‘I’m a cult figure because I’m a really good bogan’
DOUG Bollinger did not play cricket until he was 15.
At the time, he was thought of as no more than an enthusiastic but erratic bowler with a crazy streak.
In the wash-up, he remained enthusiastic, a touch crazy, but was far from erratic.
"I would tell myself not to talk as much," Bollinger joked when asked what his advice to his younger self would be in an exclusive interview with Foxsports.com.au at the Australian Cricketers' Association Masters event last week.
"I think I was a cult figure because I am a really good Bogan. We have lots of BBQ's. I am who I am and just have fun. There is no use being angry or bitter. Just enjoy everyone's company, especially your own."
Bollinger played his first Shield match under the leadership of Steve Waugh in the summer of 2002/03.
At 36, he retired earlier this month as the ninth leading wicket-taker for New South Wales with 290 victims to his name.
But it was the way the left-armer played the game that made him a much-loved figure for close to 15 years.
Finding the balance between passion and performance remained one of Bollinger's most difficult tasks throughout his career.
On a tour of New Zealand in 2010, he celebrated his second and final Test five-wicket haul by kissing the coat of arms on his shirt. The only problem was he accidentally slobbered on the VB badge.
It was on that tour where he would repeat the same joke over and over again to his teammates.
"Two fish are in a tank and one says to the other 'how do you drive this thing?'"
He wasn't everyone cup of tea, but no teammate could ever accuse Bollinger of lacking personality.
"It was all good and fun to have a joke because if you don't laugh at yourself then who are you going to laugh at?
"I know when to turn it on and off and have a good time."
The 2010 tour of New Zealand was Bollinger's sweet spot as an international bowler. At this relatively low point in Australian Test cricket, he was Ricky Ponting's 'go-to' man.
Chris Gayle became his bunny and he took 37 of his 50 Test wickets against Pakistan, the West Indies and the Kiwis in just a few months.
Understandably, Bollinger would prefer to be remembered for his "150,000 per cent" effort and durability rather than his quirky character, logo-gate or his former manufactured hairpiece.
"I think it's pretty self-explanatory," was his response when asked about his 'Doug the rug' nickname.
"Next question please."
For Bollinger, who grew up "a slightly loose unit" in Western Sydney's suburbs, he has no regrets.
Having taken 121 international wickets across three forms of the game fills the former Sydney Sixer with pride.
He was named in the ICC's Test team of the year in 2010 alongside Simon Katich, Sachin Tendulkar, Kumar Sangakarra, Jacques Kallis, James Anderson and Dale Steyn, but was out of the Australian XI by the end of the year.
A year earlier, his Test debut at the SCG was better remembered for Graeme Smith's act of courage when he walked out to bat with a broken arm in a bid to draw the Test before Mitchell Johnson slipped through the captain's defence.
"I'm so glad that I accomplished my aim of playing for Australia and do it in all three forms," he said.
"I am happy with what I've done and now hopefully the rest of the guys coming through can enjoy it and respect it as much as I did.
"It would have been great to play more but I'm happy with what I achieved and what I did. I won't be too bitter or disappointed. I will just celebrate what I achieve and get on with it."
"It's been a great ride and getting to play sport for a living, what better way to spend your life?
"I've done everything in reverse. Everything I wanted to achieve I've already done and the rest is a mystery."
Bollinger isn't alone among retired cricketers when he concedes he would like to spend the rest of his days coaching and playing golf.
A four-handicapper, the latter has potential to take him to pro-amateur tournaments around Australia. But it's guiding the next generation of quicks through the system that motivates him more than any sweetly timed four-iron off the fairway.
Bollinger was one of a dozen past and present cricketers to tour Ararat and Traralgon last wek as part of the ACA Masters Program, which again demonstrated his willingness to give back to the game he played at the elite level for more than 15 seasons.
"I still want to stay around the game and give out help in the cricket world," he said.
"I'd like to stick round and try to get involved in a bit of bowling coaching. We will see how everything unfolds.
"I'd love to do it full time. I have a lot of knowledge I can give out and would love to help younger players get better at cricket.
"I've still got a bit to give."