“I don’t beat myself up too much if cricket’s not going well because I’ve got other things in my life that can sort of come into the fold.”
There’s a sense of calm around Rene Farrell, the Australian fast bowler. Whether she talks about her coaching hopes – she is in charge of an Under-13 side with her domestic team, New South Wales, and hopes to find more coaching opportunities via her teaching background – or her cricket, Farrell seems completely at ease with her life. Sometimes, it’s just the simple pleasures that count.
“Being over here (England) for about five weeks, be great to catch up with them (her family) when I’m back and I’ve got two dogs that I love to bits, it’d be great to get back in the Sydney sunshine and walk them around and go down to the dog park.”
It’s the second season of the Women’s Super League, and Farrell is with Surrey Stars again. The 30-year old starred with only the second five-for in the short history of the tournament in a win over Lancashire Thunder. That helped the Stars finish second on the league table and they will face Heather Knight’s Western Storm in the semifinal on Friday (September 1) in Hove before the winners take on Southern Vipers in the final, also in Hove, later in the day.
“Jenny Gunn was probably a player for me that stood out in the 50-over World Cup, I think she was very under-rated in the way that she got some match-saving runs and bowled really effectively, I know she’s a great fielder as well so I think she’s someone that Australians need to be careful of just purely based on her all-round ability but she kind of goes under the radar.”
Returns of 5 for 26 against the likes of Sarah Taylor, Amy Satterthwaite and Jess Jonassen was bound to make an impact but Farrell almost missed the game, as she explains to Wisden India on the eve of Finals Day. “I had a really sore side and tight back and hip flexes, so I had to go through a fitness test the morning of that game. That’s T20 cricket – some days you get a bag and bowl okay and some days you can get a bag and not bowl very well, you may not pick up a wicket at all,” she says.
“Hopefully … would love to get a few more wickets in the semi and the finals but at the end of the day we do bowl in partnerships over here and if I’m getting the wickets or the wickets are coming at the other end, that’s just as good. It’s a target of ours to get ten wickets.”
Records are not new to Farrell. She was the third female cricketer to take a hat-trick in Test cricket, after Betty Wilson (the Australian who took the first, against England back in 1949) and Shaiza Khan (for Pakistan against Windies in 2003-04). Farrell’s feat, in the 2011 Ashes Test in Sydney, shaped both her career and her life.
“It was great to get the hat-trick in Test cricket, that’s probably the highlight of my career so far. To play in Sydney, at one of my home grounds, in front of my family, was very exciting. I retired after that because we did have a tour to New Zealand and unfortunately we got stuck in the earthquake there (in Christchurch). It did kind of put a few things in perspective for me. I just needed to take time away from the game mentally and really enjoy some family time; sort of not putting all my eggs in one basket, which was cricket.
“I spent a lot of time home with the family and friends and the dogs and all that sort of stuff. Then I watched the girls play in the World Cup in 2013 (in India) and it really hurt watching them, I think they lost one game, it really hurt watching them win the World Cup and hold it (trophy) without me. I trained hard and focused all my energy on getting back into the team, but at the same time I made a point of making sure that it wasn’t just all about cricket – have more of a balance.”
Fast forward to three years into her second coming, and right after a tour to New Zealand, Farrell announced her retirement again – this time, only from One-Day Internationals, unlike the decision in 2011.
That meant another missed World Cup, but Farrell knew that she couldn’t continue playing if she wasn’t 100% sure. “I knew we would have had a couple of weeks off after the New Zealand tour but I knew the commitment that was coming up and the commitment needed to play in the World Cup. I just mentally and physically didn’t have anything left to contribute to the standard of an Australian team level, so thought it was the right time not to put myself through that and to be there for the team. I wouldn’t have been able to represent and hold my head up high. So I just thought it was best to hang my boots up.”
As for the ‘balance’ in her life, Farrell has it all lined up. “I’ve started studying and I’m at university and I moved back home to Sydney to be close to my family and cricket’s there as well. I study online with the University of Tasmania, they’re sport-friendly so being online, I can study while I’m over here in England – I’m studying Bachelor of Education, becoming a primary school teacher.”
It was tough watching the Australians crash out of the 2017 World Cup after Harmanpreet Kaur’s blazing knock, but Farrell found balance there as well.
“It obviously was tough seeing the Aussie girls falter in the semifinal to India but it was great to see my Sydney Thunder team-mate Harmanpreet Kaur just play some fantastic shots. So I was very happy for her at the same time.”
Farrell might represent Australia and wear the green and gold with pride, but she’s all about inclusion and the game getting stronger beyond Australia and England, the traditional forces.
“I think it was fantastic to see India in the final. I didn’t know who I was going for: Obviously I know a lot of the English girls and am friends with them but I think it would also have been great for women’s cricket to see someone else but England or Australia to win it.
“It’s exciting for the future – it took one great performance from Harmanpreet to knock Australia off and I think that’s all it takes these days. We saw a great innings from (Chamari) Athapaththu as well and now she’s putting a hand up for Big Bash cricket so I just think it’s exciting that all these formats are bringing girls into the forefront of the game and that we can play alongside them, against them, the competition’s becoming equal.”
“I’m a bit older than most going around so it’s nice to sort of teach them what I’ve learnt and help them out wherever I can and that’s something I do look to bring into training no matter what team I’m playing in. I just think it’s important as a senior player to make sure your players are travelling okay, know that you’re there to give them a hand if need be and if you can help them out and if they can take one thing away, you’ve done your job – that’s something I’d like to see myself do.”
Adding to the excitement for Farrell, there’s also the first women’s day-night Test scheduled for later this year, at North Sydney Oval.
“Any time you can try something new, it is an exciting opportunity. I did watch the first men’s match under lights, I think it was in Adelaide against New Zealand, sort of the swing that Mitchy Starc and Josh Hazlewood were getting, was exciting to watch. So any time as a pace bowler, you can get some swing and bounce, it is exciting times.
“Test cricket is my favourite format to play. Being a bowler, sometimes it can be in your favour. In T20 cricket, you get hit around the park and you can bowl really well but still go for a lot of runs. To play in North Sydney, being a Sydney girl, it will be a great honour to put the baggy green cap back on but if it’s not to be, I’ll definitely head down and take my dogs down and watch the girls play because it is history in the making.”
Playing for the Stars means Farrell gets to rub shoulders with Natalie Sciver, Tammy Beaumont, Laura Marsh and Alex Hartley – fresh from winning the World Cup on home soil.
So does she have a little notebook to record details and spy on the enemy camp for her team? “I wouldn’t say I’m spying on them but I do like that terminology,” laughs Farrell. “Every time you play with or against someone, you always go through the video analysis and ways on how to get them out or what areas to play them if they’re a bowler. England obviously being World Cup champions will have their tails up and coming over to Australia. They beat us last time over there in the Ashes, so they’ll probably be feeling really confident. If I don’t make the team, I’m more than happy to give the girls some bowling tips to bowl to someone like Tammy Beaumont or Nat Sciver now that she’s got her ‘Natmeg’ shot.”
But before moving her mind on to the Ashes, Farrell has to face the challenge of winning two games in a row to lift the trophy for Surrey Stars. “This competition this year, it’s been really exciting – some close games. We’ve been lucky to bowl a lot of teams out. It’s a target of ours to get ten wickets,” she says. “I think the competition has stepped up. I’d love to see a couple more games, probably playing each team twice I think, would really help the growth of the competition. But I think it will come in the years to come and just focused on hopefully winning on Friday, winning two games and hopefully holding the Super League trophy at the end of the day.”