So on my flight from Perth to Melbourne following the Breakers securing our 1st WT20 trophy, it got me thinking, what means more…. the 14th WNCL title or the Breakers 1st WT20 trophy that I have won?
Two days ago the Breakers continued to break (sorry for the pun) Australian sporting records by becoming the 1st team to win both the WNCL and WT20 trophies in a season – yes we finally got that elusive ‘double’ we have been chasing for 4 years.
Since my debut with the NSW Open team in 1998 I have been extremely privileged to have played in 16 consecutive WNCL finals, winning an amazing 14 titles. The 14th was actually won last week in a match against a spirited Queensland team.
So much has happened during the 16 seasons I have represented the Breakers, including almost coming a full circle in terms of the people involved. For instance, in my first WNCL final (which was decided by the best out of 3 matches) I actually played against Joanne Broadbent, who is the current Breakers coach. The second title came down to the wire in a tightly contest match against Victoria. The captain of that team was Julie Savage, who is now our Chair of Selectors for Australia and the opening bowler was Cathryn Fitzpatrick, our current Australian coach.
Sitting in the SCG change rooms with my teammates after the WNCL win, I started to reminisce of all the finals that I have played and the amazing players that I have played against and with. I realised that I have witnessed 3 generations of cricketers.
The first generation was the players that I looked up to, that I wanted to emulate and when you came into the team as a debutant you didn’t speak unless spoken to first. Those players were Belinda Clark, Lisa Keightley, Sally Griffiths, Cathryn Fitzpatrick, Karen Rolton and Charmaine Mason.
The second was my generation, players that I had grown up playing youth cricket with and over a period of time we all managed to play for NSW and Australia together. Those players were Leonie Coleman, Michelle Goszko, Therese McGregor, Martha Winch and Alex Blackwell could sneak into this group. Players from other states included Shelley Nitschke and Clea Smith.
Finally I have been fortunate enough to witness the next generation, the group of players that will take this game to an exciting level. Even with this group I have been able to see their development from being in the youth programs to eventually making it in domestic cricket and finally performing on the world stage. Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Sarah Coyte, Meg Lanning, Erin Osborne to name a few, but I could pretty much name the majority of my team as they all tend to be under 25!
Even though the Breaker have won so many titles it hasn’t gone all our way and there were plenty of times where we really should not have won, but somehow managed to find a way. Some of those matches are explained in detail in my book “Shaker,” where I go through the emotion of being out there in the heat of the battle.
I believe the Breakers are a team that has built a winning culture since the inception of the WNCL in 1996/97, but how?
I feel that Cricket NSW has played an integral part by investing heavily in youth programs. This has allowed these players to gain an understanding of what it takes to be successful, but the main point of difference compared to other teams is that our youth teams won more often than not.
For some of the current Breakers their first loss representing NSW has occurred at National League (open-aged competition). Therefore they have gone through 5 -6 years of having never lost a game let alone a final. What that has done is to instil confidence and a belief that as a NSW player we can win from any position. Also oppositions sometimes fear us before we even get on the field or if they do get into a position of winning they don’t know how to finish it off. The 2005/06 WNCL final is a prime example of that against QLD, who choked at the final hurdle, thankfully for us. The game is referred in my book in the Chapter titled “the fat lady hasn’t sung”.
Apart from this, the support, resources and infrastructure that surrounds the players allows them to flourish on the field and do what they do best.
Aside from the 16 consecutive WNCL finals, I have also been part of 4 consecutive WT20 finals, with our record not as stellar as that which we have achieved in the longer format of the game.
That is why maybe this year the 1st WT20 trophy meant a little more than the 14th WNCL title although they are very special. For the last 3 years the Breakers have played some amazing T20 cricket and have even gone through the season undefeated only to lose against Victoria in the final. If I was to be critical of our past performances there were times that we didn’t prepare enough, didn’t know our plans as well as we should and let the occasion get to us. Especially when you have lost a couple of finals in a row as a player you start to play mind games despite trying to stay in the moment.
That certainly was the case last year in the T20 final at Ethiad Stadium, as a group we were all over the place, with our mind not on the job.
There was certainly a different feeling this year, that was probably assisted by playing the WNCL final first this year so we were already on a high. Plus David Thompson didn’t leave a stone unturned as he allowed all support staff to fly to Perth instead of the usual 3 staff for away matches.
I believe this calmed all players knowing that it was like a home game, everybody was relaxed and drew confidence that we had been in this situation before whereas our new opponent WA were playing in their first final.
Despite making the game closer that what it needed to be, when Alex slapped the ball over the infield to give us the win it sparked celebration. Unlike last week in the WNCL final rain didn’t affect the win, therefore instead of the umpires announcing the win, it was won with a boundary. The majority of the team ran onto the field to embrace Alex and Nicola Carey, whilst I remained on the bench looked at Erin Osborne and gave her a big hug.
There was a HUGE sense of relief, we were able to finally add the WT20 trophy to our cabinet and the Breakers could claim being the Best Team in all formats. The real kick I got was to see the younger players step up and contribute to this win as I now know that the next generation of Breakers are just as passionate and will ensure our long proud history remains intact.