Laffan making his mark in Vanuatu

Vanuatu's women's side. (Supplied)

Tara Murray

It’s been a big 12 months for Chris Laffan who has gone from coaching Craigieburn to taking charge as the head coach of the Vanuatu cricket program. He chats with Tara Murray about the journey and the incredible result that got the world talking.

When Vanuatu’s women’s team upset Zimbabwe at the women’s T20 cricket World Cup qualifying tournament last month, among those watching from the side lines was Craigieburn’s Chris Laffan.

Laffan, a former player and coach at Craigieburn, has had a big role to play in the Vanuatu program in recent times.

Last May, he was appointed Vanuatu cricket’s high performance manager and national coach, and it has been a massive 12 months since.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” he said. “All starting to come together and I can start to see some of the things that have been put in place and that’s really pleasing.

“I guess that 12-month mark gives you a good time to make an assessment on a lot of that as well.”

Laffan said the role had been a learning curve as he’s made the transition across from Australia.

He said he’s had to wear several different hats to make everything work.

“Sometimes you’re a little bit jealous of some of the other [sports] coaching staff and numbers that they have, thinking what you could do with those sorts of numbers,” he said.

“We know, I and whoever takes up the role at Vanuatu ‘… wear a lot of hats.

“But at the same time that’s one of the enjoyments and and something that definitely drives you from a passion point of view to get up in the morning and know that you know, it could be a bit of a different focus and where we’ve got to drive our energy from.

“Whether that’s, you know, conversations around from a nutrition point of view or fitness point of view and back to cricket games and skill.

“It’s been a great experience so far.”

Laffan said when he came into the role he knew that while soccer often dwarfs cricket in terms of popularity in the Vanuatu, cricket was the highest-ranked sport in the country.

That is based around the women’s program which is ranked number 30.

At the recent World Cup qualifying tournament, the Vanuatu side beat Zimbabwe which is ranked 12th in the world.

To even get to the qualifying tournament, they had to beat Papua New Guinea, which is ranked number 11 in the world and a team Laffan described as the ‘gatekeeper’ of women’s cricket in their region.

Laffan said the win was massive for the team and the country as a whole.

“To see us be able to take that forward and go somewhere we haven’t been before, is so pleasing from my point of view,” he said.

“But also from the support. The country has been able to jump on board and it’ll hopefully be able to ignite the passion into young men and women to take up the game and see it as a really great pathway to get on the international stage.”

Laffan said they had a really young group that were happy to be there and take on these opportunities.. He said the group was just there to learn and get better and improve.

“I think it really shows the mentality of the group that you know, they’re not really going to get lost in that one win which is fantastic,” he said.

“To put out their best foot forward to continue and while they got beaten quite convincingly two days later… There were so many pleasing signs against a world class side.

“We spoke about it in our build up and how important it was about creating history, we managed to do that.”

Vanuatu finished with just one win for the tournament but it’s put the side in a good place to move forward.

On the other side the men’s team came off a disappointing tournament in Malaysia, missing out on qualifying for the Challenge League, which is a step to trying to qualify for the 50-over World Cup.

The loss will have an impact on funding for the whole Cricket Vanuatu program, including all staff and many programs that run.

Laffan said it was a huge shake up but was one that they didn’t see coming.

“To finish off where we did, “ We made the super six stage.

“There were some pleasing results, we got into some positions that we could have gone through.

“There’s some fantastic progression thorough the men’s side at the same the overhanging piece of disappointment front he last tough not securing the funding and go through.”

Now with 12 months nearly under his belt, Laffan is keen to see where the journey takes them next.