Q&A with Rocky's cricket champion Jess Jonassen
JESS Jonassen has gone from playing junior cricket in Rockhampton to playing the game on the world stage. She has starred for the Brisbane Heat in its quest for a maiden grand final berth in the Women's Big Bash League and will be looking to help the team to victory in its vital double-header at the Gabba. The 24-year-old is also a member of the Australian women's team, the Southern Stars, who are gearing up for another busy year with the World Cup in June-July. Jess talks to The Morning Bulletin about the Heat, her national duties and her recollections of playing cricket in her home town.
►The Heat's been good but you've struggled to put two wins together. Why is that do you think and how are you feeling about this weekend's must-win double header?
We've struggled a little bit I guess with consistency. I think that's something that has been evident not only this season but a little bit last year as well. That's something that's a little bit disappointing but at the same time we're not far off and hopefully we can change that for this last round and go two from two.
We're up against the Adelaide Strikers. Funnily enough, I think we won one and lost one against them last year
The girls are training really well. I think it's just a matter of staying nice and positive. I think people were relatively pleased with certain aspects of how we played over the weekend and it's just a matter of putting it all together. There's nothing to lose, leave nothing out there and give it our best shot.
►You're not having much luck with both of your international players suffering injury.
No, we've been a bit luckless this season. No team has had both their internationals injured at the same time. I think though it's been really positive and pleasing for our squad that some of the younger girls have been standing up at various times as well and we've still been able to win games of cricket while missing some of our internationals in Dottin and now Mandhana.
►How are you feeling about your own form?
I've been a little bit disappointed with how I've been going with the bat, it's not as many runs as I would have liked but with the ball and in the field I'm pretty pleased with how things are going there. Hopefully I can turn around and get a few big scores this weekend and lead from the front in all aspects of the game.
►The Heat is on the verge of a maiden finals berth. Has the idea of making the finals been a major focus for the team?
Last year we missed out based out on net run rate. If we win both games this next round net run rate will be out of the equation and we won't have to rely on other people's results.
We try not to think about it too much. I guess in any competition, it's important not to get too far ahead of yourself because it could come back to hurt you in the end.
►You must be happy with the way the women's game is being embraced and continues to grow.
There's no doubt that women's cricket is on the rise and the opening round was evidence of that with the carnival atmosphere down in Sydney. There was the TV audiences and the peak audiences increased significantly and I guess you only have to look around local newspapers in various states and see that there's a lot more coverage of the women's game. Even just speaking about results during the men's game has a massive impact and the amount of young males who bring their daughters along to our games these days is really pleasing.
They could see just how exciting the women's game can be and that we do play a really exciting brand.
►What has been the standout game for you in this WBBL season?
I think I can't really go past our first very first game of the season which was on TV where we looked all but out of the game and we managed to scrape over the line. Seeing some of the massive sixes that Deandra Dottin hit and being out in the middle when she did that was a really great game to be a part of and more so how much of an advertisement it was for the women's game as well with the amount of people that could have been watching that game on TV. They could see just how exciting the women's game can be and that we do play a really exciting brand.
►How do you rate the year 2016?
I was able to get through the year getting over the top of quite a few niggling injuries and having knee surgery at the start of the year following the World Cup. Pretty much from there I've grown and developed a lot as a player. Results personally may not have been as good as previous years. For me personally it was a pretty good year and I'm just looking to build on it this next season with the 50-over World Cup coming up in the middle of the year hoping to be a part of that and hopefully retain that trophy.
►The Brisbane Heat recently held its Junior Heat clinic here in Rockhampton. How important is it for regional players to have access to this sort of training?
I think it's vital, coming from the country myself. It wasn't until I'd been playing cricket for a number of years before I even knew that there was a women's team. I think some of the best cricketers that play for their country or for their state will come from regional areas and I think it's really important that the support and the exposure is given to those people in those areas. If I had the opportunity back when I was younger to be part of Milo T20 Blast or the various tournaments and things that they have going on these days, then I'd be loving it.
►When did you start playing cricket?
I started when I was about 10 or 11. I was Grade 5 when I started in school cricket and then went into club cricket with Brothers and it just went from there. I played junior cricket with the boys and then I played predominantly third grade and second grade and then I played a couple of A-grade games not long before I finished school and moved down here.
In Brisbane I play for University of Queensland. I think I've played probably three or four club games this season and I don't know how many more games I will play this year but the club's really supportive of it and we try to give back wherever we can.
►Were you always an all-rounder or is that something you developed over the course of your career?
I liked being involved so I guess I was a bit of an all-rounder right from the start. I was a medium pace bowler early on as opposed to a spin bowler what I am now. It wasn't until I was about 15 when my club coach at the time, Scott Deeth, he did some research and saw that there weren't too many spinners in the women's game, let alone left arm spinners. He thought that was a really good opportunity for me and I tried it and stuck with it and here I am now so I guess I owe a lot to him for that change in my game early on.
►What is on your schedule for 2017?
We've got a 20/20 series against New Zealand in February and then we go straight over to NZ for three one-day games against them at the end of February and early March. Then there will be a little bit of a break before pre-season starts and prep for the World Cup which will be June-July. Then I'm looking to play over in the Kia Super League which is like the English version of our WBBL, which will be in August following the World Cup over there. Then straight back into Queensland Fire, WNCL and WBBL again. Not entirely sure on terms of international series at the end of this year but there's a lot of cricket to be played before I get to that.
It is pretty full-on and I guess that's the nature of where the women's game is heading as we're starting to come closer to being professional. I've been working really hard with the fitness coaches with Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket and trying to get my body right because I have for the last three or so years I've had issues with my knees and this has been the first season that I've actually got through playing pain-free so keeping on top of all of that particularly when the schedule's so busy will be tough, but I've got the support around me to be able to do that.
►Do you get back to Rockhampton much?
Not too much, no. I try and get back a couple of times a year if I can but I don't really have too much downtime these days and my family tend to come down here a bit more than I go up there. They try to come down during the summer, they've come down for Christmas and quite a few WBBL games so it's been nice being able to see them even though I've been pretty busy.
►What do you remember most about your junior playing days in Rockhampton?
I remember scoring a few hundreds in junior cricket up there. When I was younger I would play under-14 cricket in the mornings and under-16 cricket in the afternoon so pretty much my whole Saturdays and Sundays were full of cricket. I also played golf a little bit at that time as well so sometimes I'd often tee off at seven in the morning and finish around lunchtime, get changed in the car and get straight into the cricket whites and play cricket all afternoon. Those memories are quite fond for me and being one of the only girls to be playing cricket against the boys up there that any time I did well was really nice.
►When did you get your big break in cricket?
I think maybe my third year playing for the Queensland Fire. I'd been batting really low down the order for my first couple of seasons and I was only really known as a spin bowler but then in that third season I was elevated up to No.3 in the batting order and I had a really good season with the bat as well as with the ball and from there I guess I was in the selectors' eyes for the Australian team and it's pretty much gone from there. It's been a matter of understanding my own game along the way and knowing what I'm capable of and what's required. I guess the hardest part about being an all-rounder is having to be quite skilful at all three disciplines and trying to figure out and balance the time in terms of training and trying to work out how much time to put into each and every skill.
►What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Obviously being part of World Cups pretty special but for me making my Test match debut in the Ashes in 2015 that was a big game for me and I performed quite well. Unfortunately I fell one run short of getting a century on debut but being the only player in the match to score 50 and I did it twice and it went a long way towards us winning the Test match and then ultimately winning the Ashes, which was the first time we'd done that on English soil since 2001. For me the previous two Ashes series I'd missed out on the Test match component, I only played the 50 overs and the 20/20 and I guess I was out to prove a bit of a point during the game. For me to actually do well and play a significant part in the team's victory that ultimately stands out for me.
►Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes when you think about what you have achieved?
I think especially for me who for a lot of the early time in my career not actually realising that there was a Queensland women's team, let alone an Australian women's team. For me now to actually be a part of that and be able to play a significant role in inspiring the next generation of young girls coming through, still being only 24 myself and thinking of myself as a role model and as a significant person in those young girls' lives is pretty surreal.
Now I'm playing internationally and getting to travel the world and go to some countries that I never would have dreamed that I would go to. When I first started playing, I never thought I would go somewhere like India or Bangladesh. To have those cultural experiences is something that's really exciting. It's just as simple as being able to do something with my friends and do something that I love and being able to travel the world doing it... pretty lucky.
Going places like India and Sri Lanka where they're cricket mad... it's just a completely different world over there. Seeing just how they go about their daily life. I'll never forget one of my first trips to India, when I was probably about 18, I went to a batting camp there. People can tell you what it's like but until you really experience it you'll never really know or appreciate how good we have it here in Australia.