Blog - Rae in New Zealand
Scottish Wildcat Ollie Rae has been spending the winter in New Zealand with team-mate Samantha Haggo (who has also blogged for us). She send us back her recollections from her experiences so far.
I'm just over the half way point of my first ever overseas season, gaining a different perspective of the game I love and enjoy playing. It's been hugely beneficial for me to both coach and play and I have been fortunate enough to experience the game from grassroots through to Representative level.
I am based in Christchurch as Head Coach for Sydenham Cricket Club Premier Women's team, playing in the team alongside my Scottish teammate Samantha Haggo. I have also been fortunate to get some coaching work with the junior teams, giving me a wide variety of learning experiences. On top of that, I've been able to travel to see some of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand, (and arguably the world!) staying over-night in a boat on Milford Sound, hiking part of the famous Routeburn Track and taking a helicopter ride over the Fox Glacier- to name but a few! Anybody travelling out here for the World Cup, you're in for a treat.
Sydenham is a fantastic player orientated club that is managed and run by a huge number of committed volunteers. I have to say, the club have welcomed and looked after us Scottish imports impeccably. Andrew McKenzie, who manages women's cricket at the club, has been a brilliant support- even putting Sammy and I up for a bit in his family home and is always at hand to give us some extra throw downs! Also, the president, Graham Harris, has been hugely supportive of us on our first venture out here - even providing us with a car! All of this has contributed to us being made to feel extremely supported by the club and has really helped me feel at home. I can't thank the club enough for this.
At this point I feel it's relevant to say to young up and coming players in Scotland, whether you are part of the Wildcats or the u17's, or even if you're just starting up, if you enjoy cricket, it is really worthwhile working hard at your game because there are so many benefits of playing female cricket at a high level. Cheesy as it is, it's been my dream to travel with my cricket and I'm motivated more than ever to be the best player and coach I can be for Scotland, to receive more opportunities like this, and inspire others to do so.
Through my involvement with the junior club at Sydenham, I was amazed by the number of girls playing at all ages (and coming through the ranks in Canterbury district). A lot of credit has to go to Emma Scarf, who captains the women's team and leads the junior coaching at the club, as well as Libby the junior convenor. They are both part of a number of club representatives that are setting an excellent foundation for long term player development at the club. The junior committee work hard to coordinate the 30 junior teams and are supported by a huge number of volunteers. (And I thought Carlton had a lot of teams!) It has shown me what is possible and what can be done on a large scale with a committed group of volunteers who are managed well.
Thanks to my involvement with junior cricket I have learned how junior teams are managed, about differing player pathways for boys and girls as well as the challenges with junior club cricket too. All of which I feel I can use positively during the rest of my time here and when I return to Scotland.
In terms of Premier women's cricket at the club, the first half of the season has been and gone now - and I have learned so much from both a playing and a coaching perspective. Working with a developing club with the enthusiasm and support that Sydenham provides has been a great platform for me to be part of change and progression. It's been a privilege to work with both the management and the players in what has been so far a very successful season for the club, which is only in its second season in the women's premier competition. The players are willing and eager to learn which makes for very productive sessions.
Achievement wise, we have won a game for the first time! And although only one game may sound a relatively small achievement, I have on many occasions been informed that Sydenham were a team that opposition turned up to and really wanted to bowl first for a guaranteed early finish... A bit of friendly banter, but now we are taken more seriously as an opponent and teams are fully prepared for us to bat our 50 overs. As a coach, this has been one of my main batting aims for the team- to bat our overs. The young, developing cricketers have gained confidence from occupying the crease and are gradually developing the confidence to play an increasing number of scoring shots. Time at the crease is the most valuable thing you can give yourself as a batter (you can't score runs if you're not there!) and thankfully the fifty over format is good for this.
Regional cricket in Canterbury is particularly strong and I have been impressed with both the support from Canterbury Cricket and the professionalism of the set up. It was a privilege to train with the Canterbury Magicians, a squad containing such a high calibre of players including many current white ferns; and no doubt many who will be a big part of the future of women's cricket in New Zealand. Getting my cap was a proud moment and one which I had to work hard for many reasons.
Performing in domestic cricket is one element that is key to selection for Canterbury and I was fortunate to start scoring runs and picking up wickets early on. I scored 79 against LPW and 104 against East Shirley, and I picked up 3 wickets against OBC. However, I am learning that scoring runs is something that really needs to be maintained when competition is as strong as it is here.
Unfortunately for the following games I had starts but I didn't make it past fifty again and I was not performing well enough. Knowing that a few big performances on their own are not enough, the key for me now is to find ways to keep form.
I suffered an injury after the last game of the first half of the club season- which marks the beginning of the regional competition. I tore my right pec bowling, which according to the physio was a very unusual injury for a female cricketer; well if you're going to get injured you might as well do something a bit different right?! I was determined to get myself fit enough to play and I worked very hard at my rehab with the fantastic support from the Canterbury physio. And so, coupled with a few injuries in the squad, I did get to make my debut for the Magicians! A very proud moment for me. Unfortunately the game came with the realisation that I am not fully fit, so it's been back to rehab and getting prepared for the second half of the club season.
The Magicians are in the final of the 50 over competition next weekend and I wish them all the best, especially to my fellow Scottish teammate Sammy Haggo who has been a consistent feature in the playing squad.
In club cricket, we play each club team one more time in the 50 over comp and one time each in T20s. With more games of cricket to play, Sydenham is looking to put in some big team performances and challenge for some more wins. I'm looking forward to playing and coaching again after the summer break and putting into practice my learning from the first half of the season.
It is going to be an exciting time in Christchurch with it being a host city to the Cricket World Cup. Making it more exciting is the fact that fellow Wildcat Charlotte Bascombe is coming to visit. Will Christchurch cope with three Wildcats at once? I guess you'll have to wait for the next blog written by Charlotte to find out!