Australian Cricket Awards
True pioneer: Tredrea's Hall of Fame career
World Cup winning captain, fierce competitor and ferocious fast bowler honoured by Cricket Australia
It's a moment of heroic Ashes courage that deserves its place alongside those instantly recognisable images of Rick McCosker re-entering the Centenary Test with his head swaddled in bandages, and Steve Smith emerging defiant through the Lord's Long Room after being felled last year.
But Sharon Tredrea's stoic refusal to succumb to frightful injury reflected her quietly humble character as sharply as it encapsulated her fiercely competitive nature, the defining traits of a remarkable career that is celebrated today with her induction to the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.
The opening Test of England's 1984-85 tour to Australia was supposed to mark the pinnacle of the then 30-year-old's fabled playing days.
Tredrea had garnered fear and respect as the women's game's fastest bowler, and captained her team to their second consecutive World Cup triumph in New Zealand two years earlier.
Yet there remained a burning hole in her ambition.
She had never experienced the thrill of defeating 'the old enemy' in Test matches on Australia's home turf – England had not toured down under for 15 years – and despite having stood out of the preceding campaign in India, Tredrea had been reinstated as skipper.
On a WACA Ground pitch that is supposed to favour quicks, Tredrea's first 19 overs yielded just 44 runs and the wicket of England opener Megan Lear before she felt something snap in her right heel.
Australia wicketkeeper Christina Matthews, playing in her first Test under the captaincy of her Victoria teammate, remembers the moment the severity of Tredrea's injury became apparent.
"I was next to her on the field after it happened, she was fielding in slips near me and she couldn't move," Matthews recalled.
"She'd torn her Achilles tendon, but she wouldn't go off the field.
"She said, 'I'll just keep going until lunch and I'll see how I go after that'.
"She was such an incredibly tough competitor who didn't want to inconvenience her team."
When it became obvious her condition could not be fixed with a couple of painkillers and a vigorous massage, Tredrea hobbled from the field and out of the series she had yearned to play since taking up cricket as a teenager.
In light of her age, the toll that a decade of fast bowling had taken on her body, and her increasingly urgent need for financial security in the paid workforce away from cricket, it was widely assumed her days as an on-field force were also irretrievably hobbled.
But those who prematurely penned career obituaries knew little of the steel in Sharon Tredrea.
The carefully planned suburban blocks of Reservoir in Melbourne's blue-collar northern suburbs have proved fertile sporting soil, mostly benefitting Australian Football League powerhouse club Collingwood.
Gun full-forward Peter McKenna, Brownlow Medallist Len Thompson, brothers Saverio and Anthony Rocca along with the dynastic Shaw clan (premiership captain Tony and his brother Ray, plus his sons Rhyce and Heath) all honed their skills in after-school street games.
But the Tredrea household was different, not only because they were staunch supporters of Collingwood's arch-foes, Carlton.
While Gary Tredrea would test his family's loyalty by playing for Collingwood (and later Port Adelaide), it was his sisters' presence in the childhood football and cricket contests that would deliver Australia far greater rewards on the global sporting stage.
Their older brother, Norman, might have eschewed sport in favour of indoor pursuits such as stamp collecting, but the younger Tredrea kids were obsessed by ball games and athletics contests.
In the interests of safety and domestic harmony, their father – a gardener by trade – sacrificed a section of his beloved vegetable patch to prepare a cricket pitch in the backyard of the family home.
"It ran tight along the back fence, so we could only run in from one side and had to bowl left-handed at my brother to make it work," Sharon told cricket.com.au.
"As a result, we could never get him out.
"But once we got to play out the front of the house, then we could bowl right-handed and that became more of a contest."
Of greater consequence was the story her father found in their suburban newspaper, Preston Post, around the time Sharon started at Reservoir High School.
The local women's club was looking for players and he showed the article to his eldest daughter, whose organised sport schedule revolved around netball in winter, track and field events at school and the occasional games of the curious tennis-softball hybrid vigoro ("a horrible sport" as she laughingly recalls).
Until that time, Tredrea had no clue that women played competitive cricket and when she presented for her first training session with Preston the coach was surprised to find they had unearthed a quietly spoken teenager whose forte was gently floating leg-spin, and was obsessed by fielding.
Tredrea can't remember when or how she evolved into a fearsome fast bowler, but reckons it came about due to team requirements or perhaps her own desire to be in the action from the outset, given her batting skills saw her initially languish at number eleven.
What remains pin sharp in her memory is that she had discovered the perfect outlet for her athletic and competitive passions.
"I had loved cricket even before I started playing it as a structured sport," she said.
"But once I started playing competition, I knew that's what I wanted to do."
Tredrea's progress through Victoria's women's cricket ranks was as rapid and relentless as her bowling.
By age 15 she had won selection in the state under-21 team where she became a fixture for a couple of years until, at 18, she was named in the state senior team headed for the 1973 national championships.
That annual carnival carried extra piquancy given it also served as selection trials for the inaugural women's one-day World Cup to be played in the UK later that year, an event that pre-dated the men's equivalent due largely to the vision and influence of England captain Rachel Heyhoe-Flint.
Not that Tredrea took any expectation of national representation with her on that trip, her intention being to learn as much as she could from her vastly more experienced teammates and opponents.
It became immediately obvious, however, that the Victoria brains trust saw her as a weapon capable of peppering their bitter rivals New South Wales with searing pace bowling, after they had been on the end of rough treatment from the Blues' quicks during previous title fights.
"Just recently one of my former teammates said, 'I'll never forget that first tournament, we were all standing there in the field telling you to give it to them'," Tredrea recalls.
It wasn't only those on the field playing with and against her whose attention was pricked.
As was the tradition, at carnival's end the players gathered over drinks and a barbecue dinner as presentations were made and the touring party for the hugely awaited World Cup was announced, with names read aloud in alphabetical order.
True to her reticent nature, Tredrea had retired to a back corner of the clubhouse with a soft drink and was paying no attention to the formalities until fellow players began milling around her to administer congratulations.
"I went along to that championship thinking, 'Well, they have a lot of good players and they're all anxious about getting picked for England, so I'll be the one carrying the drinks and getting some experience', because I was so much younger than everyone else," she said.
"Lo and behold, I played every game which surprised me, but I thought, 'Oh well, I'll go with it'.
"The previous England tour had been almost 10 years earlier, that's how far apart the international series were in those days, which meant the World Cup was a really big thing.
"So for a little upstart like me just to play one tournament and get selected, I think that might have upset a few.
"Then, at the end when everybody's jumped up and down and slapped me on the back and said, 'You're in the team', I was like, 'You're kidding me' – I wasn't even listening because I didn't think I would even be considered.
"As that sunk in, I suddenly started thinking, 'How am I going to afford it?' because in those days you had to pay for everything – playing uniforms, travel outfits, cricket gear, airfares to get to England.
"But my club was amazing.
"They got together and hosted this huge dinner-dance event and raised enough money to help me get there to the World Cup, for which I'll always be indebted."
It's hardly surprising that many of Tredrea's fondest memories, and closest friendships, remain rooted in the tightly knit structure of Melbourne's club cricket.
The first-ever World Cup proved a triumph for Heyhoe-Flint's England who thumped Australia by 92 runs in the title decider at Edgbaston – "we played probably our worst game in the final", Tredrea offers – and a pivotal moment for the promising fast bowler, who had just turned 19.
Prior to embarking on a three-week post-tournament campervan trek around Europe with a group of her teammates, Tredrea was summoned to a de-brief with her captain Miriam Knee who suggested her young spearhead might benefit from having a specialist coach back home in Melbourne.
The mentor Knee had in mind was her own trusted technical adviser, former fast bowler Nell McLarty, who had been part of the historic first Test against England at the Gabba in 1934 and the Australia women's team's first tour to the UK three years later.
McLarty had been forced into retirement by the muscular-skeleto condition spondylitis that left her body almost doubled-over by the time Tredrea joined the select group of elite and club-level players under her coaching tuition.
But it was that professional partnership and enduring bond that took the teenager to the top of the global women's game, and fundamentally changed her life.
As her career progressed, and even after she stopped playing, Tredrea would visit McLarty at her South Melbourne home and watch televised Test matches in silent reverence, not being so presumptuous as to speak until her coach kicked off a conversation with an observation of what was happening on-screen.
Despite her physical limitations, McLarty ran her weekly 7am Sunday morning coaching sessions with almost-military oversight, ensuring each player batted for a full 30 minutes and everyone bowled at the peak of their ability for the duration of the drills.
"Nell had a very astute eye - in fact she had eyes in the back of her head, you couldn't get away with anything," Tredrea laughs.
"She didn't try to change you too much if you were a bit different, she just made sure everything tightened up and she took my bowling to another level.
"She was a huge influence on me, and not just with cricket.
"She had a philosophy on life that was amazing.
"For someone who had such a debilitating condition, she would stand there for hours behind the nets but she just had a very positive attitude to life and was an incredibly gentle person.
"Her mantra was, 'Prepare the best you can because the better you prepare yourself, the more you can give to your team', and that always stayed with me."
It would also form the foundation of the professional approach Tredrea set about instilling in her growing, but still starkly amateur sport.
In preparation for Australia's 1976 Test tour to the UK, Tredrea and a handful of her Victoria teammates, including close friend Raelee Thompson and national skipper Marg Jennings, undertook training sessions with the North Melbourne men's grade cricket team.
"The only problem with that was, if I bowled quick at them they were allowed to bowl quick at me," Tredrea said.
"So I copped a few bruises … but I gave some out as well."
The more that Tredrea championed perfect preparation, the greater success teams of which she was a part began to enjoy.
Australia lifted the World Cup at their second attempt in 1978, after Tredrea tore through England's batting to claim 4-25 in the final match where her younger sister, Janette, also scored an unbeaten 37 in the successful run chase.
She had already introduced a regimented fitness program into training with her Victoria colleagues, which she admits did not make her overly popular at times, and her growing role as an on-field leader coincided with a period of upheaval in the women's game.
Despite leading Australia on their triumphant 1978 World Cup campaign in India, Jennings' form with bat and keeping gloves saw her under pressure to maintain her place from irrepressible youngster Julie Robinson, and Tredrea was told she was in line to take over the captaincy.
As a growing number of young players were pushing for berths in the national line-up, selectors wanted to send a new-look team to the 1978-79 Tests in New Zealand and the subsequent World Cup also being contested across the Tasman three years hence.
"I had been vice-captain when we went to India for the World Cup, and that was great because I Iearned a lot from Marg and I was really looking forward to playing a whole lot of years under her, but it wasn't to be," Tredrea said.
Even though she was an unwilling captain who preferred leading by example rather than relying on "a lot of chatter", she formed a strong on-field alliance with Thompson and led the team to the 1982 World Cup crown in New Zealand.
But the physical stress of fast bowling was already starting to take a toll on her body.
"Probably around 1973-79 was the period in my career when I bowled my quickest," she recalled of the time she was widely rated the world's fastest female bowler.
"Then I started getting a couple of injuries, and by the time we played the World Cup in New Zealand I was still opening the bowling, but I wasn't as quick."
Christina Matthews saw enough of Tredrea in action – both with bat in hand, and with keepers' gloves on for protection – to know the threat she posed.
"She was an unbelievably quick bowler, but she was an allrounder – a fantastic, strong dominating bat as well as the fastest woman in the world at the time," Matthews told cricket.com.au.
"She was fiercely competitive, but she's also incredibly shy, which is unusual for a fast bowler.
"It was tough playing in those days.
"There was no sports science, there was nobody looking after you, and if you got an injury you had to work it out yourself.
"Your body, particularly for somebody like her, went through hell and it probably shortened people's careers.
"To me, she was the benchmark of what a tough, hard cricketer was.
"Even if you were in a team with her you didn't really get to know her unless you were one of her close friends.
"But you knew what was expected of you, and she would have died on the field."
It wasn't only rival batters in peril when Tredrea took the ball.
During a Test match in England, as Australia pushed desperately for a win on the final day, Tredrea let go a fast outswinger that took the edge of her quarry's bat but flew so quickly to slip that Raelee Thompson could only instinctively throw out one hand as the ball smashed into her little finger.
"She was in agony and had to go off the field, where the team manageress brought her a brandy because she was shaking like a leaf," Tredrea recalls.
"The manageress than said to the twelfth, 'Can you go and get some ice', so Patsy May came back … and put the ice in the brandy!
"It was meant to be for her finger, but Raelee had to undergo surgery to fix the fracture and that was the end of her tour."
By 1984, Australia's women's cricketers were involved in an international series – whether Test and/or ODIs – every year.
While the increased scheduling made for greater exposure and opportunities, it also took a harsher physical and financial toll on Tredrea who had relied on the benevolence of her employer, the State Bank of Victoria, to continue playing amateur sport at an elite level.
The bank job was a key component of Tredrea's trade-off with her father when she began pursuing a serious cricket career.
Her dad was mindful that she had an employment option to fall back upon should the sporting dream not work out or be ended prematurely, and he wanted her to supplement that paid work with additional study.
Having undertaken various promotional roles in addition to administrative bank work, in 1985 Tredrea was offered a position within the organisation's treasury structure which opened up to her the world of investment advice and financial planning.
It also meant, as she entered her 30s and continued her lengthy rehabilitation from the Achilles injury, she needed to take stock of her own pecuniary position.
"It was getting harder to do all the things," she said. "At some point reality kicks in and I was getting towards the end of my career.
"I knew I had to make a choice, and I chose to take the work path which I don't regret because it opened up some amazing opportunities for me."
As a consequence, she opted out of Australia's 1987 Test tour to the UK despite having recovered full fitness, but the pain of having ended that previous home series against England in the medical room rather than on the victory dais refused to subside.
So rather than disappear into full retirement nursing a sense of "unfinished business", Tredrea had a quiet chat to the women's team then-coach Peter Bakker to gauge if there was any point in her targeting a comeback for the 1988 World Cup tournament in Australia.
"He said 'go for it'," she recalls of that campaign, which Australia won thereby allowing her to bow out in the final that was her one and only appearance on her spiritual home turf, the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
"So I got myself fit, had a lot of support from the people I worked with and had one last fling.
"And that was it – I'd satisfied my competitive streak."
After devoting so much of her young adult life to cricket, Tredrea threw herself just as single-mindedly into her post-playing career in the financial industry.
Following the State Bank's sale in 1990, she joined an accounting firm where she and a business partner established a financial planning entity before she branched out within the business as a self-managed superannuation fund specialist.
Apart from brief roles in coaching and selection with her club team, which became Preston-Richmond, she maintained little direct connection with cricket other than as an occasional spectator.
Then a decade ago, as she battled professional fatigue and an ailing body, she moved to Apollo Bay on Victoria's renowned Great Ocean Road and settled happily into quiet retirement, with her only sporting commitments being semi-regular city visits to watch Carlton's AFL matches, as well as Melbourne Storm games in the National Rugby League competition, which she attends with her former fast-bowling partner and dear friend, Raelee Thompson.
Tredrea has also been in the crowd at a few women's cricket internationals in recent years, and while she is delighted by the game's fully professional stature and the skills and athleticism on show, she feels no pangs of envy from having played in a less financially secure era of far fewer fixtures.
"I don't think the players were any less professional back then, in the way we prepared and played," she said.
"The only problem was you couldn't play for as long because there was always pressures with money and family, marriage and kids.
"But I wouldn't want to be playing now.
"There was so much more to the tours that we went on, that they don't have now."
In particular, she remembers fondly the days and weeks in between Tests in the UK, New Zealand and the West Indies when the Australian players were billeted to stay with local families to reduce the accommodation costs incurred by the hosting country.
While acknowledging that the then-team manager Lorna Thomas "must have had kittens every time we were billeted out", the friendships that grew from those interactions and the stories they spawned remain a greater source of reflective sustenance than most of her on-field deeds.
Tredrea's blue eyes sparkle as she recalls the post-Test match celebrations during the 1976 tour of England that continued so long that many members of the touring party were still very much worse for wear when they fronted for a match against county team Surrey the next morning.
In an act of managerial retribution, it was decided the two women nursing the most debilitating hangovers – Tredrea's younger sister Jan, and 17-year-old reserve keeper Julie Robinson (later Julie Stockton) – would be forced to open the batting.
"Wouldn't you know it, they both made hundreds and no matter what they did after that to try and get out, they couldn't," Tredrea remembers through shrieks of laughter.
"Jan said later it was probably the best innings she had for the whole tour.
"She was the naturally talented sportsperson of the family – poor Gary and I had to work our butts off."
Those memories, of a time when sport was a love more than a livelihood and non-playing days offered more than a visit to a nearby coffee shop and the uploading of some social media content, have proved a profound source of solace during some dark days of late.
This summer, for the first time since she left Melbourne for her surf-coast sea-change, Sharon Tredrea became involved in organised cricket once again.
She claims she was initially coerced into helping out with the Apollo Bay under-14s, and even though she struggled to come to grips with some of the modified rules now employed in junior competitions, she hopes to be more actively involved next summer.
But her availability this season was impacted by her commitment to another 'final fling', this time for her friend Tammy Foster who she came to know through the Victoria club cricket scene during the final years of her decorated playing career.
Foster – whose death last month so deeply affected Glenn Maxwell he was unable to captain Melbourne Stars in a Big Bash League fixture soon after her passing – had always wanted to take a road trip from Melbourne to Perth, a 3,500km journey across the Nullarbor Plain.
So she and Tredrea, along with another friend Karen Harris set off last September, for the trip of a lifetime that featured tackling the golf course that stretches more than 1,350km along the route, with each of the 18 holes at various roadside stopping points between Ceduna and Kalgoorlie.
"The fun really began when Tammy pulled out a cricket bat," Tredrea remembered.
"In fact, the best shot I played for the entire road trip was when I pulled a golf ball and landed it on the green.
"We had some very funny times on the golf course waiting for the cattle and emus to get off the greens, and so many other moments at little roadhouses where we stopped along the way.
"Tammy had insisted on the playlists, so I painstakingly came up with 200 songs – we all had them – but we didn't play one bit of music for the whole trip.
"We were just talking, laughing, and reminiscing because even though they came along in the last few years of my time playing cricket, age makes no difference in that environment.
"We reconnected over time, so they invited me along for the road trip and we had a ball."
Within weeks of the trio's return to Victoria, Foster was admitted to hospital due to the spread of her cancer and she remained there – apart from a brief visit home around Christmas – until her final days, which were mostly spent laughing with friends at shared cricket-related memories.
It was shortly before she embarked on the epic Nullarbor adventure that Tredrea first received messages about this evening's formal Hall of Fame induction at the Australian Cricket Awards in Melbourne.
At first, she ignored the requests to return calls but when she eventually rang back, it took some convincing from Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer Kevin Roberts that she was not the victim of an elaborate prank.
"He wanted to congratulate me, and I said to him, 'Is this for real?' and was about to hang up and he was saying, 'Don't, don't – it's for real'," she recounts.
"It was the last thing I would have thought of.
"I've seen other people being inducted and thought, 'Gee, that's really something'.
"It's an amazing honour, I never thought it would be something that would be bestowed on me because it's a personal award and I'm more a team person.
"But being in the Hall of Fame is something that goes on forever, so the family – nephews (including former Port Adelaide premiership captain Warren Tredrea) and nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces, there's thousands of them – can probably relate to it down the track.
"It's a weird feeling, maybe because I've come from an era that nobody was really that au fait with in terms of cricket.
"So I hope there are more people from my era that get the same recognition, because it's not just about the current-day players.
"There's a lot of people who have come before them and have paved the way for what's happening now."
As one of Tredrea's latter-career contemporaries who – as current Chief Executive of the WA Cricket Association – has been at the forefront of evolution in the women's game from amateur roots to professional powerhouse, Christina Matthews is acutely aware of those who most brightly blazed that trail.
And she attests that her former Australia teammate – who quietly refused to leave the field of play despite being rendered immobile by serious injury during a crucial Ashes Test match – shines more brilliantly than many.
"She's one of those players in the annals of the game's history who, on paper, is acknowledged as one of the greats," Matthews said.
"But I don't know that we pay her due respect for what she did for the game.
"She was the poster girl who went, 'You know what – women can bowl fast, women can be ferocious and be fiercely competitive'.
"So I think she was one of the true pioneers of the game."