play until it goes
Getting to the stage of being picked for the Ashes tour has been a huge challenge, physically and mentally. I’m only 20 years old but have already had to overcome three ACL knee injuries and a serious shoulder injury.
The backing I’ve received to keep going, to stick at it, has been unbelievable. I’d love to be able to repay that faith by playing my part in helping us win and retain the Ashes – it’s going to be a tough ask!
I was lucky as a kid and never had injuries. But when I was 16, I did my first ACL. It happened at soccer training. It was the second session of the year, we were doing a routine drill, something I’d done many times before and, as I went to change directions, I felt an excruciating pain in my knee. The next day we found out there was quite a bit of damage.
It took nearly 12 months to come back from that injury. It was a hard time because I was really young and all I did with myself back then was school and sport, so I had no idea really how to handle it.
It’s quite straightforward – just run in, bowl fast, hit the top of off, and if you want to bowl a bouncer every now and then, do it.
The next cricket season I was training for the under-18s national championships and playing for my local team. It was just my second game back, I came running in to bowl the third ball of the first over, landed on the crease and felt my knee pop and give way again.
I instantly knew it wasn’t good because it felt exactly the same way as before.
I remember my brother, who was playing in that team, standing over me and not knowing what to do. It was a pretty nasty thing to have happen and I think he was pretty upset about it, too.
The scans showed that the ACL was pretty much done but there were still some fibres that were intact. The surgeon gave me his number and – I’ll never forget this – he said, ‘Just keep playing until it totally goes and then ring me’. I was 17 at the time and had no idea what to do.
We did rehab for two or three months and then I went off and played the under-18s championships, which we were lucky enough to win. I had about 10 rolls of tape around my knee each game throughout the competition. I survived through the tournament but then had another knee reconstruction after that.
At the start of the next season I was playing in the WNCL and dislocated my shoulder in a 50-over match for Victoria, diving to save a shot off my own bowling. Yet again, it was a season-ending injury.
Finally, I was ready to go at the start of the season just gone – and then I partially tore the other ACL, this time in my left knee. I’ve come back from this pretty incredible run of injuries just recently.
That second reconstruction was probably the hardest because I knew what was coming. Doing my left knee last season was also really hard, even though it was only three or four months, which sounds like a long time, but was quite short compared to the others.
Coming off the World Cup, coming back to Australia and finally being able to play for the Renegades in the WBBL – then being out injured – was really challenging. I thought I was over these problems but I was back to going through that whole process again.
A pair of gems
There were two people who really helped me through that time. Kristen Beams, who’s played for Victoria for a long time, was nearing the end of her rehab from an Achilles rupture and she was an awesome support for me.
She did all the rehab with me, would take me out for coffee afterwards and sent me messages at other times to see how I was going. She can’t really swim, but she’d come to the pool with her swimming cap on and try her best to swim next to me.
Kristen taught me what hard work is all about.
The other one was our new strength and conditioning coach at Victoria, Noel McCarthy. There was a series against New Zealand coming up six weeks after I injured myself. The surgeon had said that, realistically, I could play. But the longer I waited, the stronger I could get and avoid another problem down the track.
Noel and I had a chat, where he said, ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to come back in six weeks and play, or do you want to take the three months you’ve got and set yourself up for the next year?’
At that point, I was so determined to play. So, I said to Noel, ‘I’m playing again in six weeks. I might as well because I get injured anyway, so I’m going to play’. The face I got from him when I said that made it clear that I shouldn’t play!
He talked me out of it very quickly. He said, ‘You’re 20 years old, you’ve got a lot of cricket to come’. He said he’d make it the hardest three months I’d ever have to work, but it would be worth it. And it was.
Noel worked with me every day and found new ways to push me and keep my spirits up. Noel’s awesome. Without him, I definitely wouldn’t be in England.
Beamsy and Noel have been great and I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me. There’s no chance I’d have been able to get through without them.
I’ve played one three-day game against England, for the CA XI before the last Ashes, but I’ve never played in England or been to England before. This should be a great series and a great experience.
Hopefully, the conditions will be good for me. A bit of swing would be helpful. There might be a bit of green top, as it’s been raining quite a bit over there.
But, ultimately, it’ll just be a case of running in and bowling as fast as I can.