A magical debut
That tough experience in the West Indies - followed by the highs of winning the WBBL with Brisbane Heat and our series win over New Zealand - have made me incredibly excited about the Ashes later this year.
I came into the national limited overs side in 2012 aged 19 and became the No.1 bowler in the world in that format, which felt like a dream. It was amazing to play alongside players like Lisa Sthalekar, Leah Poulton and others, who I’d been idolising since I was 14 or 15. Yet, for all the joy I felt in those early years, the place I really wanted to be was in the Test team.
My chance came in 2015, in the Test component of our Ashes series in England. We’d already played three ODIs and there were three T20s to come. There was just one Test match for the series and I felt I had a massive point to prove.
My cap presentation, by Mel Jones, started things off on the right foot. Mel – who scored 131 against England on her Test debut – said some words I really appreciated. I’d already had two knee operations by that stage and to hear Mel label me ‘resilient’ meant so much. It was nice to know that Mel was aware the journey I’d been on to get to that point.
Grappling with mental health issues isn’t new to me. There have been a few times over the past few years when I’ve battled depression and this season was one of them.
We batted first and I thought, ‘How great. I’ve got all day to make cups of tea and do crosswords’. But, in no time at all, we were three wickets down and I was on my way out to the middle with England flying high.
I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I felt this amazing sense of calmness as I started that innings. I was focused and the runs just flowed. By the end of play, I was 95 not out.
I made a joke afterwards that I don’t think I’d concentrated as closely as that in any of my uni lectures. On one hand I was incredibly determined, but also felt that no one really expected me to do the job. Overall, I just wanted to enjoy it.
The next morning, I added another four runs, but then missed a straight one. People asked if I’d been nervous or had a sleepless night, but the truth was I could have slept for Australia! I felt totally relaxed.
At one stage after I was dismissed, I did feel a bit sad that I fell one short of a ton. But Meg Lanning said to me, ‘I know you’re disappointed, but just think about the great position you’ve put our team in. Now it’s time to go out there and do the job with the ball.’ That put my mind back on the job.
Little did I know I’d be back out there batting again that same afternoon - and on my way to a half century.
It felt great to play such a big role for the team in a Test match. It put us in a strong position to win the Ashes, which we went on to do, claiming the series for the first time in England since 2001. It was incredibly satisfying.
On a personal level, that match gave me a huge boost of confidence. I’d wanted an opportunity like that for a long time and made use of it. My debut Test match, at the 2015 Ashes, will always hold a special place in my heart.
Getting balance back
One thing I learnt about myself throughout my mental health struggles was that I always need to be doing something outside of cricket. I finished a Law degree in 2015 and it’s no coincidence that things started to become hard for me afterwards.
I’d moved from Rockhampton to Brisbane straight from school to start my studies and play cricket and hadn’t had a break from either in the six years it took me to complete my studies.
Upon finishing my degree, I thought it would be a good chance to focus completely on cricket. But, as much as the idea was appealing, the reality was that I felt cricket becoming more and more pressurised.
I found myself starting to look into situations and create stories about things that weren’t even happening. You create scenarios in your head, which stresses you out even more. I knew I needed to do something else, to get some balance.
Some might say that studying is a distraction, which it might be to some extent, but it also puts my mind at ease. It lets me know that if I get another knee injury - and this time it ends my career - at least I’ve got something else going on, something to fall back on. I don’t have to stress about starting again from scratch. It gives you that little bit of extra security.
In February, I started a graduate certificate in forensic mental health. Forensic mental health is about all sorts of mental disorders and how to rehabilitate people, including those who’ve committed crimes. It’s something I find fascinating.
I’ve always been interesting in psychology. It not only helps me understand myself in some ways, but throughout my law degree I was fascinated about why people do the things they do.
Ultimately, it’s about adding a few extra strings to my bow. Eventually I’ll find out what I want to do beyond cricket. But in the meantime, I want to just keep learning. It’s a good way to live.