Veteran spinner O'Keefe set to bow out 'really fulfilled'

Champion Sixers tweaker does not see his career extending beyond BBL|13, with the Sydney Smash potentially his last game at his SCG home

Sydney Sixers veteran Steve O'Keefe has all but confirmed this Big Bash season will be his last, and has reflected on a 19-year career that he leaves "really fulfilled".

Having long flagged his retirement from professional cricket, and after joking in 2022 that he had played his "last year for the last 10 years", the 39-year-old said the current KFC BBL|13 campaign was set to be his last.

Ahead of a Sydney Smash on Saturday in which his one-time Test teammates Steve Smith and David Warner return for the Sixers and Thunder respectively, O'Keefe said the match looms as a potential final outing at his beloved SCG.

The spinner's Sixers side, currently sitting third on the Big Bash standings, are guaranteed a home final should they finish inside the top three.

However, that prospect rests heavily on the result of Saturday's blockbuster clash.

"I dare say it'll be very, very hard to play on next year," he told reporters on Wednesday. "So I think the way it's shaping this potentially could be my last game here at the SCG … there really isn't any plans to play any cricket beyond this year from a personal level. 

"It's not 100 per cent confirmed, and I'll make sure the right people know that at the right time. 

"But yeah, I just think I've had a great time playing it and now the expectation around your training and your body, committing to cricket 12 months of the year is probably something that's a bit past me at the moment.

"I'm really fulfilled with what I've done career-wise and very, very happy. I've had a lot of fun this year and am certainly still enjoying it."

A crafty left-arm spinner who – despite being self-deprecating about his role in the modern game – has continually evolved his primary skill at T20 level, O'Keefe said the prospect of walking off the SCG for a final time was "quite emotional".

"It's just a beautiful place. I came out here once as a kid and played a game (on the outfield) during a Test match and I remember going home almost in tears about how excited I was about actually stepping onto that ground.

"To fast forward (having) been able to play a lot of cricket here is quite emotional when you think about it. It's a special place for a lot of cricketers."

The veteran is set to depart the professional game having played nine Tests for Australia and over 100 games for the Sixers.

Figures of 6-35 in both of India's innings during Australia 333-run rout at Pune in 2017 will live long in the memory.

So too will back-to-back titles with the Sixers in BBL|09 and BBL|10 (alongside victory in the competition's inaugural season), which came after O'Keefe was sacked in a "cold-hearted" fashion by NSW – something he said weighed heavily.

From there, T20 provided him with a career lifeline.

"I was certainly bitter and twisted for a couple of years," he said. "It certainly took its toll. I think even though you expect it to come at some stage as a professional athlete, when it does happen it certainly takes you back, particularly in an association you've been playing cricket for for 20 years. 

"I think the cold-hearted nature which it happens can be quite a shock. I certainly don't want to play the 'woe is me' card, I think everyone goes through it …

"I've just been privileged and fortunate enough that I've been able to extend my career in T20 cricket.

"A lot of players years ago wouldn't have had that opportunity to continue to play cricket. This place has reinvigorated a love for the game, which I thought I didn't have a couple of years ago, to be honest. And it's been so much fun with the leadership we've got here, the players we've got on show, it's been incredible."

Super SOK scales the heights with 12 in India

He backed in the Sixers' young spinners when he departs, commending the likes of Todd Murphy and Joel Davies.

"It'd be up to the management here to lock those guys in because I think they are future staples of the Sixers – just quality cricketers, quality human beings. We've got more than enough bases covered in the spin department going forward."

Looking ahead to Saturday's encounter, O'Keefe said he'll relish being part of another chapter in what had become a "healthy rivalry".

"It's a big game for both clubs. We need to win this to get into the finals.

"I think last time we were here there was 35,000 (fans); we're really fortunate to have got the likes of these Test superstars coming back and playing – I think it definitely resonates, and puts bums on seats."

Meanwhile, the Sixers will be without English import Tom Curran for the remainder of the season, after he suffered a knee injury against Melbourne Stars last weekend.

"The full extent of the injury is currently not known with Curran set to return to the UK in the coming days and undergo further assessment at home," the club said in a statement.

"Curran was previously confirmed to be unavailable for the KFC BBL|13 Finals Series and will no longer be available for the club’s final two regular season matches."

KFC BBL|13 standings

Matches played
No results
Net Run Rate
Total points
1 Brisbane Heat Men Brisbane Heat Men HEA 10 7 1 0 2 0.972 0 16
2 Sydney Sixers Men Sydney Sixers Men SIX 10 6 2 0 2 0.339 0 14
3 Perth Scorchers Men Perth Scorchers Men SCO 10 6 3 0 1 0.725 0 13
4 Adelaide Strikers Men Adelaide Strikers Men STR 10 5 4 0 1 0.331 0 11
5 Hobart Hurricanes Men Hobart Hurricanes Men HUR 10 4 6 0 0 -0.268 0 8
6 Melbourne Stars Men Melbourne Stars Men STA 10 4 6 0 0 -1.051 0 8
7 Melbourne Renegades Men Melbourne Renegades Men REN 10 2 6 0 2 -0.288 0 6
8 Sydney Thunder Men Sydney Thunder Men THU 10 1 7 0 2 -0.652 0 4

M: Matches played

W: Wins

L: Losses

T: Ties

N/R: No results

NRR: Net Run Rate

Ded.: Deductions

PTS: Total points

BKT Big Bash Tipping is back! Be in the running for some epic prizes, or go for bragging rights with family and friends. Register now