Sport

Her dad thought girls don’t play cricket, but Holly Ferling, rising star of the sport, proved him very wrong. By Richard Cooke.
Credit: GETTY IMAGES / CRICKET AUSTRALIA

The natural: Holly Ferling, 19, cricketer

I had really no intention of playing cricket. I went along to my brother’s games, and used to take my foldout chair and my book. I just used to read the whole time. But I used to play a little bit of backyard cricket, and every now and again I’d go along to my brother’s club trainings. Just because it was fun to get the boys out.

I made the Queensland team two months after starting. I was playing touch football and a girl came up to me and asked me to trial for the school cricket team, and I thought I may as well go along. Being 12, you play every sport you can, and I was fortunate enough to make that team. Then the regional team. Then the Queensland team. I have no idea where I would be if that girl didn’t come up and talk to me.

I took a hat-trick in the first three balls I bowled. And a fourth wicket on my fifth ball as well. So after my first over of men’s cricket I was four for none. I played against the boys because I was living out in the country, and my old PE teacher asked me to play for the B-grade men’s side. I wasn’t even expected to bowl. My parents weren’t even there. 

I get called Bambi. It’s because I fall over all the time. Bowling came very naturally to me. From the start, I was able to keep the bowling arm straight and understand a little bit of the mechanics. But other facets of my game are not so co-ordinated.

It’s such a fickle game, cricket. You can bowl well and get pasted, and vice versa, you can bowl horribly and have really great figures. So I think that’s what I enjoy most about it. 

I’m not one of those white-line fever bowlers. I’m quite different to a stereotypical fast bowler; I tend to bowl bouncers and then smile instead of giving them the big glare. If I tried any of that I’d literally undo everything I just did that ball before. So with me I’m my smiley, happy usual self. Once I get caught up in the trap of overthinking, I then get stuck.

My bouncer is probably my greatest weapon. I tend to get a fair bit of bounce off a good length. But I guess in time I’d like to be able to try the slower-ball bouncers. It would be interesting to see whether a female bowler would be able to bowl slower-ball bouncers considering I’m up near the 115-kilometre to 120-kilometre mark. That’s generally what the boy’s slower-ball bouncer is.

It doesn’t ever get boring. There’s always a new opportunity or a new situation that you never would have been a part of before. Whether it might be under pressure with the new ball, or bowling late overs, or starting off the innings and you have to get the team going.

When I first started, I actually had no idea that there was an Australian women’s cricket team. I had no idea that there was a Queensland women’s cricket team. The first thing my dad said to me when I came home and said I was going to trial for cricket was, “Girls don’t play cricket do they?” It’s unbelievable to be going round to clinics, and to be able to see all these girls giving it a crack.

I lost the enjoyment of the game. It was when I was around 14 or 15. I got really hung up on performing well and, as soon as I started doing that, I started performing poorly. It’s something that’s lost at the elite level, and I think if you look at the Australian men’s side when Darren Lehmann came in, they were just enjoying their cricket. That’s why they were so successful. It’s something that’s been so crucial for the Southern Stars as well.

The popularity of women’s cricket has been a massive transition. And in such a short amount of time. There’s so many more exciting things coming, fingers crossed. Like the Women’s Big Bash.

It’s been a combination of things. Our success, and having media outlets become interested in women’s cricket. Throwing it out there for people to read about it. Because that was the problem for so long… So many people have said that they would have been interested in it earlier had they known that it existed.

This week’s highlights…

• NRL: Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters

Saturday, 7.30pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne

• AFL: Carlton v Essendon

Saturday, 1.45pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground

• Horseracing: Stakes Day

Saturday, 12.35pm (first race), Royal Randwick, Sydney

• Netball: Melbourne Vixens v Southern Steel

Sunday, 2.18pm, Hisense Arena, Melbourne

• A-League: Perth Glory v Melbourne City 

Sunday, 5pm AEST, nib Stadium, Perth

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 18, 2015 as "The natural". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.

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