It took no more than a few minutes on the phone with Jodie Fields to be entirely swept away by her attitude, passion, and determination - one could say that her personality stands out like a cricket pitch on a cricket field.
She was born and brought up in Toowoomba, Queensland into a family of five children. "I grew up in a family that had a lot of values around education, sport, and music," says Jodie, "particularly through my childhood, I was always very active and interested in sport." Through primary school and high school, Jodie was involved in pretty much every sport that was on offer - swimming, soccer, volleyball, cross country, cricket and tennis. Eventually, cricket and tennis became her "two loves", which eventually led her to focusing on cricket in the long term.
In answer to whether her training schedule ever became "hard" for her, Jodie says without hesitation that her love for being active and playing sport always balanced out any challenges like training in the cold, and juggling year 11 and 12. She studied English, Maths B, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Physical Education in high school, and was considering studying physiotherapy in university. "What I learnt throughout that period of time is if you really love to do something and you want to make it your goal, then you'll make things work."
Jodie credits her father and her grade three teacher as being two of her strongest supporters in beginning her journey with cricket. Throughout primary school and early high school, she played mainly with boys, until at 15 she discovered women's cricket in Brisbane, where she drove two to three times a week to train. "As soon as I got my license in grade 12, I was there - I used to drive myself to Brisbane three times a week after school."
"I look back sometimes and sometimes think 'how did I do that,' but when you really want to achieve something and really like something, it's not that hard."
Jodie made her international cricket debut for Australia in 2006, and was appointed Captain of the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars in 2009; in doing so she became the first Queensland woman to captain the Australian women's cricket team. She captained the Australian Women's team for five years in two successive ICC Women's World Cup titles, and continued to Captain Queensland domestic cricket even after her retirement in 2014.
Things didn't always go as planned, however, six months after being appointed captain of The Australian Cricket Team, she severely injured her hamstring. "That could have essentially been a career-ending injury - but I chose to not let that get me down." She spend eighteen moths in rehabilitation, "I wanted to try and prove people wrong, and show others that if you really want to do something, you can get back from that kind of tough experience."
"That's what professional sport teaches you: there are lots of highs and lots of lows, but with resilience and a positive mindset, you can get through everything."
In 2015, she became Manager of Female Cricket Operations and Membership at the Australian Cricket Association. "Essentially, my role was advocating for better conditions for female elite cricketers in Australia." In this role, she was part of achieving a huge number of things for female cricketers in Australia - including salary increases, increased prize money, support for injuries and rehabilitation, and support for education and wellbeing away from the game.
Today, she's a guest speaker, mentor for other female cricketers, and a great advocate for women in sports, with a passion for supporting women in leadership positions in all fields.
On the importance of sport, and women in sport
"Sport is such a great way for boys and girls to meet people, build confidence and self esteem, and have a good social connection. I've definitely seen an improvement in confidence and participation over the years - there are more girls and women playing sport now than there were when I was going through school."
According to Jodie, the recent developments in elite sporting pathways for women in AFL, rugby league and cricket are responsible for this change. She also emphasised the importance of female sporting role models. "Girls and women can now see female athletes on TV , and aspire to be like them." She spoke excitedly about the women's rugby league State of Origin match that was going to be shown on Channel 9 later that week: "It's just a great opportunity to demonstrate their sport to the greater community."
"Whenever there's a role model out there, people have a chance to watch them and say I want to be there as well."
"When I went through the system, my role models were mainly my father and other male cricketers - but now, female cricketers have people like Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, the sorts of girls they can see on TV every day and aspire to be like."
On problems for women in sport, Jodie says that "there have definitely been more positive than negative experiences," but highlights that some of the barriers that women do encounter in playing sport arise in contact sports like AFL and NFL. "At the end of the day, they train just as hard and deserve that opportunity to show what they can do."
"Personally, It's been tough at times when I was the only girl, I enjoyed playing with the boys, but at the same time it would have been good to play with other girls my age and experience the kind of connection and teamwork that would have come from that."
Advice for young women wanting to go into sport
"Follow what you love," says Jodie, "stay involved in as many sports as you can - enjoy it and have fun, because that's really what sport is about."
"Don't specialise too early," she cautions, "there's a tendency today, with all of the elite pathways available, to specialise in a sport in high school. My suggestion would be to not make those sorts of hard decisions straight away, and start to work out what you want to specialise in after school."
"Your professional sports career doesn't go for a very long time - for me, my education came first. You need to make sure that when you retire, you have other things to focus on," which is why she emphasises the importance of maintaining a good level of education while playing sport professionally.
"I'd just like to tell all girls and women that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it. Surround yourself with good people, and good mentors."
"Ultimately, you have to work hard and train hard for whatever you want to achieve - you need to fight harder and push through the hard times."
Some incredible words of advice from a truly remarkable woman.
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