Because I arrived a little while after the rest of my Sport Lived companions, I had a pretty hectic first few weeks. My first Social Event was the Melbourne Cup Day, where we all donned suitable attire and soaked up the sunshine amongst the thousands of attendees. The Big Race itself was quite the spectacle, where the noise didn’t die down for a good few minutes after the race’s conclusion – my sweepstake horse could tragically only manage a third place spot.
The very same day I arrived, I was being taken around the local area in a daze of sleep-deprivation and excitement at discovering the place I would be living in for the next 6 months. In fact, it took me at least a month to put my finger on describing what Melbourne is like; Melbourne is best described as a mix between England and the American Mid-West. This is true in the sense that whilst they drive on the correct side of the road and have similar street plans, they have wide roads and large vehicles, and the outer suburbs quickly submerge into a more placid country lifestyle. Indeed, the whole pace of Australian life is slower than the hectic London rush I have come to accept as the norm.
I started my cricket the day I arrived as well, and having staved off jet lag I soon settled into the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) ethos and regime. Handily, most women’s games are scheduled on Sundays, whereas men’s games fall on Saturdays. This was vital for me as I managed to contact the Victorian Turf Cricket Association (VTCA) and joined them as a Cricket Umpire for the season. The tidy sum of $110-140 per week saw me through each week, and I managed to umpire 7 games, including three 2-day games, which was a new experience for me. I became only the second female umpire to have umpired for the VTCA and after a few games standing with a colleague I was allowed to stand alone – providing a whole host of experience under my belt ready for the next English season.
In fact, my work with the VTCA managed to gain me some recognition with Cricket Victoria, who passed my name along to Cricket Australia and landed me a place at a “Women in Cricket” day – which just so happened to coincide with the first day of the Boxing Day Test. We had a buffet breakfast, followed by talks with key ideas and concepts to take away to clubs which will give our County Boards at home some guidance as well. However, the main event of the day was when we donned our ‘Pitch Access’ passes and walked around the boundary of the hallowed turf of the MCG. This was a fantastic experience to be pitchside watching the teams warm up, and we got to meet Darren Lehmann as well as Ian Healy – certainly something I will never forget.
My cricket season itself went well with MCC as I managed to work my way up into the 2nd XI, where I quickly established myself as a top order batter and versatile fielder. We suffered only one defeat across our season during the group stage of the Premier Seconds T20 Competition. We lost to Carlton-Brunswick, but managed to reverse the result in the T20 Grand Final in order to clinch the Cricket Victoria Premier Seconds T20 Premiership. I contributed a catch and a boundary run-out to our effort, where we defeated them by 22 runs – giving me bragging rights over a fellow Sport Lived participant!
With the One Day season I opened up the batting every game, and we comfortably made out way into the Semi-Finals, sitting 10 points clear at the top of the ladder. Even though Plenty Valley bolstered their squad with 3 or 4 regular 1st XI players, we managed to see them off and once again made our way to a grand final. In this game we faced our toughest league opponents, Box Hill and having let them get off to a flier we clawed our way back into the game, eventually ending up with an 8-wicket victory. We have made history, having achieved the ‘double’ by adding the Cricket Victoria Premier Reserves One Day Premiership to our previous T20 flag.
The MCC experience itself was fantastic; we had access to at least 4 grass nets per training session, as well as a centre-wicket practice when available and access to 3 synthetic nets in addition. We had regular club functions for minimal cost – and the subsidised alcohol prices were certainly a bonus! Playing in colour at a club level was something new to me, but it has provided invaluable white ball experience in preparation for the County Championship season upon my return to England. The fact that I got to play on the Albert three times was surreal, especially as they had both the Men’s and Women’s Australian teams training there during the season.
The training atmosphere at MCC was great because you could see the real progression available from a good club player, to playing for State and some of the MCC girls landed Big Bash contracts. Having that clear pathway visible plays a key role for developing younger talent, and the training sessions had a clear focus and every player played with intent to get the most out of each session. With regards to facilities, Australia definitely favoured my game, as almost every pitch was an “absolute road”, allowing batters to get full value for their shots and fill their boots with runs. I managed to average 43.33 across the season, scoring in twice in the 80s, and twice in the 40-50s. I will look back at this 2016/17 Australian season fondly, especially as not many people can say they won two Grand Finals in one season!