Busy Derek 'Billy' Stirling is sailing through life

17:00, May 30 2014
Derek 'Billy' Stirling
GOING WELL: Derek 'Billy' Stirling.

Derek 'Billy' Stirling is a warm person with a firm handshake and a funny story always close at hand.

He's cracked the half century (52) and a busy life seems to agree with him.

We sit in a Napier cafe, a nine iron from his office at Bay Canon. Stirling says he's not hungry. He's a cut lunch man these days.

"I bring a sandwich each day. I try and eat healthy," he says.

Stirling talks about work and cricket and family. He's been selling for years - initially it was beer for DB Breweries and then along came photocopiers.

He's a partner in Bay Canon and says the key to being a good salesman is "to have good ears, not talk too much and have belief in your product".


He's also loyal, a trait that made him popular in the dressing room for Central Districts, Wellington and New Zealand cricket teams.

"I still drink DB," Stirling says. "I wouldn't touch a Steinlager if you poured it down my throat. That is through loyalty.

"I drink Export Gold and I enjoy a Heineken on a real hot day. I've been with Canon for so long, I totally believe in the product."

Stirling and his American wife Debbie have three children, not to mention five polo cross horses and a couple of hundred hens out Hastings-Havelock North way.

"Debbie likes her horses, it is not my hobby," he says.

Stirling's hobby, if it can be called that, is cricket coaching. Each Sunday morning for 18 weeks over winter he runs a three-hour coaching school. He also takes the Hastings Boys' High School 2nd XI despite his son Michael playing in the first XI.

All this while chairman of the Hawke's Bay Cricket Association.

"I'm a much better coach than I was a player," Stirling says of a career that saw him play six tests, six one-day internationals and take 206 first-class wickets as a strong fast bowler.

Logic would suggest much of his work is done with promising young quicks.

"No, not really, more of a batting bent," he says. "When you coach a team you coach everything but I make sure they can all bat.

"If you don't score runs you haven't got a game. I teach them to bat properly and build from there. If they get a golden duck every week they won't play for long."

What about coaching a team a level beneath his son?

"It was time to cut the umbilical cord," he says.

"I think a lot of parents should do that. It shows I really enjoy coaching, whether it is my son or not. We talk about his day when we get home."

Michael is 17 and showing signs of following in his father's footsteps as a tall, fast bowler.

The oldest boy of the family is Daniel, aged 22. He is in his last year at Massey University and is a keen polo cross player, good enough to be a member of the national under-21 team.

The middle child is 19-year-old Annie, who is "between careers".

Stirling credits his passion for coaching from the clean break he took from the sport when he retired in the mid 1990s.

He joined the ‘Allan Hewson golf school' at Shandon on a Saturday morning, a group of Hewie's former rugby team-mates called the Petone Putters.

Then in 1998 Stirling took the family to Oregon for four years where they worked for Debbie's mother's new temporary staffing business before buying her out.

Stirling's international career didn't quite play out how he'd have liked but it's never cost him a night of sleep.

Selection was blocked by Richard Hadlee, Ewen Chatfield and Lance Cairns; then later form and fitness were stumbling blocks.

"I probably never achieved what I potentially could've. I was too inconsistent, probably on and off the field.

"Just making the [New Zealand] team was an achievement. Getting better and staying there was the next step and I never grasped that.

"But I don't regret it. It was basically an amateur era. I don't regret one second of it. I played overseas, cricket was good to me."

Stirling took 6-75 as a 19-year-old on debut for Central Districts against Northern Districts. They were figures he never bettered in 83 further games.

"Most of my coaches were ex-batsman, so I didn't really have a fast bowling mentor or coaching after leaving school.

"Bruce Edgar used to give me quite a few tips from a batsman's perspective and Gary Bartlett did a bit with Robbo [Gary Robertson] and me for a season or two and I found that really good. He was good because he knew what it was like to have sore feet like a bowler so often does."

Anyway, it is his second innings - coaching - that Stirling focuses on these days.

He is an astute thinker of the game. Throw in passion, humour and positivity and you have the makings of the right person to be guiding our youth.

"The basic thought in my head is that if a lanky, skinny kid from Takaro Primary School in Palmerston North can play at Lord's or play for New Zealand, anyone can."

The Dominion Post