Duffin ready to juggle cricket, football and motherhood

Having missed last WBBL season, Jess Duffin faces a jam-packed summer schedule of professional cricket and football, with baby Georgie in tow

After COVID-19 delayed her post-baby cricket comeback last summer, Jess Duffin is readying herself for whatever obstacles may come her way this season as she juggles motherhood, cricket and Australian Rules football.

Duffin, who gave birth to daughter Georgie in June last year, has re-signed with the Melbourne Renegades, where she is set to reprise her key role in the middle order in WBBL|07.

It was a simple decision for the 32-year-old, who had hoped to return to the middle last summer – just four months after welcoming Georgie – but was forced to withdraw when it was announced the entire season would be played in Sydney due to the pandemic.

"It was good to make it official, and to try and win a title that we haven't been able to grasp the last couple years," Duffin told of re-signing with the Renegades.

"I was always keen, especially after all the COVID stuff interrupted last season.

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"(Sitting out last season) was a little bit about my body but also going into what was a six-week hub up in Sydney, that just wasn't going to be the right timing for Georgie, who was four months at the time. (Husband) Chris was back home teaching, so he was going to miss out on seeing Georgie every day.

"So there was a bit to consider – (not playing) was more about my family than it was about me.

"In the end, I just thought it's probably best to sit it out and come back this season."

Currently, the WBBL|07 schedule is a return to the roving festival weekends of pre-COVID years, one that would see the Renegades – including baby Georgie – travelling to and from Melbourne throughout the season.

However, any changes that would force the team to be away from home for a prolonged period, something that has been seen by winter codes due to outbreaks and border closures, could impact Duffin's availability.

"I had a quick glance at the fixture ... at the moment, it won't be too bad," she said.

"It's just more planning around my family than myself, so we'll go day by day. That sounds like a bit of a cliche, but I've really got to make sure that I'm looking after Georgie.

"And if she doesn't like the whole travel thing, (availability) might come into question. But we'll just see how much she enjoys getting on the plane."

A talented multi-sport athlete, Duffin made her return to the sporting arena in the AFLW earlier this year and will line up for the North Melbourne Kangaroos once again this coming season.

The start of the football competition has been brought forward to early December, just weeks after the WBBL final on November 27, but the cooperation between the Renegades and Kangaroos has allowed Duffin to handle the transition between the two sports.

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"The way that it's worked in the past, and the way that will work moving forward, is basically North Melbourne's strength and conditioning coach Alex will write my programming, and our strength and conditioning coach at the Renegades will make sure that I'm doing that or following that," Duffin explained.

"So if I don't get a session in, we'll talk to each other and work out a way that I can get that session in.

"We have a plan in place and all I have to do is rock up every day and I'm told what to do ... the way that they've come together and made sure that it is possible, that's the reason I'm still playing today, so I'll be forever grateful."

Duffin is yet to return to the nets, with Melbourne's recent lockdowns delaying her plans to begin training with Renegades assistant coach Duncan Harrison, but she is hopeful of getting her eye in quickly ahead of the season.

She was named captain of the official team of the tournament in WBBL|05 after striking 544 runs at 68, form that had her in contention for a spot in Australia's 2020 World Cup squad before she revealed she was pregnant.

Her return this season will be a welcome boost to the Renegades' middle order as they look to turn around last season's seventh-placed finish, with a new coach in Simon Helmot and new captain in Sophie Molineux.

"I hope I can (find that form from WBBL|05)," she said.

"At the end of the day, it's really hard to gauge because I haven't picked up a bat for quite some time.

"It's not like a football, it's a completely different skill set. But I'm hopeful and I'll do everything I can to make sure that I'm prepared, both physically and mentally to make sure I contribute to the Renegades."

For the Renegades, having a baby around the group is nothing new; last season, the daughter of New Zealand's Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu, Grace, lived among the group in the WBBL hub.

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With neither White Fern currently signed to the Renegades for WBBL|07 it remains to be seen whether Georgie will have company this season, but Duffin said the pair had already forged a friendship.

"Amy and Lea are two of my best mates so we've been talking a lot, and we get on FaceTime a lot because the kids, Gracie and Georgie like having a chat to each other so that's quite cute," Duffin said.

"They're really good support network to have, not just asking Amy how she came back (after giving birth) but also just how they travel with Gracie as well.

"We were supposed to go to New Zealand earlier this year for a holiday to see them ... it was quite shattering that those two couldn't meet, but I'm sure they'll meet eventually."

The WBBL is in the midst of a baby boom, with Megan Schutt, Rachael Haynes and Erin Burns all expecting their first children with their respective partners.

Haynes' partner Leah Poulton is due in October, and Schutt's wife Jess in November, while Burns recently revealed on social media that she and wife Anna are expecting a baby in January.

For Duffin, life with Georgie is a welcome dose of sunshine amid the uncertainty wrought by ongoing lockdowns.

"Georgie's really good," Duffin said. "She's just starting to work out how to walk. I'm trying to teach her everyday just to go a little bit further.

"She brings us great joy every day. She makes it a little bit easier to get through (lockdown) and obviously she has no idea what's going on in the world right now, so her attitude to life was very different to the way my husband and I were seeing life at the time."