some landscaping work, but I had to quit that because they wanted me to work Saturdays and that’s when the cricket was on,” recalls Ellis.
“I did some furniture removal and furnishing as well, but I had to leave that too because it clashed with my match days. I also did some construction work but that was too hard on the body, so I had to give that up as well,” he added.
After working assorted different jobs to support his cricket career, he refers the lowest moment of his life, as when he was sacked from a door-to-door fundraiser for the World Wildlife Fund.
“I got a door knocking job, they probably pay you just to knock on the door, eight hours a day. You are waking up people at 6 am and most of them used to slam doors on my face. It was one of the lowest moments in my career,” he laughs.
Nathan Ellis then found an ideal job as a teacher’s assistant at a high school, which fortunately did not interfere with his match days.
“Looking back, I don’t even know how I managed to fit everything together. It was a tough few years where I was getting fired from a lot of different jobs and working lots of different shifts. Something that at the time was hard, but now I can look back on as a really great life experience,” he stated with a smile on his face.
Giving up on the game
Ellis is not the first cricketer from New South Wales, to find a home in Tasmania and flourish into an international cricketer. He joins the likes of Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan and Jason Krejza.
Despite all this effort, Ellis was not able to break into the Tasmanian senior team. He says, in 2019, he considered returning to Sydney.
“I had played two seasons in Tasmania, and I had done really well in grade level cricket but I hadn’t received an opportunity in the state team,” said the 26-year-old.
“I was sort of thinking that I need to go back home, I wasn’t saving any money, I wasn’t really building a career so it was time to start the next chapter of my life,” he added.
A phone call from then Tasmania coach Adam Griffith persuaded him to stay for another year.
“I told him (Griffith) I’m done, I can’t do another season here. I’m not making any money. But he sort of coaxed me into staying, and I just thought one more year! And that turned out to be my breakout year. It all happened really quickly from there on, with my call up to Tasmania and the Big Bash contract,” recalled Ellis.
Ellis’s world was changing.
He took his first domestic five-wicket haul in just his fifth game against a star-studded NSW side.
In his debut BBL season, he took 20 wickets at an economy rate of 8.31, fifth best for the competition overall. What followed was a maiden Australian call-up, and what followed that is an indelible place in the history books for Ellis owing to that dream T20I debut.
“I sort of look back at that moment and think what could have been had I not stayed for one more year in Tasmania. My bags were packed, I was ready to go home. So I look back now and think Wow! What a good decision I made,” he said.
Life came a full circle for Ellis in Mirpur last year, when Mitchell Starc, one of the NSW quicks, who was ahead of him in the pecking order, handed over his first international cap.
“In a nutshell he was one of the reasons I had to go (to Tasmania) – they’re such a strong state with a lot of depth,” said Ellis.
Cut to present, for Australia’s tour to India, he has now replaced an injured Mitchell Starc, who has complained of a knee problem after the ODI series win against New Zealand.