Pleasure and pains of Haynes' journey

20 September 2017

Haynes was on the verge of retirement just a year ago // Getty

Our voices

From contemplating retirement just 12 months ago, Australia's new Ashes captain has been on a remarkable ride ever since

About the Writer:

Laura Jolly is a writer for She previously wrote for News Corp Australia and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. 

If you'd asked Rachael Haynes a year ago where she thought she would be on September 20, 2017, there are a couple of places she might have guessed.

The nets at Cricket NSW, maybe, or the marketing firm where she used to work.

But it's safe to say Haynes could never have predicted she'd be standing outside NSW Parliament with Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland, being unveiled as Australia's captain for the Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes.

Forget being stand-in captain for the injured Meg Lanning, or even representing her country.

One year ago, Haynes wasn't even sure she had a future in the game, at any level.

Overworked and exhausted from the demands of combining her full-time job with the training required to be an elite cricketer for New South Wales, Haynes had hit breaking point. 

She couldn't carry on like this. 

The need for a full-time wage to pay her mortgage meant quitting her job to focus on cricket was not a possibility; at that point, the average domestic wage for a female domestic player was $22,000.

Alex Blackwell and Rachael Haynes front the media // Getty
Alex Blackwell and Rachael Haynes front the media // Getty

And the need to work meant she wasn't able to put in the time necessary to reach the level she knew she  was capable of attaining. 

Adding to her dilemma was the fact Haynes hadn't represented her country since the 2013 Ashes in England and, at 29, she wasn't sure her chance would come again. 

"Thinking about where I was at in my life … I was seriously considering whether or not I was going to stay on and play," Haynes, now 30, tells

"I went through a period where I didn't have a day off for three weeks, I wasn't training well and I wasn't doing my job very well either. I was like, 'Can I keep doing this?' I was so exhausted."

Retirement from the game she loves, it seemed, was the only solution.


Then the tide started to turn. 

First, Haynes had an honest discussion with Cricket NSW, explaining her dilemma. They provided an ideal solution, offering her three days of work per week to help even up her work-cricket-life balance.

"I went and had a great chat to (NSW chief) Andrew Jones, (cricket performance manager) David Moore and selector Kerry Marshall," Haynes explains.

"They didn't convince me (not to retire), but they spoke about the opportunity I had and how lucky I was to have it and that it doesn't last forever.

"And I thought, 'You guys are right, I need to have a decent crack at this and try again'."

Then, the NSW Breakers secured sponsorship with Lend Lease, bumping each player's 2016-17 state contract up by $17,000.

"That made a huge difference for me. I have a mortgage, so I couldn't just not work. When those contracts came along, it was a huge relief for me as an athlete," Haynes says.

"Ultimately it's helped me get back into the Australian team.

"It was a series of events that aligned in time, so I was very lucky."

And then there was the carrot of this year's 50-over World Cup in England. 

"I thought that was probably my last opportunity to play in one," she said. "(Australia coach) Matthew Mott and (selector) Shawn Flegler had had discussions with me over a 12-month period and they said they wanted to see me score runs and there could be an opportunity for me if I did that.

"But I still wasn't sure if that would come to fruition."

Re-energised and determined to give international cricket just one more crack, Haynes was left disappointed with a 2016-17 WNCL campaign that reaped 212 runs at 30.28.

She averaged 20.30 for Sydney Thunder in the Rebel WBBL but was more pleased with how the ball was coming off the bat than the numbers suggested. Nonetheless, when Australia's T20 and ODI squads to play New Zealand were announced on January 31, Haynes wasn't even listed as an emergency. 

What followed was quite an incredible series of events. 

Injuries to Ellyse Perry, then Alex Blackwell saw Haynes handed a surprise last-minute call-up for the NZ tour.

Haynes returns with fine fifty

She played her first international game since July 2013 at Auckland's Eden Park in late February, scoring an even 50 and looking so poised and confident, it was difficult to believe she'd spent three-and-a-half years in the international wilderness. 

"You never want to see anyone injured," Haynes reflects. "But I was lucky enough to get my opportunity because of that."

Haynes suffered her own injury blow just days after that international return. While she likely would have surrendered her place to the returning Blackwell and Perry for the second ODI in Mt Maunganui, a serious ankle injury at training made the selectors' decision for them. 

But she had done enough to earn herself an international contract for 2017-18 – worth an average $180,000 under CA's new Memorandum of Understanding – and then a spot in that World Cup squad she had so dearly desired.

"I got that half-century in that game against New Zealand and then I got an injury, but sport can be very fickle sometimes," she says.

"You've got to take your chances and I was pretty grateful it worked out – it doesn't often happen like that at all."

Enlisted as cover for Meg Lanning, whose shoulder was hanging on by a thread thanks to a chronic shoulder complaint, Haynes' tournament in the UK included just two appearances, filling in when Lanning was rested for group stage games against Pakistan and South Africa.

Haynes, Aley reflect on maiden match

More surprising – for those outside the team, at least – was that she also filled in as captain for those matches. 

Mott explained at the time it was a decision made well in advance of the tournament, through consultation with coaches and the team psychologist alike, with Haynes' leadership qualities thought to be the best fit to step into Lanning's shoes. 

It was then that Mott also foreshadowed the announcement made today, noting that Haynes was a "captain of the future" – not long term, given she is five years Lanning's elder, but for the unavoidable reality that sooner rather than later, Australia's regular skipper was going to be sidelined for a significant period due to her shoulder surgery. 


Haynes' 12-month journey from a NSW batter unsure of her future in cricket to Australia's captain for the Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes is a remarkable one. 

But to dismiss it as mere good fortune coming at the expense of injuries of others doesn't do justice to the years of toil she put in after learning she had lost her place in the Australian team back in early 2014. 

Until then, things had come relatively easily for the left-handed Melbourne-born batter.

After first picking up a cricket bat in the backyard as a child, Haynes quickly realised she'd found a sport she loved – and was very good at.

She had been selected to represent Victoria's Under-15s aged just 13 and from there, one underage state squad led to another before she was selected in Australia's Under-21s.

Her senior debut came for VicSpirit aged 19 during the 2005-06 WNCL season and although her maiden international appearance didn't materialise until July 2009, she could hardly have asked for a better setting when she walked out to bat for her country for the first time in a one-day international against England at Lord's.

Haynes received her Baggy Green just three days later and over the next four years she played three Tests, 33 ODIs and 27 T20Is for her country, scoring 1,177 runs across the three formats.

During that time she also captained Victoria to two titles in the Australian Women's T20 Cup – the predecessor to the Big Bash – in 2009-10 and 2010-11 before her relocation to the Breakers for the 2011-12 summer.

None of that prepared her for the news she'd lost her Australian contract in early 2014.

(L-R) Alyssa Healy, Nicole Bolton, Haynes and Ellyse Perry //
(L-R) Alyssa Healy, Nicole Bolton, Haynes and Ellyse Perry //

"I got dropped and up to that point, I don't think I'd ever experienced real adversity," Haynes said.

"Young athletes coming through, you're always achieving something – I always made the state team, I made VicSpirit, I made the Australian Under-21s, I had good seasons for Victoria and then I made the Australian team.

"I never though in the back of my mind that this could end. So when I did get dropped, it was so deflating.

"It was really difficult, because everything I'd ever known came to an abrupt halt."

But with it came a chance to re-evaluate. Haynes focused on life outside of cricket, finishing her university degree and finding full-time work.

"When I was younger, cricket meant so much to me, it was everything," she said. "And when I got dropped (from the Australian team) I was in the wilderness a little bit.

"I had to weigh up if it meant as much to me as I thought it did. Did I have everything outside (cricket) in my life I needed?

"It made me realise that being an athlete isn't the only thing that's important in life; even though it was such a big part of who I was, I needed to have balance away from it."

That maturity, level-headedness and poise are a large part of the reason Haynes has been singled out as the woman to lead Australia in the Ashes.

In many ways, she has been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time – both in terms of historic pay increases in women's cricket and team selection – but she's also worked incredibly hard to get back to that right place.

Now she can reap the benefits of life as a professional sportsperson.

"When I started playing, I never thought I would have the opportunity to be a full-time athlete," Haynes reflects.

"Now after 11 years at the elite level, I am finally a full-time athlete. The evolution has been huge.

"I was very fortunate that things fell into place. It doesn't often happen as an athlete.

"If I think about where I could be right now, it could be very different.

"I'm hugely excited about what lays ahead for the team and very honoured to have the opportunity to lead it."

Ashes Schedule

First ODI Allan Border Field, October 22

Brisbane Charity Partner: Lord Mayor's Charitable Trust

Second ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 26

Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29

Coffs Junior Cricket Association Partners: Coffs Harbour District JCA, Nambucca Bellingen JCA, and Clarence River JCA

Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12

First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17

North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation

Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19

Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21

Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT