Paceman Nic Bills has experienced life on the other side of the boundary during a stint with NRL powerhouse Manly. The 22 year-old, who was delisted by New South Wales recently, took up an opportunity with the Sea Eagles’ media team as part of the ACA’s Beyond the Boundary Program.
The ACA’s Louis Cameron* caught up with the right-armer recently…
LC: You’ve been working with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles as part of the ACA’s Beyond the Boundary program, can you tell us about what you’re doing there?
NB: I’m assisting the Media Manager at the Sea Eagles, Tim Ashworth, as a bit of a shadow. I’ve been working on content for the website, team-lists and social media. On match days I’ve been doing live updates for fans on Twitter – every time a Manly player breaks a line, knocks a ball on or scores a try, I’ll do an update. It’s pretty good to get paid to watch the footy and tweet!
What have you learnt from the placement so far?
As a cricketer, you’re always on the other end (of the boundary) so it’s been good to see things from a different perspective. At press conferences at the end of games, I’ve been able to sit in and see how that works. It can be a bit of an ego-fight, with journalists coming in over the top of each other to ask questions.
It’s been really interesting to sit on the other side and see how it all works in regards to media and players and interaction with fans. It’s been interesting watching how the Media Manager goes about trying to line up players for post-game interviews and making sure the workload is shared.
Do you have a greater understanding for the different roles off-field staff play after seeing it from that perspective?
Absolutely. In the office, I’ve got to see what goes on in membership, marketing and junior development. Obviously, my focus has been on the media side of things but it has been interesting to see how all the other stuff operates.
What’s been the highlight of the placement?
As a Manly fan, it’s definitely been being in the ‘sheds’ at the end of games and being able to interact with the players a little bit. The first time I was in there, I was like a little kid in a candy store. I’ve watched Manly play since I was three or four years old so it’s been nice to finally see the inside of a change room at Brookvale Oval (the Sea Eagles’ home ground) after a win.
What’s been the most challenging thing about the placement?
Manly don’t own the rights to their website – it’s actually owned by the NRL. So when I’m putting a photo up on the website, I have to be aware of sponsorship issues. Generally speaking, if a photo is directly showing a logo of a Manly sponsor, it can’t go up on the website. The exception is with action shots where a team sponsor’s logo is displaying on a player’s shirt.
What’s been your motivation for working in this area?
I’m actually studying to be a PE teacher, but I spoke with our Player Development Manager at Cricket NSW, Justine Whipper, who suggested I sit down with Erin Devlin (who helps run the Beyond the Boundary program) to see if there were any other opportunities out there. As a sportsman, I’d love to be involved with sport in the future so it was great to get an opportunity to do a placement at Manly. So it’s been more about me seeing if I enjoyed doing something a bit different.
How important are the hands-on work opportunities that ‘Beyond the Boundary’ provides?
The placement I’m doing now wouldn’t be possible without ‘Beyond the Boundary’. To get to work with a professional football team as a 22 year-old is practically impossible. Whether or not I do end up going down this path (in the media industry), it will always look good on the resume and the skills I’ve learnt are invaluable.
Have you noticed any similarities between the Sea Eagles environment and the NSW cricket environment?
One thing I’ve noticed is that at the end of a Sheffield Shield game with NSW, there are never too many people in the rooms after the game. At Manly, they’ve always got promotions where fans, sometimes little kids, are in the rooms running around and asking players to get photos and autographs with them right after a game. That doesn’t really happen in state-level cricket.
The first week I was there, the team had won and the players were quite happy to do it but last week they got beaten by the Bulldogs so things were a bit different.
You’ve recently come off contract with NSW – can you tell us about how you’re finding that transition?
It’s been a bit tough coming off contract. I think the hardest part has been going back to full-time uni after three or four years of playing cricket full-time - that’s been a bit of a rude shock. I’m about halfway through my course so I should be done in about 18 months.
(Losing my contract) is obviously disappointing but now it’s just about trying to find other things to do. I think these kinds of opportunities are only going to help build contacts down the line when I’m looking for full-time work.
You managed to pick up the scalps of Alastair Cook and Joe Root in a Tour match last season – can you tell us what it was like to play in that game?
It certainly was a good experience. Those two wickets looked a lot better at the start of the Ashes series than they did at the end of the five-nil series! It was a great experience to be around that level of cricket. I think the batting line-up that played in that game was the same one that played in the First Test in Brisbane.
I remember speaking to the fast bowlers playing that game – Josh Lalor and Chris Tremain – when Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott were batting and making it look like centre wicket practice. We were asking each other ‘How are we going to get these blokes out?’. It was certainly a big step up, having only played one first-class game before that, but it was something I really enjoyed.
You also seemed to hold own in your only Sheffield Shield game – how have those experiences shaped you as a cricketer?
It was a steep learning curve in both first-class games that I played. In my first Shield game (vs. WA in 2011), I was only coming off just one full season of Grade cricket and only a handful of Futures League games before that. And again, a few years later, I went from playing Futures League and Second XI cricket to playing against the English Test side, which was a big step-up. Having got those guys out though, it’s certainly given me the confidence to one day get back into that Shield line-up for the Blues.
What are your plans for the upcoming season?
Head down, bum up, to work myself back to NSW. I’ve actually changed clubs – I’ve gone from North Sydney to Manly - to link up with an old coach who will hopefully give me a fresh look at my bowling.
Thanks for being with us Nic - all the best for the coming season.
*Louis Cameron is a Rookie listed player with the Victorian Bushrangers. He is completing a work placement at the ACA through the Beyond the Boundary program and as part of his Masters of Communication course at RMIT University.