It has taken nine years, but Alyssa Healy finally believes she belongs with the game’s elite.
The Australian wicketkeeper-batter swept the pool at Monday’s Australian Cricket Awards, winning the ODI and T20I player of the year trophies before collecting her first Belinda Clark Award.
It was much-deserved recognition for a stunning year with the bat which saw Healy plunder 907 runs at 45.35 in 22 limited-overs innings, score her maiden one-day century, and be crowned player of the tournament as Australia claimed a fourth T20 World Cup title.
But it was also an honour Healy admitted she never expected to win.
“I don’t think I’d imagined I’d be up here through my whole career,” Healy reflected after being presented with her medal by Australia legend Belinda Clark on Monday night.
“BC (Clark) has been one of my biggest supporters for a long period of time, so to walk up and accept the award from her is something incredibly special.
“She’s one who kept telling me to believe and that I was talented enough and good enough if I wanted it … to finally sit here and feel like I am good enough is perfect.
“It does give me the confidence to continue working on my game and to continue working hard, and hopefully the last few years of my career will be pretty special.”
Healy’s admission that she never truly felt good enough to dominate at international level may come as a surprise given the 28-year-old’s been a fixture of the Australian team since making her debut in 2010, going on to forge a reputation as one of the world’s best behind the stumps.
But her record with the bat never quite matched the potential she displayed at domestic level or in brief cameos in Australian colours – between 2010 and the end of 2017, she averaged 18.82 in ODIs and 17.53 in T20Is, scoring six half-centuries across that period.
In light of those numbers, her form in 2018 all the more staggering; in 2018 she averaged 54.83 in ODIs and 41.28 in T20Is – with seven fifties and an ODI ton.
Healy says she’s struggled to pinpoint the exact reason for her form with the bat, but after much soul-searching has put it down to that newfound confidence, alongside the technical work she’s done both with her state and national coaches and with batting mentor Ash Squire.
“I’ve been asked that question a lot in the last eight months and I couldn’t really give a straight answer,” she said.
“But if I dig deep enough, I know that (confidence) is where it came from, the belief I could contribute more than I thought I could, and knowing I’d done the work to contribute as well I think was a big one.
“I enjoyed a really good preseason at home, I got some different coaching angles and come the first series we had I was ready to go and ready to contribute."
That confidence will be key for Healy and Australia with a massive 12 months looming. Next week, they meet New Zealand in the first ODI of the three-match Rose Bowl series, while in July they’ll travel to England for the multi-format Ashes.
And in a little over a year’s time, Australia will defend their T20 World Cup title on home soil.
“It’s a really exciting 12 to 18 months ahead for us,” Healy said.
“Going over to England and playing in their conditions is a really tough ask, so for us it’s building on this momentum we’ve had over last 12 months and can hopefully that can culminate in an Ashes victory.”
CommBank ODIs v NZ
February 22: First ODI, WACA Ground, Perth
February 24: Second ODI, Karen Rolton Oval, Adelaide
March 3: Third ODI, Junction Oval, Melbourne