By DONAL WILSON
At just 17, Ella Hayward is impressing everywhere she plays, at the Melbourne Renegades and for Victoria in the Women’s National Cricket League.
Winner of the Australian Cricket Society Steve Mason Young Female Cricketer of the Year award for 2021, Ella was part of the Covid-induced bio bubble for the women’s Big Bash League last October.
All six teams played in Sydney, staying together and creating a tremendous spirit.
‘We had game nights and dinner together. We’d play golf and enjoy each other’s company,’ she said.
Her senior roles are just part of her CV. She captained Victoria Metro Under 19 to the title in the 2021 Female Emerging Easter series round robin against NSW metro, Vic Country and ACT/NSW country. She was the fourth leading run-scorer across the seven matches with 158 runs (average 26) and third on the bowling charts with nine wickets at 14.
“I really enjoyed that tournament,’ she said. ‘I got to play within my age group and loved the leadership aspect. I’ve been captain of quite a few teams I’ve played with now. It’s something I’ll continue to work on for when I next get an opportunity.’
Ella also played a full season for the Melbourne CC’s first XI in the Women’s Premier one-day competition, scoring 295 runs at an average of 32 and taking 16 wickets with her off-spinners. Melbourne made the top four, before losing its semi-final to Box Hill.
Ella says it was also wonderful to represent Victoria at the Women’s National Cricket League level for the first time. ‘I made my debut in Perth which was a really enjoyable experience to be able to travel with the team and being picked in the final (against Queensland Fire) was a great experience.’
In terms of favourite formats with WBBL being 20 overs and the WNCL 50 overs per innings, Ella prefers the faster-paced aspect of T20 cricket. Long-term, she’d love to play a Test match. ‘That would really be fun.’
Transitioning into new teams can be daunting. It’s important that experienced players help the younger ones to feel comfortable and confident. ‘Elyse Villani is someone who made me feel welcome when I joined the WNCL, providing me with guidance and having faith in what I can do. She’s definitely been my favourite player I’ve played with so far,’ she said.
In the WBBL, Ella starred in the win against Melbourne Stars with four for 16 in a game in which Renegades won in a super over. ‘That’s definitely one of the highlights of my career to date… that and playing in the WNCL final even though we lost,’ she said.
One of five indigenous players in the WBBL, Ella performed a key role in the Barefoot circle to raise awareness against racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. ‘I thought it was really good that it got the recognition it deserve; speaking at a few of them it was good that we all got together,’ she said.
“It was an honor to win Australian Cricket Society (ACS) Young Female Cricketer of the year award. There are some great names among the previous winners. I’ve got to keep working hard and going forward. It’s nice to have some recognition.’
The WBBL is challenging for younger players, like Ella, playing against the likes of world stars Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy and the New Zealander Sophie Devine who Ella claims was the toughest batter to bowl to. ‘Something that I’ve learnt is to stick with your processes and backing yourself in then you don’t have to change yourself or how you bowl,’ she said.
She has firm aspirations to play for Australia in the future. ‘It’s definitely a big goal of mine, hopefully I’m going in the right direction.’
* Donal Wilson is our 2020-21 ACS Literary Scholar