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Two years on from sudden cardiac arrest, Ryan Campbell is better than ever and striving for further success with Durham – SportsByte

It’s been just over two years since Ryan Campbell had a cardiac arrest and was left unconscious, leaving his family terrified and wondering if he would ever wake up and live life, let alone coach again. 

Fortunately, he has recovered and lived to tell the tale, continuing his coaching career in the North East with Durham, leading them to promotion to Division One last season. Yet talking to the Western Australia native, it’s mind blowing to think he might have never coached at all.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to be a coach!” Campbell says, with his typical warm smile and approachable character. “When I finished playing, I loved the media. My career was going to be radio and TV, and I had businesses and stuff. During my career, I had done my coaching badges on the way. So I thought, ‘is it a backup plan?’ It probably wasn’t until I did my level three, which was just after I finished, really sinking my teeth into it and thought, ‘Yeah, this is pretty cool’. I kept getting youngsters asking me to help them out, and some of the local WA (Western Australia) players at the time were wanting some one-on-one stuff with me, and it seemed to be going well. I wouldn’t say the thought was always going to be, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be a coach’. It just worked out that way.”

If Campbell had got his own way, he probably would’ve never left Australia, with his keen interest in the media fuelling his initial career path. “People thought that I spoke my mind. As players, you’ve got to be a bit careful of what you say. I wasn’t a guy that was just going to give the stock answer just because it wasn’t the truth. So I think from that opportunities arose, and one thing led to another. I think my high point was being the host of Postcards WA, a travel show. Now that was pretty cool! When I’m touring around WA, going to all the cool spots, I thought, ‘I don’t really want to be a cricket coach. I’d rather do this for a living’. I just enjoyed it. But again, a lot of that was still with the game of cricket, commentating for either TV or radio. So I still enjoyed the game. I guess because I was honest and gave my feelings on the game, that helped as well.”

In April 2022, everything changed. Campbell had a sudden cardiac arrest and went into a coma for a week. Specialists gave him a 7% chance of survival. He speaks candidly about such a terrifying event.

“The facts are when you have a health scare like I did and you’re lucky to survive, I can say that pretty easily and openly because I don’t remember any of it. That’s the honest truth. I had no memory of those seven days. To me, it was… I went somewhere I can’t remember, woke up and everything was fine. But obviously hearing about what my wife went through and my friends and my family, it was pretty scary stuff. What that taught me was what was truly important to me and what I really love doing and what I really want my loves to be”.

Did leaving cricket ever cross his mind?

“A big part of that was, yes, family would always come first, but I love the game of cricket, everything about it, being in the rooms, preparing players, the game itself. To me, going through that, what did I want to do afterwards? I wanted to be part of the game and continue to be part of it and also do it the way I want to do it and see the game played the way I love watching the game to be played. That highlighted to me that I wasn’t done with cricket.”

Durham are certainly glad he didn’t leave cricket behind. He was hired as their new Head Coach at the end of 2022, and made an immediate impact in the 2023 season. With his positive style and mindset, not backing down from anyone, he helped lead the club to being Division Two champions, setting numerous club records along the way. They caught the eye up and down the country, following a very similar ethos to the England Men’s Test side.

Rob Pratley, a DAZN sports journalist and keen cricket fan has been impressed by Durham’s rise under Campbell. “Cricket and sport in general has always been in the entertainment industry, and watching England pre ‘BazBall’ was very stale, it didn’t make me want to watch them. I remember a Test at Lords between England and NZ  in 2021 and England refusing to chase a fairly modest target on the last day. Cricket should be entertaining and wanting to get spectators in.”

“I have no county team affiliation, but I have been more interested in Durham since Campbell took over. To me it’s very important the county teams can show their ability to have an exciting game over a longer format.

“I don’t want to see them change their style now they’re in Division One. Playing this way gives them the opportunity to control the narrative of the game, and it’s been refreshing to see Durham risk losing to go for wins rather than play for the draw. I hope more counties hire coaches like Ryan Campbell and play like Durham in the County Championship.”

When Campbell was queried about if there’s any chance he’ll change his style of play now Durham are back in Division One, he response was emphatic.

“We’re coming, we’re going to have fun. Batters are going to soak up pressure and then give it back in spades, and when we bowl we’re looking to take wickets. The Durham way is exciting and we’re not going to change.

“If anyone does want us to change, don’t come and watch.”

 



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