From low profile to highly influential

When New South Wales players reconvened last month after a tumultuous Big Bash League break, in which the departures of its coach and chief executive were revealed as both Sydney teams floundered, one of their key new coaches was someone whose public profile is incomparable to his reputation among elite players and officials who have worked with him.

As a player, Trent Woodhill never progressed above Sydney grade cricket, although he was a sufficiently skilled batsman to spend many Australia winters playing league cricket in England. As a coach, however, he counts New Zealand as his most recent full-time employer and the Delhi Daredevils and Melbourne Stars as two Twenty20 teams which retain him for annual stints. He is also the long-time personal batting coach of Australian opener David Warner, since before the left-hander made his first-class or international debut.

The 41-year-old, recruited as NSW's interim assistant coach after former Sri Lankan international Chandika Hathurusinghe was promoted from the deputy role to replace the coach Anthony Stuart for the rest of the season, began coaching only as it made him easier for him to secure visas for his regular England stints. It became more than a shortcut to a visa, however, when his long-time club coach, and mentor, Steve Rixon hired him as an assistant at Surrey in 2005.

Personal recommendations from the influential have expedited his rise in the past eight years beyond a successful club-level coach in Sydney. At Delhi he was hired as fielding coach after the Daredevils recruited Warner and sought his advice – which then Daredevils coach Greg Shipperd endorsed (and this season hired him again at the Stars). Woodhill's work with Daniel Vettori at Delhi saw the then NZ captain successfully lobby for his addition to the Black Caps coaching panel.

Woodhill's crowning at NZ was the Black Caps' historic victory over Australia in Hobart last summer, even though it left his protege and close friend Warner as a loser despite a magnificent maiden century.

"Him getting a hundred in Hobart was a perfect result. He gets his first hundred and we get a Test win," Woodhill recalled.

The trigger for Woodhill's exit from his first international-level role was the departure of John Wright, the respected former NZ batsman who had hired him as his assistant after just a single meeting. Just over seven months since Wright's departure Woodhill reckons being born on the wrong side of the Tasman, rather than a lack of coaching experience or expertise, was the reason New Zealander Mike Hesson was preferred to him.

"The New Zealanders didn't want a foreigner. They had issues with [former Australian coach and director of cricket] John Buchanan – he was ostracised, and still is – and the manager, players' association rep and new CEO [David White] all just wanted a Kiwi in there," he said.

Woodhill was intent on having no hard feelings towards NZ Cricket, given how it had given him his first international job and how he had relished the role, but that has subsequently been trumped by his anger at the treatment of Ross Taylor, the captain who was controversially axed in favour of Brendon McCullum just over a month ago. While NZ Cricket has sought to defend itself and the role of coach Hesson in the changeover, Woodhill said he got an inkling of the tide shifting against Taylor during his final tour in the middle of last year.

"During the West Indies tour I was really frustrated with the way Ross Taylor was being treated, not by anyone other than the manager and a few of the senior players who weren't giving him the support that he needed," Woodhill said.

"I don't think it was ever about Ross and Brendon. It was always about management. To me, Brendon should want to captain his country and I was all for a split captaincy, but it's just the way it was done [that was the problem].

"After the World Twenty20 I closed the book on New Zealand, but the way Ross was treated and is being treated I just feel bitter towards the they're treating one of the best human beings I've ever met. Ross Taylor is literally the nicest guy you could ever meet and the most respectful and down to earth, and the way they treated him [was unfathomable]."

While Taylor has since ended his stint away from the Black Caps and will feature in their upcoming home Test series against England, Woodhill reckons the only proper solution would be for both Hesson and NZ Cricket chief executive David White to resign over the affair.

With regards to his present role, Woodhill hopes he will be helped by having coached many of NSW's emerging elite players when he led them as coach of its under-17s and under-19 teams.

"There's obviously been a lot happening at NSW. They have underachieved in the past few years. The guys I was working with over a four-year period in the 17s and 19s, your Mitchell Starcs and Josh Hazlewoods and Nic Maddinsons etc, are now coming to the fore as senior players. I think now is a good opportunity to get back involved with them because I've had my experience away from NSW and now I can come back and we can reignite the relationship."

While poor results were a key factor in Stuart's pre-Christmas axing by the Blues, Woodhill is adamant the season can still be salvaged.

"I think the players have got a point to prove. I think there's been enough in the media ... that they'll galvanise in the second half. Players like Ben Rohrer and Pete Nevill having success at the Renegades they'll bring that back confidence back to the group," he said. "I expect big things from them."

This story From low profile to highly influential first appeared on WA Today.