New Queensland Bulls coach all set for big challenge
"THIS is going to take some getting used to".
That was the cheeky passing comment from New South Wales spinner Steve O'Keefe, during training at Brisbane's Allan Border Field yesterday, after seeing former New South Wales teammate Phil Jaques don a Queensland training shirt.
Jaques takes over as the new Bulls coach in tumultuous times, following Stuart Law's sacking after Queensland had a below-average season last summer.
But the 36-year-old loves a challenge, overcoming a stack of injuries during his playing career - and breaking into a Test team full of champion players - to wear the baggy green 11 times.
So copping the odd sledge for changing allegiances between New South Wales and Queensland - two of Australian sport's biggest rivals - won't bother the cool-headed Jaques too much.
"I've had some ups and downs in my career, been dropped in and out of teams, been on the fringes (of the Australian team) for five or six years, and had back surgery," he said.
"I've experienced the good and the bad of sport, so I feel like I can relate to the players in regards to that.
"As far as being a fighter goes - I was never the most talented player, but I got the best out of what I did, and hopefully I can instil some of that to the playing group here."
Jaques (pictured) added he was looking forward to rebuilding a Queensland team which has finished fourth the past two seasons in the Sheffield Shield.
"I can't wait to get started. I'm really excited at the proposition of working with a fresh group of guys, and guys that want to do well," he said.
It won't completely be a foreign environment in Brisbane for Jaques - he was Blues teammates with Usman Khawaja and Peter Forrest when they were fresh on the first-class scene. Since they both moved to Queensland, Jaques believes Khawaja and Forrest - aged 28 and 29 respectively - are just some in the Queensland set-up that are close to Australian selection.
"There are a lot of guys on the fringes of national selection, so they're all keen to do well individually," Jaques said.
"I'll try to get us channelling that in a team environment, and get us all moving in the same direction."
Jaques also threw Bulls batsman Chris Lynn, 25, into the mix, as someone he believes is not far off picking up his first baggy green.
"I think guys like him, Joe Burns and Usman are ready to take the next step. I think the whole team can really leap forward and get better," Jaques said.