Matthew Hayden is well known across the country as a talented cricketer. But off the pitch, Matt has a green thumb and deep passion for growing food instilled in him from a young age, having grown up on a farm. It was here that Matt was first introduced to cricket at just two years old by big brother Gary.
Matt idolised his brother, who was an instrumental part of his childhood and became Matt’s cricket coach in later years. The boys were fairly isolated growing up on a large farm in Kingaroy, Queensland, which meant Matt didn’t see his first live cricket match until he was eight.
‘Cricket was our game,’ says Matt, fondly remembering time spent with his older brother playing many a backyard test match, ‘Summer was cricket and winter was footy. The whole community would come together over cricket at the local clubhouse.’
Outside of cricket, life revolved around the farm. Growing peanuts and other crops, including barley, Matt would race home from school eager to help his dad, jumping on the tractor and doing whatever work was required. Farming and country were the circles of life, and Matt loved it.
At 16, Matt left home for boarding school and never returned to the farm. As much as he adored it, between uni and cricket, there was never the time. Matt didn’t particularly like going away to school; he deeply missed the rural life he had always known, but his inner farmer never went away.
Having finished school, Matt started playing first-grade cricket in Brisbane aged 18, while at uni. He credits older brother Gary, who was also an excellent first-grade cricketer at the time, as an integral part of his training process.
‘Gary was my coach, and he really paved the way for me as he helped me to become a hard-nosed athlete,’ says Matt.
At just 20 years old, Matt started to play cricket professionally, and, after a lot of hard work, determination and ‘a huge chunk of good old-fashioned luck... oh and a hint of talent,’ Matt smiles, by 21 he was playing for Australia as an opening batsman, heading on his first Ashes tour by age 22.
‘I never considered myself to be special when playing cricket or a particularly gifted player,’ says Matt. But there was no doubt he had a natural talent for the sport and went on to play for over 15 years.
‘In truth, the road to my success, if you even call what I did in cricket successful, was all about conquering the battle with self,’ says Matt, ‘Self as in self-discovery, self-determination, self-realisation, being true to one's own self and a hundred others.
‘The greatest accomplishment for self is to achieve something you never in your wildest dreams thought was possible. Cricket was that wonderful passion project that enabled me to discover the truth of dreaming big and being bold.
‘My brother Gary was my role model and hero growing up; my first fitness trainer and cricket coach, and he shared so much of his time and energy to give me a shot. Of course, my mum and dad, to whom I could write a book on their sacrifice, did too.’
Playing cricket, unfortunately, took its toll, particularly mentally. Matt recalls feeling a nervous wreck for most of his life and would often get physically sick at the start of every season. The training was intense, and his body felt worn down.
‘There just wasn’t the same support there is today,’ Matt recalls, reflecting on the lack of mental health help available at the time.
After retiring from cricket in 2012, Matt felt ‘a huge weight lifted' from his shoulders and soon turned his attention to what he calls his ‘mental fitness space’ - the backyard.
‘The dad in me wanted to show his kids where food came from, and the farmer in me wanted to grow it and challenge myself to see how sustainable this family of five could be,’ says Matt, who is father to Grace, 19, Josh, 16, and Tom, 14, with wife Kellie.
‘We had good land, and I really wanted to be able to grow and cook stuff. Seeing the benefit of adding fresh herbs to a piece of steak or pasta. The nutritional value, taste and quality of produce coming one footstep from your backyard to your kitchen. There’s nothing like it!’ enthuses Matt.
The first thing Matt and his wife Kellie considered was how the family treated water on their Brisbane property. The pair installed a 180,000L water tank and set up a bore and dam to give themselves an abundance of water. Then, they considered how best to position their veggie plots to maximise sunlight and help them become better gardeners. Keen to get off-grid as much as they could, they later installed a small solar power unit.
Next on the agenda was reducing the food bill. Matt grows everything from potatoes and pumpkins to a vast array of citrus and fruit trees, including custard apples, mangoes, plums, apricots and peaches. But one of his favourite foods to grow is herbs, which Matt loves to use in making his own homegrown pesto for topping pasta, fish and steak. The family also rear large black pigs, sheep, lambs and ducks for food, and chickens for eggs, who lay up to a dozen per day. Matt even has his own small butchery on-site as well as a collection of beehives.
Matt got his love of food from his grandmother, who frequently whipped up culinary delights from her homegrown garden and taught Matt the value of taking time to enjoy family and one of life’s simple pleasures. Growing up amongst such idyllic surroundings meant Matt knew his way around butchery, charcuterie, preserving and hunting from a young age, and those interests only grew.
‘The best part of my day is waking up and walking out with the animals,’ Matt smiles, ‘My favourite part about gardening is the connection to produce... cultivating a connection to food and being able to turn it into an experience for my family and friends.’
A couple of years back, Matt’s dad, Laurie, introduced him to Hoselink, owning a few products himself. Gifting Matt a Retractable Hose Reel for his birthday, Matt has since found multiple uses for his new favourite watering system that not only helps him care for his garden, but comes in handy for cleaning the car and washing down his beloved boat too.
‘If I have something, I really love looking after it,’ says Matt, ‘I use my boat, then hose it down. The Hoselink Hose Reel has been an integral preservation tool. I believe in preserving what you have and not living in a throwaway society.’
Passionate about quality, Matt reached out to the Hoselink team, and we’re proud to announce we have now officially partnered with Matthew Hayden at The Hayden Way. Together, we will cultivate more connections within communities around Australia, communicate the importance of sustainability, and work on some exciting new projects, including finding ways to give back, so watch this space!