The hours on the road and the gamble of following her dream when there was no guarantee of it becoming reality have earned Maitlan Brown the biggest reward.
A 23-year-old pace bowler, Brown, who plays for the Australian Capital Territory and the Melbourne Renegades, is the one uncapped player in Australia’s 18-player squad for the home series against New Zealand next month and continues her rise in the game four years after she slipped out of the New South Wales system.
Then, through the help of a friend, ACT spinner Angela Reakes, she earned an opportunity in Canberra, but it was only as an unpaid rookie. In her first season with the team, she would drive seven hours from her home in Wingham, a small town on the New South Wales mid-north coast, to Australia’s capital for training and matches.
She went on to play five out of six matches for the ACT Meteors in the 2016-17 season while also having a regular role with the Renegades in the WBBL and it was enough to earn her a place in a CA development squad to tour Sri Lanka.
Since then she has progressed to the Australia A set-up and last season took 16 wickets for the Renegades in their semi-final WBBL campaign. Still, she struggled to take it all in when the call came through from selector Shawn Flegler
“I couldn’t comprehend what was happening,” she said. “I asked him the question, ‘Are you serious?’ and he was trying to tell me all the info, ‘this is when we’re going away, this is what’s going on’.
“And I said, ‘look, Flegs, please tell me you’re sending this in an email because I’m speechless right now and I can’t really think’ and he said ‘yeah no worries’.
“I had so much FOMO that I cried myself to sleep because I just saw the girls up on stage with Katy Perry and I thought I want to be a part of that so badly”
Maitlan Brown on watching the T20 World Cup final
“I got off the phone and I screamed out and my boyfriend came over and I told him the news and we had a really nice moment where we just hugged and burst out in tears. I thought he was laughing at first but he was actually bawling his eyes out. It was really nice and so overwhelming. I’m just so bloody excited and I can’t wait to get up there.”
And the sacrifices of a few years ago are all worth it. “It’s pretty crazy looking back how far I’ve come and I was at a stage where I was struggling to find a place but the ACT have given me such a great opportunity; I’m grateful for that.
“I was always really passionate about pursuing cricket and it was always a bit of a risk heading down to the ACT because at the time they didn’t have any more contracts to give away, so I was self-funding, but I was happy I took that leap of faith and I was presented with some great opportunities that have led me to where I am today.”
Australia captain Meg Lanning, who was on the same virtual media conference, couldn’t stop herself grinning as Brown’s joy and enthusiasm was evident.
“She deserves her spot in the squad. She’s been very good at the domestic level for a number of years now,” Lanning said. “She has very good skills with bat and ball, with the ball some very good change-up options, can bowl any time in an innings which is a great thing to have. From that perspective, a great addition. She brings some really good energy, good personality, so looking forward to welcoming her.”
Being based in the ACT, Brown has had more freedom during Covid-19 than some of her team-mates and has worked on becoming more tactically aware with bowling coach Mick Delaney – although it’s one other aspect of pace bowling she has most enjoyed developing. “He’s a bit of an agro fast bowler, so it was pretty cool to get some tips from that perspective,” she said.
The postponement of next year’s Women’s ODI World Cup until 2022 has been a significant blow to the game, but for players such as Brown who are looking to push their case, it could benefit them.
“I guess it does work in my favour, I feel like I’ve almost conquered the hardest part which was pushing into the squad,” she said. “Definitely helps me with it being pushed back, hope I can prove myself and push even further. It does suck having to wait a little longer but it could be a silver lining.”
Like more than 86,000 in the ground and millions on TV, Brown watched the T20 World Cup at the MCG on March 8. But for her it wasn’t just about savouring an occasion.
“If I’m honest, I had so much FOMO that I cried myself to sleep because I just saw the girls up on stage with Katy Perry and I thought I want to be a part of that so badly. It’s awesome to know that, minus Katy Perry, I’m a part of such a brilliant squad with world-class players and it’s a brilliant honour.”
And, of course, there is another Perry who she will be able to spend plenty of time with. “I have and still do look up to Pez which is a little embarrassing now as she’s a team-mate.”
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