Nicola Carey reflects on Australia’s T20 World Cup win, her cricket journey and how excited she is for the Matildas to experience a World Cup at home.
Nicola Carey will never get tired of talking about Australia’s T20 World Cup win.
“If I retired right now, I don’t think there’s anything that will probably top that day.”
And it’s not just the win that Carey is reflecting on, it’s the whole tournament, the build up to that perfect March day and what it means now knowing what came next and how that changed the world.
“When you think back to it, it’s pretty crazy. At the time, everything goes really quickly. You’re playing games, moving on, playing games, and I didn’t think about things. But now when I look back on it, it’s actually a pretty ridiculous tournament. From losing the first game, the injuries, the weather in the semi-final, all the talk about even getting to the semi-final.
“Then to get to a final, and then three days later, the pandemic takes over and you can’t go to stadiums or anything like that. The whole story is pretty hectic when you think about it. It’s probably one of the best days I’ve ever had. And I’m not sure how that’s ever going to be topped in my career. So I’ll never get sick of talking about it. It was an unbelievable day.”
Carey’s journey to that big day is pretty remarkable, in that it is essentially unremarkable. Her entry into cricket was one encouraged and supported by family, nurtured by adequate pathways and the benefit of growing investment in the game alongside her burgeoning career. It’s a story we’re becoming more and more familiar with in cricket as the code continues to invest in women.
Growing up the youngest with two older brothers and an older sister, Carey recalls joyful times spent playing backyard cricket and developing a deep love for the game as she gradually left other sports.
“When I was younger, I played different sports like soccer and I was really into tennis, and my two older brothers both played cricket, but I never really was like, ‘I really want to play cricket as well’.
“But I used to go along to their games and watch it every now and then, I would join in and bowl at their training sessions when I was about, probably not even 10-years-old.
“I always had fun in the backyard playing and when we went to my brother’s games, we would always take the bat and ball and I always really enjoyed that. And then it wasn’t until I didn’t want to play tennis anymore, and then mum just suggested to go down to the local club where the boys played and that’s where I started in under 10s and then yeah, I really enjoyed it.”
Carey laughs a little thinking about her mum’s support of her playing cricket so young, that maybe there were ulterior motives. “It probably made it easier on her as well, being able to take all of us to the same sport! So she was probably cheering for that!”
But she doesn’t deny her mother’s encouragement after watching her for years in the backyard with her brothers. “I think she saw that I actually loved playing it in the backyard and I enjoyed going down to the training sessions.”
And she took to cricket like a duck to water. “[At the club] I didn’t know anyone, I just wanted to play because I liked cricket and I loved it. The boys were great. I played boys cricket when I was younger and I had a great time playing boys cricket, and I loved the team environment.”
Carey was pretty unaware of the history of women’s cricket and even the presence of opportunities for women playing the game until she spent more time playing at her club.
“I think it was maybe when I was twelve or thirteen that I learned that there was a national women’s competition. And that’s when, I think I used to play Saturday mornings with the boys and then, either Saturday afternoon or Sunday I’d go and play girls cricket. And then it got to a point where it was like, ‘you can’t do that, you don’t want to really be spending both days of the weekend playing cricket!’. So I gradually transitioned to the women’s side of things because that’s where I was going to end up anyway, obviously, once I finished the underage stuff with the boys.”
Thinking back to that time when she was so overcommitted to the game she loves brings a relieved laugh, the memory of past hard work and the hours she put into the sport.
“It sounds like a nightmare now doesn’t it!” She laughs.
“When you’re a kid, you love it and I really did enjoy it, I thought ‘you get to spend your whole weekend playing cricket for two different teams, how good is this!’. But now I think back to that, I couldn’t think of anything worse than to do that! But I really enjoyed it.
“I always get asked about when I started cricket and how it was playing with the boys, but I actually loved playing with the boys, like they were really good to me. I had a lot of fun, but then moving into the women’s side of things, that was cool to see that there [were] a lot of other girls that also wanted to play cricket and there was a competition for that.
“So for me to be able to progress through the ranks and get to where I’m at today, it all worked out pretty sweet, I’m really happy.”
As opportunities began to develop in the space for women, they also presented themselves to Carey who continued to go from strength to strength.But the idea of a career as a cricketer was something that was still not quite front of mind.
“At the time, I wasn’t really thinking about it, when I was that age, you didn’t really see women’s cricket on TV or anything like that. So I didn’t know anything about it. I reckon I only started learning a bit more about it, probably when I was getting into the underage programs through the New South Wales pathway. And then you sort of see a few players along the way and you get told ‘Oh they played for New South Wales.’ or ‘They played for Australia’. And then that’s when I kind of realised, ‘Oh, you can progress in cricket, there is an Australian team and you can play for them’. So it probably wasn’t until then when I saw those pathways, because until then I’d kind of just go along with it because it was pretty fun!”
Being part of the New South Wales pathway showed Carey the possibilities that were available to her as she not only developed her game but saw the impacts of more investment in the game.
“At the time, in New South Wales, half the Australian team were playing there, so you’re surrounded by all these really good cricketers, and then you think, ‘Well, if you can match it with these athletes, you never know!’ But it probably wasn’t until they professionalised our game a bit more, and we started training a bit more, that I probably started to take it a bit more seriously. Prior to that, we still trained a couple of nights a week and then you go off and play a handful of games in the season from New South Wales—the Big Bash wasn’t a thing at the time. But when we started training full time, well not quite, but more often, I started to see the results of that.
“So compared to training four hours at a night time throughout the week, compared to actually training throughout the day, having a proper program, getting in the gym, doing some running and some skills sessions—that can actually put some time and focus on things and you start to see improvements and it’s really cool. And then you start thinking, ‘Where can I take this?’.
“It’s been really cool to see the game grow and you can see that throughout the Big Bash side of things as well, that the talent and the players that are coming through are getting better and better every year.”
And she’s right. The continued and growing investment in the game has yielded direct results, one being putting the Australian Women’s Cricket Team number one in the world and number one in the hearts of Australians.
The last time we saw the Australian Women’s Cricket team in action was that historic day that Carey still cannot believe.
“I will never get sick of talking about the World Cup!”
“Actually, it still seems pretty crazy when I think about it. Once it all happens, and the team stays together for a couple of days, and as you can imagine that is pretty full on with everyone here, there and everywhere celebrating. But we haven’t actually got to get together as a team to sort of sit back and actually reflect on it and talk about it. I guess the only times I really talk about it is when I’m doing an interview!
“But it’s like, it has sunk in, but at the same time, I can’t actually believe that it happened. That there was over 80, 000 people there. It’s actually the craziest experience. I remember being on the field and there was one point where everyone turned on their lights on their phones around the whole ground, it was just like, really cool. It was a really cool experience. At that point in the game, I feel like India were quite a way behind and I could actually take in the atmosphere, and even just thinking about that, like, is that ever going to happen again?!”
“So I still sit here today and think that is pretty unbelievable. I can’t believe that happened. But it would be nice, that when all this stuff ends, and the restrictions are lifted, we can get together as a group, to be able to sit down and actually celebrate that together as a group. That would be pretty cool.”
On missing some of her teammates, Carey finds it’s been difficult with COVID-19 distancing everyone, despite how much they might have thought they wanted a break from each other after such an intense tournament.
“It’s kind of funny because you spend so much time with your teammates and then when you don’t see them for a bit you’re like, ‘Oh I actually miss them!’. You feel like you get sick of them, because they’re in your back pocket most of the time! But when you don’t see each other, you actually start to miss being around them again.
“Usually we would have had a pre-season camp by now, and a little bit of testing, which is always fun! And you know, you spend a couple of weeks together at different times throughout the pre-season so you’re always interacting with each other. I miss that interaction and yet, at the same time, I’m sort of like grateful that I get to spend a little bit more time down in Hobart, it’s meant that I get to stay in one place for an extended period of time, which has been nice.”
Reflecting on the tournament, it’s scale and what it meant to play in an event like that on home turf, Carey is excited that her fellow Australian athletes, The Matildas, get to experience it in 2023, though she might need some time to appreciate the game a bit more in the next couple of years!
“I’m not a soccer fan at all!” She laughs. “The funny thing is, I found soccer really enjoyable to play but I actually can’t stand to watch it like, you know, you can watch the whole game, and nothing happens! And I’m sure people probably say that about cricket as well!
“But I read a lot about sport, I’m always on news apps. I actually read about the women’s game a lot, when there are players transferring clubs and going into [the] European League, so when I saw that they got the World Cup. I was like, ‘that’s pretty bloody cool!’, because with soccer, there is certainly a lot of interest here in Australia for the women’s team as well and what they can do I mean, Sam Kerr is unbelievable! So I’m actually behind the women’s game, I would definitely watch the women’s game over the guys. I think that’s so cool that they’ve got that, and that’s going to be such an awesome experience for them. I know they usually have to travel overseas a fair bit so I think would be a really cool experience for them to actually be able to display their incredible skills in front of their home fans and have their family and friends there to watch. I wish them all the best and I’ll be going to watch a game, it’s really exciting. And hopefully they win it!”
We hope they do too.