'Rejuvenated' O'Keefe to go again for 12th BBL season

Spurred on by a belief the Sixers can win a third Big Bash title in four years, the crafty left-arm tweaker has staved off retirement for another year

Had you asked Steve O'Keefe if you'd ever see him in Sixers colours again as he lay sprawled on the Marvel Stadium wicket after being pinned in front by Jhye Richardson to end last season's BBL final, the answer almost certainly would have been 'no'.

By his own admission, the crafty left-armer they call 'SOK' jokes that he has played his "last year for the last 10 years".

With his enjoyment of the game waning and his frustration rising at endless COVID bubbles, O'Keefe looked a sure thing to hang up the spikes at the end of KFC BBL|11, if not halfway through it.

Had Sydney Sixers finished seventh or eighth last summer, the 37-year-old admits it would have been career over.

But spurred on by belief his club can win a third Big Bash title in four years, and by the mentorship of coach Greg Shipperd and skipper Moises Henriques, a "rejuvenated" O'Keefe has signed a one-year contract extension to go again for a 12th straight season.

Image Id: 9F88EA3B70514C3A942777E110ED8688 Image Caption: Richardson celebrates the final wicket of O'Keefe in last season's BBL decider // Getty

"The Big Bash has been a lifeline for me," O'Keefe told

"When I got fired from the Sheffield Shield (at the end of the 2019-20 season), I felt really rejected and embarrassed, you've spent so much time playing cricket, the way that you just get shown the door, it's certainly not compassionate.

"But it has to be done, everyone's cricket career comes to an end at some stage.

"I went into (the BBL the following season) and I played with a bit of bitterness; 'Right, I'm going to prove that I've still got it'.

"So I think that (not wanting to play on at the end of BBL|11) was a reflection of my frustration at the time, I was just a bit disillusioned with cricket, I wasn't enjoying that Big Bash bubble, we were subbing players in and out, some guys were playing for (multiple) teams."

O'Keefe said he's been "guaranteed this year will be different" and longs for a return to the days where he could enjoy a meal in a restaurant with friends, family and teammates before and after games.

"I think your perspective changes, I look at cricket a bit differently now," he said.

"The dream of more Shield and long days of cricket is far gone and I want to play in a tournament I can enjoy both on and off the field."

O'Keefe, along with Henriques, are the only current players remaining from the Sixers inaugural BBL|01 squad, and the left-arm tweaker will no doubt go down as club great when he does eventually retire.

Image Id: 411E9F3A534E40DAA57EC4EAACBB4DC9 Image Caption: O'Keefe is embraced by Brett Lee after the Sixers won the inaugural BBL|01 title in 2011-12 // Getty

The nine Test veteran proved he's still got it last season with 15 wickets in 11 matches, including two four-wicket hauls, one of which helped rout the Melbourne Stars for 61 in the season opener.

Described by Shipperd as "another coach … shaping the minds of emerging spin bowlers", it's O'Keefe who feels he owes it to his Sixers coach to go around again.

"I look at him as a mentor on the field and off the field, he offers great advice, he's so astute with his knowledge, it's not the same old peach," said O'Keefe.

"I've played under coaches who will come in at the end of the day's play and read off a pen and paper what their thoughts were on the day, whereas Greg can just get up and feel the room, know what needs to be said, says it to the right people at the right time.

"He's just a lovely man, a great man, great servant of the game and I'm like; 'Well, I get to play under him again, that's just another opportunity to learn more and more'."

Crafty O'Keefe claims four in BBL opener

O'Keefe has spent the off-season working a few days a week with SEN filling in alongside Joel Caine on The Run Home program, while he also commentated on Marsh Sheffield Shield matches in Sydney for's live stream at the back end of last season.

He also keeps busy with property development projects on the Northern Beaches and has helped out with coaching the women's side at his local Premier club Manly, where he plans to play again this season to warm-up for the Big Bash.

As for what comes after cricket, he has "absolutely no idea" but says he'll work it out when the time comes.

Right now, he's back to a space where he'll keep playing as long as he's body allows, and the enjoyment remains.

"It would have been a shame to go out on a bit of a sour taste (last season), so I'm just going to dedicate the next few months to try and get back to fitness and run and enjoy being fit and hit the ground in the best possible condition I can," he says.

"I want to be able to have fun this year, that's going to be the main focus."

Sydney Sixers BBL|12 squad (so far): Sean Abbott, Jackson Bird, Ben Dwarshuis, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Hayden Kerr, Nathan Lyon, Stephen O'Keefe, Jordan Silk