Sophie Molineux made headlines around the country and won a legion of new fans with her star turn for the Melbourne Renegades during the opening weekend of this year’s Rebel Women’s Big Bash tournament.
The 18-year-old allrounder nabbed 4-18 with her left-arm finger spin, executed a direct-hit run out and scored 28no off 18 balls to guide the Renegades to victory in Sydney.
But if you think that effort was the making of this fledging star, think again.
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Molineux was on Monday named the inaugural winner of the new Betty Wilson Young Cricketer of the Year Award at the Crown Lager AB Medal night, voted by her peers as Australia’s most promising rising player for performances across a voting period that ended one week before her heroics at North Sydney Oval.
It was the teenager’s efforts in WBBL|01 and her debut season as a contracted Victorian player late last year that have earned her a special place in cricket history.
The award, named in honour of one of Australia’s greatest allrounders, was introduced this year to recognise a player aged 24 years or younger who had played 10 or fewer matches before 5 December 2015.
Voted for by Australian-based international, state and WBBL-contracted cricketers, with players unable to vote for people from their own state, it takes into account performances in the Women’s National Cricket League, WBBL and games at international level between 5 December 2015 and 4 December last year.
During the first edition of the WBBL, the then-17-year-old Molineux picked up eight wickets in 10 matches, including 3-18 against the Sydney Thunder at Etihad Stadium.
Those performances, coupled with her efforts at the Under-18 National Championships when she finished as the leading run scorer and captained Victoria to the title, led to a maiden VicSpirit contract and a spot in the Australia A team when they toured Sri Lanka last April.
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Playing four matches in her first Women’s National Cricket League season for the VicSpirit late last year, Molineux collected seven wickets including 3-31 and averaged 37.50 with the bat.
And she achieved all that while juggling cricket with Year 12 studies throughout 2016, completing her final year of high school in Bairnsdale, a town in Victoria’s south-east located three-and-a-half hours from Melbourne, and from Victorian training at the MCG.
Molineux’s no stranger to making an impact at a young age, having taken 7-0 in a primary school game as a 12-year-old, before scoring 98 off 60 balls when she was 13 and making her men's A grade club debut as a 16-year-old.
And if her performances in WBBL|02 have been anything to go by, expect to see the allrounder in Australian colours at some point in the not-so-distant future.
Not least of all because she can count Australian coach Matthew Mott among her many fans.
"She’s certainly highly rated," Mott told cricket.com.au.
"She burst onto the scene but she keeps putting in good performances.
"Her bowling is improving all the time, so that’s exciting."