This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
For Adelaide Strikers leg spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington, WBBL06 is about having fun, enjoying her cricket again and having her best season to date.
Despite being just 23 years old, Wellington has been playing elite cricket for eight years. In fact, just this week, Facebook reminded her that she received her WNCL cap eight years ago. At just 15 years of age, Wellington was the youngest person ever to represent South Australia in senior cricket.
During those eight years there have been plenty of highs, including selection into the Australian women’s cricket team in 2016, taking a wicket with her first delivery on the international stage and during the Ashes series in 2017 bowling a ball that was dubbed ball of the century.
But there have certainly been challenges too, including missing selection in more recent tours for Australia. At the start of the year, Wellington decided to take some time away from the game.
“It was just a couple of months off just to get my head back into the game and realise what I wanted to get out of cricket,” said Wellington.
“I felt like I was at a roadblock and couldn’t go any further with my cricket, but now I am in a good head space where I can evolve my cricket.”
Wellington is not the only elite cricketer to have taken some time away over the last couple of years. Other players to have taken a break include Sophie Molineux, Moises Henriques, Nic Maddinson and Nicole Bolton.
For each of these cricketers, that decision to take time away from the game would have been challenging, but it has led to more discussion about the importance of mental health.
“One thing about those players coming out and speaking about their challenges is that it tells the rest of us that these challenges aren’t something we need to shy away from,” said Wellington.
“It is normal to go through challenges, so if we know that others are facing the same thing as us, we feel more comfortable to speak up and connect with other people.”
For Wellington, one of the biggest challenges associated with sky-rocketing to playing elite cricket at such a young age was how it impacted her social life.
“One of the reasons I played cricket in the first place was to make friends. It made me talk to people and hang out with people,” said Wellington.
“But at the same time, it meant giving up my social life because I spent so much time preparing for my cricket.
“That’s what happens when you love something so much. It can be draining and you don’t realise because you love it so much.”
It’s hard not to love cricket that much when you are part of a team like the Adelaide Strikers. Despite narrowly missing out on their first WBBL premiership last year with a loss to the Brisbane Heat in the finals, many have predicted that the Strikers will miss the finals altogether this year.
But Wellington doesn’t think it is that simple.
While the Strikers did lose Sophie Devine this year to the Perth Scorchers, for Wellington they have the balance in their squad to still challenge for the title, particularly given that the Strikers have one of the most potent bowling attacks in the competition with the likes of Wellington, Megan Schutt, Suzie Bates and Tahlia McGrath.
“Over the last few years we have prided ourselves on our bowling. We always have the goal to bowl teams out,” said Wellington.
“But we have a strong batting order too and can bat down to number 11.
“We have a real strength in our squad. We have a big belief in our squad.”
Additionally, there are some new additions to the squad this year that according to Wellington have fit right in.
Maddie Penna, the leg spinner from the Melbourne Stars, has joined the Strikers. In Penna’s debut game against the Thunder, she took 4-25.
South African international Laura Wolvaardt has also come across from the Brisbane Heat. While she didn’t make her mark for the Heat last year, many will remember her outstanding performances for South Africa in the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup, particularly her 41 not out from 27 deliveries against Australia in the semi-final.
“We love the changes to our squad,” said Wellington.
“Laura Wolvaardt has fit in so well. A lot of the players have been giving her stick because we found a YouTube video of her singing in a music video.
“Staf Taylor arrived the other day. We love having her around and Maddie Penna has slotted in really well too.
“Whoever comes into the squad, we are going to make them feel like family.”