True Blues T20 star Tara Norris shares her thoughts on a season in Melbourne.
‘I didn’t come for a holiday, I came for the titles.’
These departing words were spoken with great determination, so don’t be surprised if left-arm allrounder Tara Norris heads home with four medals.
Norris plays for Sussex, is a member of the England Women’s Academy, in the regional set-up for Kia Super League team Southern Vipers, and currently representing Prahran in the Women’s Premier Firsts competitions.
At 18, Norris chose to spend her winter Down Under after finishing school in June, and deciding she was not ready to head straight to Loughborough University or work full-time. With those two possibilities discounted, Norris opted for a gap year to play and coach cricket and to continue to lay the path to follow her dream. Without a contact in Australia, Norris emailed a few Melbourne clubs and heard back from Prahran, learning a fellow-English player in Naomi Dattani would be re-joining the club this season. After exchanging messages with her compatriot and finding out more about Prahran, the decision was made: the expected 2016/17 winter for Norris would be a Melbourne summer.
I caught up with Tara to learn about her experiences on and off the field in Melbourne.
In every team sport there is pressure being the overseas player and, when you enter the squad without knowing anyone (Dattani was delayed by visa issues) it can be even more challenging. This was a hurdle Norris had to overcome; her biggest challenge being in Melbourne, ‘Getting to gel with the team. When I was younger I found I made friends quite easily. I like to think I’m quite an easy-going person. Once I started showing what I can do, doing well, then they knew I wasn’t here for a holiday. They respected me more as a cricketer and a person.’
What have your highlights been in Melbourne both on and off the pitch?
Off the pitch, just the city life. I like how there’s things around pretty much every night. Festivals going on. I’ve done the Great Ocean Road so that was good, the whole travelling side. Then cricket side, the T20 final one hundred per cent.
How did it feel dismissing Meg Lanning and being named player of the match (3-22, a run out and 30 not out)?
Oh yeah, that was good [dismissing Meg Lanning]. That was pretty cool. It made all the training and hard work worth it. [On being promoted to Three in the final] Who would have thought? We were missing Nicola Hancock and Jess Cameron. We sort of planned it for a scenario if we were chasing 170. We didn’t want to lose our big hitters to the openers. I was just sort of thrown in to dangle the bait and we were only chasing 90, so I thought I may as well stay in, get the glory and then that was it.
What are your personal aims at Prahran for the rest of the season?
To carry on from our T20 success, continue to bowl well. Hopefully open the bowling again, continue taking wickets and being a main fielder for the team and getting a chance to bat if I can. As a team, to win the One-Day title to bring home two trophies.
What’s it been like playing with and against WBBL stars?
That was pretty good, a really good learning curve especially. For a game at Sussex last year, we played Kent and I was bowling against Suzie Bates and she just smashed me everywhere and it got to the point that I didn’t know where to bowl because she was just doing everything. So I sort of remember having that in the background if I bowled to Meg Lanning it might be a bit similar. Really good learning experience for me and really great to work on my tactical awareness and field placements to her, and then to get her out – even better. So really great opportunity and to practise skills and execute them basically compared to where I was in June, May maybe. Pleased with how far I’ve come.
How did you find the Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision game?
That was a really great game, a shame about the result [Box Hill won by two runs]. I thought it was a good performance to publicise women’s cricket, a really good crowd.
What do you find the biggest differences are between playing at Prahran and then back at Sussex and with your English club?
Compared to club, it’s a lot more structured and switched on. Club cricket back home is very basic. Here the girls all want to be there [at training] but sometimes I don’t think some of the girls want to turn up [at home]. So it’s quite good to see that every Wednesday and Thursday here, people drive a good half hour just for club cricket. It’s quite nice and refreshing and it’s different coaches, different structures, yes it’s refreshing.
Do you think you’ll take anything from what Prahran do back home?
Yes, the throwing. We don’t throw enough back home, in general. It’s always neglected a little bit. Even in the first six weeks at Prahran I noticed how much better my fielding had got and how much more throwing I was doing. The aches, my elbow. I had to buy a mitt, as they told me to use one and first of all it was just going through, I kept dropping it and I thought what is the point in this? But it’s so good now.
What are your aims for the English season?
I’m in the regional set-up for the Southern Vipers, so hopefully try to push for a spot in the main squad. Still a work in progress that. At Sussex, hopefully open the bowling for a few games this season and try to push myself up the order with the bat.
Would you recommend a winter in Melbourne?
Yes I would, one hundred per cent. It’s way better than winter nets. A lot of winter training for me is always fitness based, which is good but I’m getting the best of both worlds here. I’m still doing all my sessions, speed and strength. The fact I can train at least twice a week, play at the weekend and then train at home [is great]. I’m pretty much hitting balls every day, bowling four times a week. I wouldn’t be doing that at home. I quickly noticed how much better I got just from training so much more. When I go back, that’s one thing I’ll take into account. I was only training twice a week which is nothing. How are you supposed to get better from two hours a week if that? Just train more, be outdoors more.
Do you want to return next year?
I’d love to, but I might have to go back to the books. I’ve got a place at Loughborough Uni, so might have to knuckle down and do something. Or potentially do a PT course at the college or just coach for a year and then maybe travel for a little bit. But it depends on cricket, Sussex and England Academies and stuff like that. If I was going to come back I think I’d do two lots of three months.
Written by Georgia Isaac