Rising star strikes the right balance
Rachel Trenaman is regarded as 'one of the players to watch', but the humble hard-worker isn't letting it get to her head
Susie Giese joined CA Digital this summer as WBBL content producer having worked as a sports journalist in country Victoria for the past six years.
She may be only 16, but Rachel Trenaman appears to have already struck the perfect balance between confidence and humility.
It is just the right mix of traits for someone who is regarded as 'the next big thing' by those who cross her path. The optimism is certainly not unwarranted, given her rapid ascension through the pathways system.
By the time the first-year Sydney Thunder recruit was 12, she had already represented NSW at the School Sport Australia championships and in the Under-15 National Championships.
The next season, she was combining Under-15 commitments for ACT with playing at Under-18 level at the national championships.
This summer, she captained her ACT/NSW Country team at the championships – and she’s still got another two years that she'll qualify to play in the team.
She’s also a member of the inaugural Cricket Australia National Performance Squad - an eight-member group that also contains international representatives Tahlia McGrath and Belinda Vakarewa - and she was named in a CA XI to play England in a tour game ahead of the Women's Ashes in November.
This Sunday, the young allrounder will line up for the Lanning XII in the WBBL Under-18 Exhibition match.
"I'll end up playing 18s for five years in total," Trenaman told bigbash.com.au.
"I think I’m pretty used to it – in a lot of my teams, I'm the youngest. I think I'm one of the youngest in my under-18s country team … it's nothing out of the ordinary. Everyone treats me equally.
"I get a bit of stick from my teammates about how young I am. It started a couple of years ago and it's never really ended.
"I just take it in my stride: it's another competition and I really thrive off challenges and don't step back at all."
The friendly banter doesn't faze the talented teen, whose confidence at the crease oozes out in regular conversation about the game she loves.
With little on offer by way of women’s cricket in her home city of Wagga Wagga just yet, Trenaman has had to hone her craft playing predominantly against boys and men, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
From the earliest days of backyard cricket, playing against her cousins Jack and Max – both of whom likewise went through the state pathways program – to padding up for South Wagga and then Wagga City Cats, she has never been afraid of a challenge.
"I was playing it from a very young age – Dad is very sporty, he was actually originally a baseballer, and my mum was very athletic as well," Trenaman said.
"I didn't start playing competitively until I was eight or nine, so there was quite a big gap there. I started playing through school with boys. I still play a fair bit of men's cricket.
"The only time I get to play against women is either representative stuff or when I travel up to Sydney (with the Lendlease NSW Breakers). It's a good change of scenery, I guess, but playing against the men makes it a fair bit easier: your skills have to be a lot faster when you play against the guys, so it helps me a fair bit."
Now, she balances her commitments with the Cats, ACT/NSW Country, the Breakers and the Thunder, and has just completed Year 10 studies at Kooringal High School in Wagga.
As if that weren't enough, she was in a one-year accelerated maths class, and has already begun her HSC Mathematics Extension 1 studies. As she was preparing for the national championships, she also had the specter of major exams looming over her.
But the ever-pragmatic teenager had her schedule down pat.
"I'd get up early and do S&C (strength and conditioning) most days and then lots of skills stuff before I come back home and get my head into the books and study," Trenaman said.
"I'd love to go to uni, but also continue cricket, so they're pretty equal in my estimation.
"School is important, but so is cricket. You can go back to school later, but cricket you can only play for however long.
"I really hope to pursue both of those, but you just have to pick your priorities at the time, I guess."
The schedule didn't get much easier for her over summer, either, with a two-day turnaround between the end of the national championships and the first Rebel WBBL match for the summer.
She was a rookie last year before being offered a full contract for WBBL|03, and has yet to make her debut.
The Thunder sit on top of the ladder with just two regular season matches remaining and breaking into a winning XI is no easy task. But Trenaman is optimistic she'll be ready to rise to the challenge if a late opportunity does come her way.
"I think I'll be pretty stoked (if I debut) – I'm not really expecting it, just because it's such a good squad of 15 at Thunder," she says.
"If I do get the chance to debut, no doubt I'll step up and hopefully do my best. It'll be a pretty excellent experience."
Her first season with the Thunder proved an excellent learning opportunity, with the likes of captain Alex Blackwell on hand to talk all manner of tactics.
"But you don't even have to have conversations to pick stuff up," Trenaman says. "Just watching Harmanpreet Kaur in the nets and Stafanie Taylor, Rach Haynes – you just learn so much, just little technical things as well, it's just an amazing experience."
Soaking up knowledge from all available sources is habit for Trenaman. She says the excellence of the coaching staff at Wagga City Cats was a big factor in luring her across, particularly head coach Jonathon Nicholl.
From the earliest days, Trenaman excelled with the bat. She can recall, even when she was a toddler, her dad Scott instructing her to raise her elbow as she faced deliveries from Max and Jack in the backyard during family trips to her cousins' house just outside Wagga, back when she was growing up in Broken Hill.
She was able to take the advice on board even at a young age, and progressed in leaps and bounds.
On the fielding side of things, she started out as a wicketkeeper, willing to give anything ago and just enjoy playing. Her love for batting was constant throughout and to this day remains her dominant skill in her own estimation.
But along the way, she traded in the keepers' gloves to have a trundle with the ball.
Realising her pace bowling wasn't where she needed it to be, she took up leg-spin as she fleshed out her game as an allrounder.
"I made the transition from wicketkeeping to leg-psin bowling, which is a bit interesting, but I've stuck with it ever since," she said.
"My medium pace was a bit of a shocker, really, and I don't think I was having that much of a go with every other person in the team bowling length. So I thought I'd change it up a bit and just bowl some spin."
‘Just bowl some spin’ is quite the understatement from the humble teenager.
Trenaman has been recorded among the top players in the country for the revolutions she puts on the ball, and it’s that skill in particular which has CA high performance coach Leah Poulton comparing Trenaman to Australian leggie Amanda-Jade Wellington.
"Trenaman’s a leg-spinner who really rips them,” Poulton said. “In the skills testing we do, she’s in the top three of our bowlers who put the most revs on the ball, she gets a great deal of side spin.
“She’s similar to Amanda-Jade Wellington in some ways; Wello tosses it up more and puts it in the batter’s eyeline, whereas Rachel is flatter and quicker but they both put really big revs on the ball.”
Trenaman was among six teenagers to earn a state contract with NSW Breakers in the 50-over Women’s National Cricket League this summer and, true to form, was the youngest in the group of new faces.
Her Thunder and Breakers coach Jo Broadbent says the former Thunder Rookie impressed her in her first season with the team.
Such was her presence in the group, there were times when the Thunder leader thought she had a 16th player on her list.
And from the outset, she has impressed her coach with her attitude and diligence to improve her game.
“She’s so level-headed,” Broadbent said. “The attitude she has in life – if you met her parents, you’d know exactly where she gets her values from.
“She’s just such a hard worker. We’ve been coaching her in a decentralised program, we’ve had a spin coach and a batting coach that she’s been working with.
“But the minute she gets to Sydney, she’s touching base with the nutrionist, the sports psych, the welfare and the coaches and basically having sessions when she’s down and coordinating that without even being prompted.
“It’s like, ‘Here’s your resources’, and she’s like, ‘Righto, I’m using every one of them!’.”