Off the emotional rollercoaster
Rachael Haynes is a five-time world champion and vice-captain of Australia’s women’s cricket team. She and her partner Leah Poulton recently had their first child after IVF treatment.
My life has changed a lot in the space of a couple of months.
As a new mum – my partner Leah gave birth to our boy, Hugo Poulton-Haynes, on October 1 – my priorities have definitely shifted. It has put cricket in perspective.
Leah is a couple of years older than me and probably had been thinking more about having children, whereas I’d been really consumed in playing cricket.
But like lots of people last year, the pandemic gave us an opportunity to stop and work out what we wanted in life. We decided starting a family was part of our future.
So, we went through reciprocal IVF using my eggs and with Leah eventually carrying the baby. That process was an emotional rollercoaster, to be frank.
Leah had some complications towards the back end of the pregnancy and we ended up having to bring forward Hugo’s birth.
It’s funny how life works out sometimes.
It turned out to be a blessing that I’d suffered a hamstring injury in the third ODI match against India in late September, ruling me out of the Test starting a few days later.
Instead of making a call on whether or not I played that game, I was able to get back to Sydney in time to experience Hugo’s arrival. He was born on the second day of the Test.
Being a mother is extremely rewarding. It’s been really nice to spend the first eight weeks of his life together and watch him change and develop.
I never envisaged having so much time with Hugo after he was born – I was on parental leave at the Sydney Thunder at the start of the WBBL and wasn’t able to rejoin the team due to border restrictions.
There’s been a pretty steep learning curve and some challenging moments. I don’t think anything can prepare you for the sleep deprivation!
I certainly see things differently now.
Being an athlete, you have lots of good days but also lots of tough ones. There’s no time to dwell on the negatives anymore knowing I’ve got bigger priorities.
Leah has been phenomenal. I’m mindful of making sure that she has time for herself as well. And we’ve had lots of support and advice from family and friends, which has been great.
Life after cricket
I’ll base my decisions around the best interests of my family going forward.
Turning 35 in December, it’s no secret that I’m heading into the last phase of my playing career.
And while I definitely feel I’ve got a little bit of cricket left in me, what I do next has been on my mind for a while.
I’ve spent my career preparing for that transition having completed a business marketing degree and my MBA.
It’s inevitable that I’ll have to continue working once I retire, but I’m looking forward to that and the potential opportunities.
Staying involved in sport in some capacity is appealing. It’s something I’m extremely passionate about and a space I feel I could make a difference.
WBBL Growth and Returning to the Field
Before then, though, there’s more to achieve as a player. I’m fully fit and raring to get back on the field.
After winning the WBBL with the Thunder last season, it was tough at times to sit at home not being able to contribute to the team.
The Thunder didn’t make the finals, but if you look at the bigger picture, it was so valuable for our younger players to get a decent opportunity.
They learnt what they needed to do to be successful at the next level and the team showed really good character to finish the season as strongly as they did. We’ll be better for the run.
It’s been interesting observing the WBBL from a non-playing perspective. No doubt it’s the best domestic T20 tournaments in the world and such a privilege to play in.
That’s why some of the world’s best players have come to play in it. To have the Indian players participating, that was so huge. We haven’t seen that in the men’s Big Bash.
I think it just shows you how highly regarded the women’s tournament is.
For Australian cricket fans to see a bit more of the Indian players and for other players to learn off them, there are so many benefits that will come from that.
It would have been awesome if the tournament had made its way to all the states, but obviously with COVID at the moment that wasn’t possible. By the same token, I think it’s something that Australian cricket can be really proud of.
My plan is to re-join the New South Wales team for some domestic games in December heading into the Ashes, which starts at the back-end of January.
I feel like I’ve done a lot of training this season, so it’ll be nice to play some competitive matches and put some strong performances on the board!
We hold the Ashes, but we know it’s going to be a hard-fought series against England.
They are one of the best teams in the world with a stack of dangerous players – from their captain Heather Knight to all-rounder Nat Sciver and veteran fast bowler Katherine Brunt.
On the back of the Ashes is the 2022 Women’s T20 World Cup in New Zealand, so there is plenty on the horizon to be excited about.
Supporting the Woolworths Cricket Blast
I’ve often been asked whether I’d want Hugo to follow Leah and I and take up cricket.
I just really want him to find something that he’s passionate about and if I can support him in doing that, then I certainly will. If cricket is part of that then great, if not, I’m excited to see what path he takes.
In the event he does show an interest in the sport, I’d love for him to get involved through the Woolworths Cricket Blast programs aimed at five to 10-year-olds.
The great thing about the Woolworths programs is it’s not about how many runs you make or how many wickets you take – it’s about getting out there, having a go and developing a love for the game.
Community sport is so important right now, particularly in a state like New South Wales which has been through a tough winter with lots of restrictions.
There is such positivity associated with getting back out and connecting with the community through playing sport and leading a healthy and active lifestyle.
For more information on the Woolworths Cricket Blast, click here.