The Sydney father-of-two has just completed his fifth 14-day stint in quarantine since July, and he’s now spent 70 of his last 148 days locked up in a hotel room.
His job, escorting Australia’s finest thoroughbred horses around the world, means at least six more international trips in the next seven months, which likely equates to another 84 long and lonely days in quarantine.
Speaking with nine.com.au from his quarantine hotel in Sydney, Mr Croucher is lamenting missing what should have been a milestone 25th wedding anniversary.
“Both my daughters and my wife ring me every day,” Mr Croucher said, “but it’s taking its toll for sure.”
“I’ve travelled for my work for the past 20 years, so they are used to dad going away and coming back, but they’re not used to me being away for 70 days out of 148.”
In 1680 grinding hours of quarantine, it’s not just his wedding anniversary he’s been noticeably absent.
There are the parent-teacher interviews of his two teenage daughters he can’t attend, and a niece’s wedding that came and went.
“I’m a fairly strong person mentally but it is pretty tough,” the 51-year-old from West Pennant Hills, in Sydney’s north-west, explained.
He said “one of the hardest things” about his relentless quarantine stretches is no fresh air and “you just don’t see people”.
The key, he said, drawing on his unenviable experiences, is to keep busy and build a routine.
Inside his cramped room, he runs 3.5 kilometres each day.
“That’s running from the window to the door, which is seven metres, and I do 500 laps.”
Mr Croucher has also adopted some unique cooking techniques.
Photos and videos shared with nine.com.au show him cooking a fillet of salmon, ordered through online supermarket deliveries, on a hot iron.
He’s worked out how to cook broccoli inside a boiling kettle and reheats some “average” quarantine food using the standard-issue hairdryer in his hotel room.
But Mr Croucher also has a serious message for government officials.
He wants his job classified the same as commercial airline air crew, so he can quarantine at home after he flies in and out of the country.
Often Mr Croucher supervises the unloading of the horses at a foreign airport and then flies straight back to Australia and into 14 days of quarantine.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” he said.
“We’re not walking down the aisles of planes serving passengers from all over the world. In many cases, we’re not even getting off the aircraft.”
Mr Croucher is the managing director of Equine International Airfreight, but the tough quarantine measures have resulted in his casual staff no longer wanting to take international flights.
So to keep his company in business during the pandemic, Mr Croucher has taken on the responsibility of going on all the flights, where he looks after the horses and administers sedatives and medication if needed.
There are only about 15 people in Australia who move thoroughbreds involved in racing, polo, equestrian and breeding around the world, he estimated.
Live thoroughbred exports in just the horse racing sector are worth $121 million to the economy each year, according to a 2019 report from AgriFutures Australia.
Mr Croucher is worried the arduous quarantine restrictions imposed on businesses like his could end up putting people out of work and hurting the Australian thoroughbred industry.
“The live export market from Australia is substantial, it’s very, very big,” he said.
“And if people who are qualified to travel on these planes with horses or animals of any sort refuse to go because of the quarantine situation, we will close down an entire export industry, which in a COVID recovery period is not a very smart thing to do.”
Earlier in the pandemic, Mr Croucher was sometimes given permission to quarantine at home.
He is frustrated that decisions from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland health officials to quarantine at home are “inconsistent”.
“I can’t continue to do 14 days every time I get on a plane,” he said.
Video edit and production: Tara Blancato
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