Loving & hating cricket
I was playing for Australia in a home World Cup at age 19, and I hated cricket.
It was the 2009 World Cup in Sydney. I hated it. I hated being a part of it, I hated even being there.
That really saddens me to say. Wearing the green and gold is such a privilege and you work so hard to earn it. But with the other things going on in my life, I just didn’t care about the game that I’d loved ever since I was a Milo kid.
When I was 18, there was a patch in my life where things just went wrong.
I moved to Brisbane to further my cricket career, but it took me three months to find work that would fit around cricket. I didn’t have a support network of family and friends around me and, mentally, things began to go downhill.
Thrown into that difficult time was my Australian debut. I’d been in Brisbane a couple of months when I got a phone call saying that I’d been picked to go to New Zealand, a Rose Bowl ODI trip that I really enjoyed.
But things kept building up inside me. At the end of that 2009 World Cup, Belinda Clark rang to offer me an Australian contract. I rejected it.
I told her that I didn’t think I could fulfill the duties, that there would be someone else out there far more willing to put in the hard work they needed at that level. I told her that just wasn’t me right now.
Instead, I applied for a UK visa to run away from my life.
Within a month, I was standing in London thinking, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I had literally packed my life in a box after saying to mum and dad, ‘I’m going. I need to get away.’
I felt that nothing was making me happy and I didn’t know where I was going. I felt that running away was my only option.
I didn’t play elite cricket again for nearly four years.
REDISCOVERING THE LOVE
Growing up, I always wanted to be better than the boys.
If I went to rugby league training, I wanted to kick or pass the football better than they could. I’d be playing red rover with them and they’d be scared to tackle me, but I’d smash them. If I was bowling to them, I always wanted to get them out because they thought it was easy to hit girls for fours and sixes.
I was brought up that if you play with the boys, you’ve got to be rough and tough. Playing with the boys made me overly competitive. Overly self-critical, too.
When I reached the Australian team, the pressure of performing at an international level combined with the added pressure I put on myself all got too much.
I was never really satisfied. When I had a good game, I’d look at the negatives. If I’d taken wickets, I’d still be worried about the wides I bowled. It weighed me down.
So after running away to the UK, I had no intention of playing cricket. I was couch surfing for a little bit. I had no plans, no idea what I was doing.
I was playing for Australia in a home World Cup at age 19, and I hated cricket. I hated being a part of it, I hated even being there.
Luckily, my aunty knew a couple of girls over there and we met up. They were there to work and travel, so they offered me their shifts at a pub when they were going away for a few weeks. I lived and worked at the pub, in central London.
It was a bit daunting for a while, even looking at the coins and thinking, ‘I don’t know what any of these mean!’ Having coins right down to one pence freaked me out a bit. But after a week, you felt like you’d been there for a year.
The guys who lived there were awesome. There were nine or 10 Aussies and one English guy. They became my family and took me under their wing. We had a great time together.
A few of the boys loved cricket and played on weekends when they weren’t working. I ended up playing a bit of club and county cricket over there, too. I didn’t train, I just rocked up to the games and played the game for what it was. I enjoyed the company of the girls around me and didn’t agonise over my performances.
By getting away from the pressure that I’d always put on myself to perform, I found my love for cricket again.
And I may have told a little white lie in the UK: that I opened the bowling and the batting back in Australia.
Thanks to that, I batted more over there and became more confident with it, having been known only as a fast bowler when I was growing up.
Cricket can be a harsh game, and being an all-rounder helped me mentally. I figured that if I couldn’t get it right with the ball, I’d have a crack with the bat, or vice versa. It gave me another chance to meet the burden of my own expectations.
I was only in the UK for 10 months – I ran out of money. When I came home, I spoke to Andy Richards at Queensland Cricket and told him I didn’t want to play for the state team yet.
When you come up through the under-age programs, they sort of have you in the state selection mix from the start. This time, I wanted to perform in Brisbane club cricket and truly earn the right to play for Queensland Fire again.
I opened the batting for my club, thanks to my UK stint. It made me enjoy the game more. I returned to the Queensland team as an all-rounder in the 2013-14 season and in 2014, I won an Australian recall and played my first game in green and gold for five years.
I was part of the victorious squad for the 2014 World T20 tournament in Bangladesh. I only played two games and didn’t play in the final, but it was exciting to be around the group for a big win.
From that, I lost my Australian contract … I’d only just gotten back in and an injury had forced me out again. It was heartbreaking.
I got selected for the Ashes T20 matches in July 2015. About two weeks before I was due to join the team, who were already in the UK for Test and ODI cricket, I got a back injury. I remember having to ring Matthew Mott, the coach, and tell him that I couldn’t see past the plane flight; it would just be too painful to sit down for that long.
Withdrawing from that tour was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and it proved costly.
From that, I lost my Australian contract, purely because I didn’t end up playing any games for Australia that year. I’d only just gotten back in and an injury had forced me out again. It was heartbreaking.
I captained Brisbane Heat in the first season of the WBBL and found it extremely draining and frustrating. I couldn’t switch off from cricket. Every decision falls on the captain.
I could play through my back injury at that stage, but I wasn’t 100 per cent. I took all the losses we had to heart. I blamed myself.
I’d fallen back into the hole of hating cricket.
MY AFLW BREAKI said to Richo, ‘Look – if you want me to come back and you want me to be fresh, I have to go and do something in the winter. I need a break from cricket.’
For me, that’s always been playing another sport. I’d grown up playing soccer.
Then Kate McCarthy, who had signed with the Brisbane Lions for the inaugural AFLW in 2017 and was also playing for a club near me, asked if I wanted to come down for a kick to see if I’d enjoy it.
From there, I started playing some club footy with Yeronga. Craig Starcevich from the Lions came up to me a few times and said, ‘What are your plans with football and where do you see yourself going?’ I joked, ‘It’s because I can catch the ball, isn’t it Starce?’
I told him that I honestly had no plans, that I was just doing it to refresh for next cricket season. He offered me a spot a few times, but to his credit, he went and consulted Queensland Cricket. I was lucky that both organisations agreed to let me play.
Like my escape to the UK, that time out in AFLW definitely helped me recharge and made me appreciate the opportunity that I’ve got with cricket in the green and gold.
Being a part of the first-ever WBBL and AFLW seasons was a great experience. Both were huge moments for women’s sport.
While I only played one game for the Lions, I hope my experience in cricket’s high-performance environment gave the AFL girls a little bit of an insight into what’s required of players at that level. I was probably the oldest rookie ever, but I enjoyed my time there.
The AFLW season is quite short still. Some of the players raise their eyebrows when I tell them that our season’s nine to 10 months, while theirs is four.
It’s all about the experience and exposure for AFLW players at this stage. Their game will grow, as did ours, and we’re getting the rewards now for how much women’s cricket has grown in the last few years.
Like my escape to the UK, that time out definitely helped me recharge and made me appreciate the opportunity that I’ve got with cricket in the green and gold.
After I lost my spot in 2015, I thought that I was never getting another Australian contract. In the last year or so, I started setting up for life after cricket.
I started a cleaning business. I like having something on the side to get away from cricket, so I started that as an escape, something to clear my mind.
I’ve canned it for a little bit, though, because cricket’s a bit too busy. I was recalled for the 2017 Ashes T20 games and I’m still here.
We just beat New Zealand 3-0 on home soil, playing nice aggressive cricket. It was a win we really needed after a lean spell, and with the World T20 looming next month in the West Indies. We hope to make the final there and have a good crack at winning it, though we won’t be getting ahead of ourselves.
From cleaning houses to seeing how many people come to our Australian team games now, it’s made me appreciate how lucky I am to do what I do. I’m 29 and I’ll try and ride the wave for as long as I can this time, knowing that this is probably my last real chance at being an Australian cricketer.
I feel more relaxed with my cricket now. Sometimes it’s your day, sometimes it’s not. With what I’ve been through, I’ve learnt that it is just a game and it’s there to enjoy, not hate.