Earning her SA Scorpions contract after a few years outside of professional cricket is the proudest moment of Courtney Neale’s career so far and the effort she has put in to earn her place has paid off, with the fast bowler making her South Australian debut on Tuesday.
Handed her State cap from her ‘favourite Scorpions player of all time’ and Kensington team mate Sarah Lowe before the match, it was a special moment after a big journey for Neale.
Neale grew up in Victoria as a sports-mad kid, playing every sport there was, once quipping to her mum that she wished there were more hours in the day to play.
A PE teacher saw her playing cricket with the boys at lunch and suggested she join a local club.
“I was the only girl in the whole league, which was pretty crazy but I didn’t really even notice,” Neale said.
“I remember one kid in Under 12’s actually went off crying because he didn’t want to face me, so he had to retire hurt.”
After that, cricket ‘took over her life’. Neale started playing in representative teams and moved through the ranks, being listed by Victoria in 2018.
She played 11 List A games for Victoria in four years and then briefly moved to Western Australia to continue her career, before taking a break from the game to work out what direction she wanted to go in in her life.
Over that time, she moved to South Australia and actually started playing Aussie Rules, reconnecting with the sport she played a lot as a kid and she quickly impressed, being recruited by Norwood in the SANFLW.
She was still playing club cricket in that time for Kensington which left her with a decision to make, as training and playing both sports left her ‘absolutely fried’.
“I loved footy while I was playing but I wanted to get back into cricket, so I thought if I’m going to try I may as well put all my eggs in that basket and stop footy to focus on cricket,” Neale said.
“It’s been an unbelievable last year and a half – I've learned a lot about myself and I’ve probably been bowling faster, batting better and throwing better than I ever have.
“I choose cricket because I feel like it is more rewarding when it goes well, especially as it takes a long time to really develop your game.”
Focusing on cricket paid off, with Neale named in last seasons’ Premier Cricket Women’s Team of the Year, for her efforts with the Premiership winning Browns.
She was rewarded with the Scorpions contract she was aiming for and impressed in the off-season, bowling fast, fielding well and being a great cultural fit for the group, leading to her State debut in only the third match of the WNCL season.
Tune in to watch Neale bowl for the Scorpions in the second innings against Western Australia.