We caught up with Western Australian and Perth Scorchers quick Matt Dixon during his Beyond the Boundary placement with Diabetes WA...
Matt what was the motivation behind your placement?
It's been 12 years since I was first diagnosed with diabetes so that was certainly part of the motivation. I was also looking for something to do that would give me some experience for life after cricket. I saw Diabetes WA as a good place to start as I had a vested interest, being type 1 (Diabetic) and hoped it would give me a push in the right direction to go and study something.
I'd spent quite a bit of time talking with (WACA Player Development Manager) Angie Bains in the past, and about a year-and-a-half ago I agreed to be an Ambassador for Diabetes WA for the 'HBF Run for a Reason'. I was helping set up this year's run with Ange when I thought, if I'm not going to study this off-season then maybe I could do a work placement and learn some stuff along the way.
How have you found the placement so far?
I've really enjoyed it! I've learnt heaps and everyone in the office has been really nice. I had no experience at all with working in an office environment prior to this. I was a little worried I might be bored after sitting at a desk for about five minutes but that hasn't been the case at all. I think being keen to learn more about diabetes has helped me genuinely engage with the work, as opposed to if I'd done a placement just for the sake of it. I look forward to coming in.
Initially I was working across a range of areas to see what I might find interesting. I'm enjoying being involved in the preventative side of things; health promotion and education and speaking to individuals and groups. Some of this has involved food literacy; what to eat and why. I've also learnt more about type 2 diabetes, which I've been sheltered from a bit in the past.
Given your background in elite sport, has that changed the way your message is received?
Working with Diabetes WA has given me more knowledge and the resources to reach more people. I can speak in general terms rather than just purely on my experience and what's worked for me. I'm more comfortable now talking about areas that might not apply to my management.
One of the key messages I try to get across is not to let diabetes control your life and not letting it stop you doing things you want to do. That involves taking ownership and acknowledging the fact that you've got diabetes and then being in a position to take control of it.
How do you manage cricket with your condition?
Cricket can be a challenge in that sometimes in a game you just don't know exactly what you'll be doing or for how long. I've found that during the season where you've got strong training and playing loads and have a routine, my management of my diabetes is easier.
I've had to skip a few of JL's (Justin Langer's) pretty intense Saturday morning sessions with the odd blow out! I've also walked past umpires as I go to mark my run up, and in addition to my cap I hand them a pile of lollies and ask them to look after them.
You were recently upgraded from a Rookie contract to a full contract - how was that?
That relieved a bit of stress, although I felt I'd had quite a good year - and quite a good learning year. I'm looking forward to hitting this pre-season running and then developing on last year.
I was lucky enough to come off the supplementary list to play for the Scorchers after Coults (Nathan Coulter-Nile) injured himself.
Playing my first game for them was one of the best days of my life. I didn't really consider myself much of a chance (to play) but I did OK in a couple of practice matches and some injuries opened the door. The next thing I knew I was playing on Boxing Day in front of 20,000 people at the WACA, which was awesome.
Tell us about your diagnosis.
I was 10 when I was diagnosed and we were on a family holiday down south. I was sharing a room with one of the guys and he was starting to get annoyed with me for waking him up. One of the early symptoms is that you lose a lot of weight and drink a lot of water, so I was getting up seven or eight times throughout the night to go to the toilet. I lost about 8kg as a 10 year-old and I was never the biggest to begin with so that created some panic for mum and dad. Mum was worried about health and dad had the same thought I had - which was about how this might impact my ability to play sport. The doctors were really good and things progressed steadily from there but every day you still learn something more about it and how best to manage.
Given those early fears and managing this condition since, did you think reaching the heights of professional cricket would be possible?
No, and that's what's great when I go and speak to people (as a Diabetes WA Ambassador) who've recently been diagnosed. I can pinpoint moments in my life when I've broken through a barrier. My first game for WA was one of those when I thought, 'hang on a sec - maybe all this stuff is possible'. And that's something really powerful that you can tell young guys, that you can do it.
It's also important not to become complacent once you've reached those goals.
It was a great experience to be able to play a couple of Scorchers games and if things go to plan hopefully I can play a bit more Shield and One Day cricket this year as well.
It's awesome around the squad at the moment. You want to be part of a winning program and when you're doing well, there's always that competition for spots - so you strive to get better and better. Dave Moody was another to get an opportunity through injury and he took it with both hands with a great start to his Shield career. We've got a pretty young and settled list so I don't see why we can't continue to improve.
What do you think you need to focus on in order to continue your progression?
Consistency; closing the gap between my best and worst. When I'm at my best I feel I'm definitely good enough.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
Definitely dad. He's always supported me in a cricket sense - along with mum in a diabetes sense. Another bloke I've done a lot of work with is Ken Lilley. He was a mentor for me in the early part of my career and even now I still contact him regularly. In the past couple of years Adam Griffith (WA Bowling Coach) is someone I can communicate really well with and we're on the same page.
Has your Beyond the Boundary impacted how you view your cricket, or life outside the game?
There are times you worry about what you're going to do afterwards, and I guess that can be quite stressful if you've got nothing planned. I've started to find that you can have interests outside cricket and enjoy what you're doing beyond running around on the field. I'm really grateful to Diabetes WA, the ACA and the Beyond the Boundary program for the opportunity I've had with this placement.
I'm lucky in the sense that I've always been able to speak in front of an audience reasonably well. I mean, I hate the stress of the build-up and worrying about what you're going to say, but once I get up and start talking I'm OK. What I found interesting about public speaking is that it's made me more confident about controlling my diabetes and taking more and more ownership it.
I was recently invited to speak at the AIS about exercise for people with diabetes and that was one of the more powerful things I'd done.
We caught up with Diabetes WA's Communication Manager Kate Crassweller to see how she felt Matt had handled things.
It's been fantastic having Matt here; he's been a great asset. Matt coming in has added something different to the mix and I've had rave reviews from people within all the areas he's worked. There's things we've all learnt from each other, and for us from his background as an elite sportsman, and also how he deals with his condition.
We've tried to use Matt's position within sport to provide the greatest influence. For example, he visited a local high school as part of their health day and was able to talk to them about what healthy eating looks like from his position as both an athlete and someone with type 1 diabetes.
Matt's been great for us and hopefully we've assisted in preparing him for the next step in his career.
About Diabetes WA
Founded in 1965, Diabetes WA is the peak body and voice of diabetes in Western Australia. They are a not-for-profit organisation committed to supporting those with, at risk of, and affected by diabetes (type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes).
Diabetes WA has a number of educational, support and practical service provider roles:
- Represent a membership of more than 11,000 people.
- Advocate on behalf of people with diabetes to eliminate unfair practices and social stigma.
- Provide a free group education programs to help people living with diabetes to better understand and manage their condition.
- Run the Diabetes WA Information and Advice Line, a telephone helpline that offers support, information and counselling to those affected by diabetes.
- Provide information resources and training to health professionals.
- Run education programs in the wider community to inform people how to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Provide diabetes-related products to the WA diabetes community.
- Raise vital funds to support research and education programs
About Beyond the Boundary
Beyond the Boundary focuses on providing currently playing ACA members with work experience opportunities in a range of different environments outside sport.
This supports the ACA's strong commitment to the off-field development of its members, and significant focus is on a smooth career transition from professional sport to a satisfying post playing career.
More than 100 ACA members have taken part in the program to date.
The Beyond the Boundary program is run in conjunction Cricket Australia and Infront Sports Consulting.