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.