Women's Ashes ODIs
New school of thought brings balance for Jonassen
The England squad isn't the only thing Jess Jonassen has been studying in the lead-up to the Ashes, and the spinner is all the better for it
13 June 2019, 01:59 PM AEST
When Jess Jonassen packs her bags for Australia’s tour of the United Kingdom later this month, she’ll be throwing in more than just the usual bats, pads and gloves – she’ll also be adding a few textbooks.
The left-arm spinner, who already has a law degree under her belt, has recently started a graduate certificate in forensic mental health.
For a player with a penchant for reading crime novels on tour, this degree seems to be the perfect accompaniment for her earlier studies.
But it’s more than that - it’s also helping the 26-year-old Queenslander ensure she remains balanced – mentally, physically and emotionally – as she moves on from a challenging summer, and as Australia enter their busiest ever year.
"It sounds really complex and really cool but it’s really just learning about different mental disorders and psychology, and criminal behaviour and how mental disorders might impact that," Jonassen explained to cricket.com.au.
"It’s interesting, I’ve enjoyed it. I just wanted to try and add something else to the degree that I already had and just felt like I was ready to go and do some more study again.
"I didn't really want to do a full bachelor’s degree in psychology, so it’s the next best thing.
"It’s going to take me a year part-time and it’s just nice to have something different to focus on outside of cricket and training again."
This decision to return to study has its roots in the early stages of the 2018-19 season, a summer that began on the worst possible note for Jonassen when an innocuous mishap during a training camp in September resulted in knee surgery – the fourth time she’s had her troublesome knees operated on.
The dedication she showed to her recovery ensured she joined her Australian teammates for the tail end of their tour of Malaysia in October and flew with them to the Caribbean for November’s T20 World Cup.
But after the strong form shown by fellow left-arm spinner Sophie Molineux in her absence, Jonassen was unable to break back into Australia’s best XI during their successful campaign and it left her in the unfamiliar position of having to carry drinks through the four-week tournament.
Jonassen, like any of her fellow squad members, is fully aware of just how hard it is to break into the world’s best team and her dismay at sitting on the sidelines shouldn’t be confused for resentment.
But it was tough and Jonassen found herself in some – in her words - "dark places" during that tour.
It wasn’t the first time Jonassen has grappled with her mental health over the years, and finding herself feeling out of sorts, out of place, and isolated – about as far away from Australia as she possibly could get – only added to the strain.
“For a long period of time I was in the squad and I’d found ways to contribute on the field, so to find myself in a different (role), it took a little bit for me - not to get used to it – but to find other ways to contribute to the team’s success," Jonassen explained earlier this year.
That experience is what prompted Jonassen to return to studying for the first time since finishing her law degree in 2015, despite the packed schedule ahead.
Having tried focusing solely on cricket since completing her studies – a milestone that tied in perfectly with the Australian players becoming fully professional – she’s now realised it’s not a lifestyle that works for her.
"I’ve learnt I always need to be doing something outside of cricket. I’ve always been like that, even growing up and playing junior cricket I was always pretty heavily into school as well,” Jonassen said.
"It’s just been part of my lifestyle for so long, that when I didn’t have that I just consumed myself all in the one space, it wasn’t really healthy for me.
"So it’s an easy way to get some balance back… and at the same time there's a little bit of psychology stuff in there as well, so it’s helping me better understand different types of people and understand myself as well.
"I’ve always been interested in why people work the way they do so this is one way of figuring that out."
Australia fly out for the United Kingdom next week, beginning a nine-month period that will also see them travel to the Caribbean for a bilateral series, host Sri Lanka, feature in the first standalone edition of the Rebel WBBL and meet England and India in a T20I tri-series, all before defending their the T20 World Cup title on home soil next February and March.
It’s a demanding schedule and one that will again see Jonassen and her teammates on the road, away from their loved ones, for extended periods of time.
But after taking time to reflect on the struggles of last year, Jonassen’s now confident she’s better equipped to adjust if she finds herself in a similar situation in the future.
"Every day for me I'm still learning about myself and learning different things and the big thing for me is learning how to cope with things if it doesn't necessarily go your way, you’re never going to have things go your way all the time," she said.
"But it’s a matter of being able to find ways to bounce back from that or being able to prioritise different things or focus on different things that are going to have a positive impact on yourself and the people around you.
"I think being able to just focus on me and what's going to make me happy or what's going to be the best thing for me, that's been a massive thing going forward… not doing that in a selfish way but (acknowledging) I'm the only one that can make me happy and you need to be happy within yourself before you can be happy in other areas of your life."
Jonassen’s also learned to rely on the support of her on-the-road family: her teammates.
"That’s when the biggest test is, when you're away from your normal support networks… that's when you have to lean on the support that you get within the system and the friends that you make there as well, so even though you're away from loved ones, you're still a part of a different kind of family," she said.
"That's a sign of a strong team, I think, when you're there for each other. You know that everyone struggles at some time and being able to recognise that and pick each other up, even if it’s just a matter going for a coffee… having those relationships that are more than just cricket, I think that's something that our group does really well."
Fortunately for Jonassen, her summer would only go up from those low points of knee surgery and time out of the playing XI: she was part of the Brisbane Heat team that took out the Rebel WBBL|04 title before taking player-of-the-series honours in Australia’s ODI cleansweep against New Zealand, turning to the playing XI in emphatic fashion with nine wickets in three games.
After a six-week break at home at the end of the season that granted Jonassen precious downtime with family, friends, new puppy Alfie and fiancé Sarah – wedding planning for their May 2020 nuptials a priority, given how much time the Australian team is spending on the road between now and then – Jonassen says she’s in a much better place than she was midway through the 2018-19 summer.
Now, she’s focusing on making sure she is primed for her second multi-format Ashes campaign in the United Kingdom.
She has fond memories of her last trip in 2015, when Australia won back the coveted trophy on English soil for the first time since 2001.
It includes her 99 on Test debut in Canterbury, while she memorably took the winning catch as Australia somehow, against the odds, defended 107 in a T20I in Hove to seal the series.
"It was such a long time ago and so many things have changed but I always enjoy going over and playing there," she said.
"It will be interesting to see how things will go, especially with the men's World Cup over there, and us being there as well as the men’s Ashes.
"Hopefully there can be a bit of turn in the wickets so I can hopefully have some more good memories over there."
CommBank Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
June 26: England Academy v Australia, Loughborough
June 28: England Academy v Australia, Loughborough
July 2: First ODI, Grace Road, Leicester
July 11-13: England Academy v Australia, Marlborough College, Swindon
July 18-21: Only Test, The County Ground, Taunton
July 26: First T20, County Ground, Chelmsford
July 28: Second T20, The County Ground, Hove
A Test victory is worth four points (two each for a draw), two points are awarded for ODI and T20 wins