This article was first written for and published by the Roar.
Melbourne Renegades coach Lachlan Stevens says he’ll remember “being tired and a little stressed” living the ‘hub life’ throughout WBBL06.
“It’s been difficult and a challenge for me personally. I miss my little boy at home. That’s been hard for me from a selfish perspective and feeling bad for not contributing to my family,” Stevens says.
But he will also remember the tremendous commitment of so many people to ensure that the season went ahead – those at Cricket Australia who helped organise the hub, to the staff at the WBBL clubs and all the internationals who have come from overseas to compete.
“From a cricket perspective I’ll remember the effort people gave in challenging circumstances,” he says.
“Especially our international players and for them to keep getting up and playing cricket games for their team has been outstanding.
“Even in the face of some struggles for a lot of players, they have kept fronting up and they should be really proud of that.”
Those struggles have come in many different forms. The Renegades have been hit by injury this season, with four of their internationals unavailable at various points.
Jess Duffin decided to take this year off after giving birth to her daughter Georgie, Lea Tahuhu struggled with injury throughout the tournament, while Georgia Wareham and Maitlan Brown were both ruled out after sustaining injuries.
Additionally, there has been a distinct lack of escape from cricket.
For many years, the key message to elite athletes has been to have a life away from sport. Whether that be a job, commitments to the community, a family or a hobby, this life is important for balance and to assist with mental health.
That life away from sport has been taken away from many elite athletes this year.
“There’s no doubt that’s been a challenge whether you have been winning games like the Stars or you have struggled a bit like we have, everyone in those groups will have had good and bad days in the hub,” says Stevens.
“That chance to do something different or to escape is no longer there. There is no chance to leave the game behind.
“It’s a challenge in cricket which can be a really lonely game, even though you are in a team, if you aren’t performing the way you want to perform, that chance to leave and then come back the next day and try again is really important. These players haven’t had that.”
The Renegades’ season has not gone according to plan.
With two games left to play at time of writing – against the Sydney Sixers and the Brisbane Heat – the Renegades sit in seventh on the ladder, making it nearly impossible to feature in the finals.
“We haven’t played as well as we would have liked and the remaining players have been frustrated with how they have performed from time to time,” the coach says.
“The challenge after all those injuries was to keep the team functioning, keep their spirits up and keep doing the work.
“We have had some hard days and been well beaten on some of those days, so that becomes hard because our players take pride in what they do. So when it is off pace that can become hard when it is a day to day thing in the hub.
“They have been wonderful at that and have done such a great job with each other as a group. They keep fronting up with smiles on their faces and giving it their all, so I am proud of them for that.”
Despite the challenges, Stevens’ return to the women’s game as a coach, after a four-year absence, has been a positive experience, especially because he can see how much the game has improved.
“Watching it this year, it has just gotten better,” he says.
“It’s just a bit faster, it’s a bit more skilful, they have more shots and that’s a by-product of playing more cricket and being able to train more.
“I want to see them play more, I want to see them get more chances at a state level too and that just leads to better cricket.”
Looking ahead to those final two games, Stevens has a simple message for his players:
“Once we got to a point in the tournament when we had lost a lot of back to back games and struggled, we made a couple of changes in the line-up and they really embraced that.
“All I would ask is that they keep doing that and I think they will.
“Keep putting effort in and they have, every single game, even the bad games it hasn’t been their effort lacking.
“I don’t need them to change anything, they have been fantastic in the circumstances.”