SATURDAY, January 30, 2016 marks 255 days since Trent Ball last had a bet.
It’s been an innings made up of only singles but for anyone who knows the Cricket Albury-Wodonga captain and Tallangatta coach, they’ll know that’s not what comes naturally to him.
He’s an extrovert. A blazing batsman who’s happier to belt 50 runs off 30 balls than he is to make 80 off 200.
That approach is great on a cricket field but can be costly when it comes to gambling. Very costly.
Ball, 31, estimates he has lost at least $200,000 to gambling since he entered the workforce as an 18-year-old and that’s just the financial cost.
A crippling gambling addiction has driven him to the brink of suicide, forced his fiancee to leave and almost saw him kicked out of his house.
The downhill spiral started in 2014, when Ball was coaching Walla Football Club.
“I was getting paid about $20,000 to coach there and I was getting paid in cash each week,” he said.
“Before that I had it under control a little bit, even though I still had the problem, but all my money was controlled by my fiancee and I was just getting a certain amount of money each week.
“With footy, I was telling my fiancee that I was getting paid at the end of the year and then the end of the year came and I had no money, it wasn’t coming in.
“It’s cost me a relationship with the girl I loved and who I was planning to spend the rest of my days with.
“She gave me three or four chances and I was still gambling. It’s not so much the gambling, it’s the lying and the virtual double life.
“Unfortunately I’ve just burnt that bridge too many times and now I have to live with that every day.”
Ball has sought advice from another well-known football identity about his addiction – Wodonga Raiders coach Daryn Cresswell.
Cresswell, a Sydney Swans great, was declared bankrupt in 2009, with debts of more than $700,000 from a gambling addiction leading to him being convicted on two counts of fraud and jailed for nine months.
Horses were Ball’s Achilles heel and it was nothing for him to bet “thousands at a time”.
He racked up $36,000 in debt. There was $26,000 with lending companies and another $10,000 from people he knew.
Ball has paid the $10,000 back but has entered a five-year bankruptcy agreement with Beyond Debt.
“I’d get payday loans, credit card, personal loans, you name it,” he said.
“The payday loans, you’d just keep getting and getting and getting them because you lost that and you need rent but you’d still go and gamble it anyway.
“When my fiancee left and I moved out and was in control of my own money, I was gambling my pay away.
“I’d get paid and then within an hour I’d have no money for the next two weeks.
“When you’re gambling, money’s just an object – you get paid and you don’t have bills or rent, that’s the last thing on your mind, you’ve just got money to gamble.
“I’d get paid and you could turn it into $10,000 or $12,000 in a day but whatever you win, it’s never enough. It wouldn’t matter if I won $300,000 – I’d still be here with you.
“That’s the thing with the addiction, it just fuels itself.”
Ball hit his lowest ebb 18 months ago when he spent a night in hospital after being picked up by police in a paddock at Mungabareena Reserve. He had switched his phone off and didn’t want to be found.
“It just spiraled with the depression and the anxiety and everything that comes with it,” he said.
“I’m a lot better. You go through waves but I’m not at the point where I’m sitting at a train station wondering if I should get out of my car or not.”
Ball considers himself lucky.
Thanks to his parents, Grant and Liz, sister Brodey, best mate James Tonkin and Matt Griffiths from Gamblers Anonymous, he is getting his life back on track.
He has a roof over his head and is able to care for his two children, from a previous marriage, two nights a week.
“At some points, I would have to take the kids to mum’s for dinner,” he said.
“Now we can do whatever we want, I can cook the kids dinner, which sounds like a simple thing for lots of people but I can do it.
“Tonky helped me with my finances and just said you’ve got to pay your rent, your bills, your gas, your phone.
“He help me set that up and did it for three or four months. I’ve now taken it over and I’m still on top of all that now.”
Tonkin also put Ball in touch with Griffiths in what has proved to be a life-changing decision.
Ball now helps run Gamblers Anonymous meetings on the Border.
“GA is the only thing that’s worked for me, straight away from the first meeting,” he said.
“I had been to counselors, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, the doctor, spoke to my parents, my fiancee sat down in front of me and pleaded with me to stop.
“For whatever reason, GA just works.
“You’re in a room and there’s no judgment – people understand.
“It can be hard for your loved ones to understand because if it was logic, if it was a black-and-white decision on whether to gamble, you wouldn’t do it.”
Ball’s decision to go public with his gambling addiction might seem to contradict the “anonymous” part of GA but he says it helps him deal with his condition.
“I think going public with it is a good thing for me because it keeps me accountable. I would look like a goose now if I went and gambled,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t want anyone to know but with me, the more people that know, the more people can pull me up or ask me if I’m going OK.”
Ball said about 18 people had attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings on the Border in the past year but he had received hundreds of messages off people seeking help for family members.
“The last thing you actually want to hear from people is that you have a problem but we just really want people to know they’re not the only ones,” he said.
“I’m not going to get up and tell people to stop gambling, I’m just going to tell people that I can help them stop feeling the guilt and the shame of gambling.
“We want to help people before they get to rock bottom. Before they lose their fiancee like I did or to try and get them before they get kicked out of their house or lose their job or lose their time with their kids.
“It’s real and it happens.”
Ball stresses that he is by no means “cured” and admits “each day is a battle to not gamble”.
But, he is winning the fight.
One Ball at a time.
Gamblers Anonymous holds meetings at the Church of God, 418 Urana Rd, Lavington on Thursdays from 8pm. For information, contact Trent Ball on 0422 953 066 or Matt Griffiths on 0416 969 953.