2nd part to my retirement. THE END: My Last Tour #cricket

Whilst the team was disappointed to lose the T20 series against NZ 2 -1, upon conclusion of that series our focus immediately turned to the challenge we had ahead. In the week prior to arriving in India there was some uncertainty about where we would be playing our round games in the World Cup as political issues had arisen in relation to the Pakistan women’s participation in the World Cup – who were in our round group. This uncertainly, coupled with getting organised to get to India meant I had little time to think about the reality that the World Cup was to be my last international tour. This all changed once I arrived in India. It was almost like I had a personal countdown to everything; How many more training sessions? How many more warm-ups(I actually always counted that one)? How many more team meetings? And the thing I was going to miss most, how many more matches? It was finally here, the moment that I knew had to come, but could never really imagine – my last tour as a player and it happened to be a World Cup.

Throughout the preliminary matches things certainly didn’t go all our way from a performance perspective. Whilst we managed to win all of our round matches, Pakistan and South Africa had improved significantly in the last four years, and those matches were certainly closer that we would have hoped for. Thankfully I was contributing a little with both the bat and the ball, which gave me the confidence that I needed going into the super sixes round for my last tournament.

We finished the round matches the top of our pool and after our thrilling win over England in the super sixes stage, I felt very comfortable that if we played to our game plan we had the form to make the final.  This would mean that my dream of playing my last match for Australia in a World Cup final was a real possibility of coming true. I think it was at this point that my mind started to think that this was really it and what that meant in reality.

I started to notice things about being around the group that I normally would take for granted, such as the friendships that I had formed with this younger group of girls, the ones that inspired me to be a better player. For instance:

  • Jess Cameron and how we loved to bat with each other by not saying a damn thing when we were in the middle, we just got each other and understood
  • Coytie (Sarah Coyte) and the fact that every time she came out to bat we would both speak in an Indian accent and wobble our heads
  • Erin Osborne looking at me when things weren’t going well when she bowled and my response was to suck it up and bowl again, obviously with a smile on my dial
  • Meg Lanning and the conversations that we had about constructing an innings and me being in awe of what she could do with the willow
  • And the two little pains in my backside. The ones who I probably spent the most time with, sat at the back of the bus, teased the hell out of me, Midge (Alyssa Healy) and Pez (Ellyse Perry).

I could go through the whole team and support staff and I knew there was something that I was going to miss about each of them and the life that you have on tour.  Life on tour isn’t always easy, but it is always an experience that is so unique and is something that in my life will certainly never be able to be replicated.

The 3 days prior to the final I found myself starting slip in the sense of saying ‘well that was my last session’ and a few girls picked it up and inevitably the questions about when I was retiring started to surface. To put the players at ease, to ensure that my retirement didn’t  distract the team from the focus of winning the World Cup and to get the players off my back I rolled out the line that it would most likely be The Ashes to be played in August this year.  However, silently my heart and head were on the same page and I knew the World Cup Final would be my final match.

The day of the final, and the actual final, certainly saw me think and feel about things I have not in the past in similar circumstances. As to be expected I was nervous because you don’t get many chances to play in a World Cup final. I also found myself reflecting on different parts related to the match. For example, as I walked off the field after the national anthems I thought to myself, well this is it. Fortunately, after a few moments, I would catch myself as the emotion of my decision started to get to me. I kept reminding myself that I needed to focus on the actual game as I wanted to make sure it was a happy send off. Another example of me grappling with the occasion was when Midge gave me a hug to wish me good luck for the game.  I knew that she was giving me a hug to say good luck in your final match but had respected my wishes by not stating it, which was a hard moment for me.

When I finished my last over Pez came up to me to see if I had anymore and I said that I was done, “that was it.” From that comment she knew this was my last match and then proceeded to state “when we get that last wicket, I am gunning for you…no matter what”

Well, she got her wish as I was able to take a one handed catch that sealed the victory for Australia. What a way to finish!!! I am not sure it could have been a better finish if I had been able to write the script myself! The whole team rallied around me with Jules and Pez lifting me up, a moment and a memory that I will treasure forever and one that I still get very emotional about when thinking about it.

After the initial celebrations took place on the field, I needed to find a way to tell Fitz (our coach) and Julie Savage (chair of selectors) so that I could officially announce it to the team in the change rooms. In the change rooms I managed to get Julie by herself and informed her that I had decided the time was right for myself, and the team, to retire from international cricket immediately. After the team song was sung, Sav then announced that I had an announcement.  In a lovely gesture from the team, the supporters who had made the trip to India to support the team were invited into the change rooms to see us sing the team song and allow congratulations to occur in private.  This meant that the whole team, support staff and more importantly Tracey, Corinne, Sarah and Shaun (some of the closest people in my life) were in the room to witness my very short speech about this being the right time to leave the game – this was special to me. Obviously tears started to flow and I was soon embraced by all my teammates. It was done.

Since making the announcement of my playing retirement I wouldn’t say that I have had a huge sense of relief nor do I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  What I do know is that there was never going to be a better time, or a better way, to leave the game. Not only were we World Champions for the second time in 6 months, I had still contributed well throughout the tournament and more importantly there is an exciting new generation of players that are going to take the game to another level. I look forward to watching them continuing to develop and playing the women’s game in ways people admire and are thrilled by.

As for me? What now? Well I am sure that I won’t ever be too far away from the people that have influenced my life. I will no doubt have many days ahead that I catch myself thinking about how much I really miss playing.  I know I will also miss the random experiences you have on tour, as well as the chance to meet new people who come into your life as a player.  That all being said, whilst the playing chapter of my cricket journey has now come to a close (and to a close in a way I could have only dreamed of), another chapter in my cricket journey is about to start and I can tell you, it’s one that I am excited and energised about.

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For those interested in my decision to retire from #cricket please follow the link to my blog. THE END: Part 1 – The Build Up

Today I sit at Chastwood Oval waiting to play for my club cricket side Gordon, but Sydney’s wet weather has delayed our start and to be honest it doesn’t look like we will get on. It is 2 weeks to the day since I experienced an indescribable emotion that I felt by winning a World Cup after I was lucky enough to be the one who took the catch to seal the victory, coupled with the private burden of knowing that at the conclusion of that game I would announce my playing retirement from international cricket. In a strange quirk of numbers, it is also 2 days after I officially announced my retirement from domestic and club cricket also.

It is only now, having had some time to sit back and allow all the hype and emotion to settle down that I can truly start to reflect on my decision to retire and also my playing career. And how appropriate that a moment for that reflection happens back at the grassroots where it all started. Many people have asked me over the past few weeks whether it was a quick, simple decision to call it day. For me, it certainly was neither  I often find myself saying to family and friends that I am a realist when it comes to life, and in assessing when to finish up my playing career, my approach to the decision making was no different – be a realist. Simply put, I always reminded myself that at some point everybody has to retire and the magic is in getting the timing right. 

So how do you work out when the time is right? I guess the priority for me in this regard has always been to make sure that I would retire when I was at the top of my game, contributing in all facets; not being hidden, whether that be in the field, in terms of when I bowled or where I was in the batting order. I had an inkling mid-last year that perhaps the time was coming for me to seriously consider retirement from playing.  However, I also knew in my heart that there were still some meaningful milestones from a team perspective that I hoped could be achieved in the 2012/13 cricket season. The key milestones were:

  • The Breakers winning the domestic T20 trophy and being the first State to win the double in the same season.
  • The Southern Stars winning both the One-day and Twenty20 World Cups that were on offer in 2012/13 season and by doing so ensuring that Australia would be ranked No. 1 in all 3 formats.

This season was very unusual for women’s cricketers in that there was a high volume of  international cricket to be played in a short period of time. From September 2012 to February 2013 we played in two World Cups and had 2 international series against New Zealand. In some respects this was a blessing in disguise in that I was almost too busy to be constantly consumed by the decision to retire – I expect for some athletes grappling with retirement can become quite a distraction.

So how does someone who has played 16 seasons with the Breakers, and played for Australia for 12 years navigate their final season knowing it would be my last? Hopefully, I can give you an insight below.

So going right back to September last year, it was a great thrill to start the 2012/13 by winning the T20 World Cup in Colombo, and doing so with the pressure of being defending champions. To jog your memory we played England in the final, a team that had dominated in this format for some time. Even though England ensured that our supporters and support staff (and no doubt players) were on the edge of their seats in those last few overs of the match, we managed to become the first team to win that trophy consecutively and this really was a very special moment for all of us involved.  Some of you may be aware that we didn’t have everything go exactly to plan (not that sport ever does this anyway!) both prior to and during the tournament. We had a change in head coach and assistant coach less than 6 months prior to the World Cup and we had lost quite convincingly to England in the round matches.  However, thankfully we were improving with each game and the belief, resilience and talent of our team and support staff saw us realise our dream of another World Cup victory.

With the trophy safely tucked into the Cricket Australia trophy cabinet and with hardly no time to celebrate (and I emphasise no time), we were all back into domestic cricket. On reflection, this was when I really started to believe that it may be time to retire. Anyone who has played with me, coached me or been a part of my cricketing journey in some way, knows how much I love playing for the Breakers (sky blue blood is in my veins). However, I found that this season felt long and I was privately questioning whether I should have retired after the high of the T20 World Cup victory. That being said, before I knew it is was Christmas and after some much needed time off with family and friends, my focus turned to finals in domestic cricket and knowing that there wasn’t much cricket left before we were on the plane to India for the 50-over World Cup.

When the Breakers sealed the T20 victory against WA in Perth I was overwhelmed with emotion. We had finally achieved that elusive double, but at the same time I couldn’t share with my teammates in person that it was the last time I would wear the Breakers uniform as a player.  Over the course of the summer I had decided that I didn’t want to announce my playing retirement until the last ball had been bowled in Australia’s 50-over World Cup campaign. Why? I guess I wanted to solely focus on playing good cricket and didn’t want the emotion of playing my last series, match, innings etc to affect my performance, nor distract from either the Southern Stars’ or Breakers’ performances.

Words can’t describe the emotions I was overcome with when we sealed that T20 victory. Not only because we had secured that elusive double, but also because this group of players, who become your life for such a long period of time, truly deserved it. Plus there was a really special symmetry for me personally as the coach of WA was Steve Jenkin, my first ever coach at a representative level. Therefore, it was fitting that he was coaching in my first domestic match and my final domestic match (albeit on the other side).  When I shook his hand that turned into a hug he whispered in my ear “you can now retire” I tried hard to fight back the tears and thankfully I did.

Again without much time to celebrate the next day I was off to Melbourne for a number of T20 matches against New Zealand, where we lost the series 2/1. Whilst we really do not enjoy losing, you could sense that the players just wanted to get over to India to start our 50-over world cup campaign. And I was faced with the reality that retirement was actually about to happen and I was embarking on my final tour for Australia.