Hurricanes bowler Katelyn Fryett is young to be a veteran.
At just 25 years old, she shares a special honour of being one of three original Tasmanian Roar Women’s National Cricket League players still going around in the state team – and it’s one she will hold for a long while yet.
The pace bowler, along with current teammates Emma Thompson and Veronica Pyke, was among the pioneers as the Roar stepped up into the WNCL for the first time in 2009.
Fryett was just 17 at the time – Thompson just a couple of years older, while Pyke, at 28, was an established cricketer by that stage.
The first season was very much about the newest addition finding its feet in the national competition, but there were some big strides forward.
“The first game, we played ACT at Manuka Oval – unfortunately we didn’t win that game, but obviously that was a big milestone for us to be included and playing in the WNCL,” Fryett said.
“Our first win was actually in Launceston, at the NTCA ground – so pretty much my hometown.
“We beat South Australia, who had a strong team at the time. They had people like Shelley Nitschke, Karen Rolton playing – I think Megan Schutt would’ve been playing then too, as a young girl – a 17-year-old.
“That was our first win, that was pretty memorable, especially for me, because my family were there: my nan and my godparents and mum and dad. That was a pretty special part and I think that it showed that we were able to be competitive with the other states.”
The location of the first win could not have been any more perfect for Fryett.
Launceston was just half an hour from her hometown, Bracknell – a tiny rural town of fewer than 400 people, en route to the idyllic Liffey Falls, and just 15 minutes down the road from Melbourne Stars captain Kristen Beams’ home, in the small farming community of Bishopsbourne.
Her primary school boasted about 90 students, but, most importantly for Fryett, it was where her cricket started.
She played for the school team, before lining up with the local under-16 boys’ team with her younger brother Brad. It was the same club her dad and uncle were involved with and was the ideal launching pad for her junior career.
“There were not as many opportunities for young females to play in all-female competitions at that stage,” Fryett said.
“It was pretty much just playing with the boys on Saturday morning, and I played in the country gold championships, which is a representative primary schools cup, and that was also with the boys.
“Sasha Moloney, who is also one of the WBBL players, was in that as well. She and I were two of the girls who played in separate teams.”
Fryett’s eventual path to becoming a bowler may well have stemmed from her backyard cricket days. As a batter who loved nothing more than taking a big swing at any delivery sent her way, she was often the victim of the time-honoured ‘over the fence and out’ rule, forcing her into long periods of bowling to her brother Brad.
“My younger brother was a batter … we had a pitch in the backyard and I would bowl to him a lot,” she recalls with a laugh.
“We had the rule ‘over the fence and out’, and I used to do that early in the innings, and then he was quite a technically-correct batter, a top-order batter, and he’d block it out a lot. And then I ended up bowling at him the whole time.”
Fryett enjoyed playing alongside the boys through her junior years, and soon realised she had the talent to take her cricket further.
Beams, who worked for Cricket Tasmania at the time and was coach of a few of the representative teams, recruited Fryett to play for a northern representative team, along with her cousin Natalie Shelton.
“It wasn’t unknown for girls to play cricket at that time – it certainly wasn’t as common as it is now, but there were a few people from my area that were playing,” Fryett said.
Her representative career took off from there, and by the time she was 14, she had already been selected to represent her state in the 2006 Under-19 National Championships.
Fortunately, the tournament was played in Hobart, easing the pressure of travel for the Bracknell local. But far from being intimidated as a bottom-aged teenager taking on young adults, she took the series in her stride, feeling there was little pressure on her to perform.
“I just treated it exactly the same as playing against the under-16 boys on a Saturday,” she said. “I didn’t have any expectation, so I just would run in and bowl and try to bowl as fast as I could, and I batted down the order.
“But it was a good opportunity and my cousin was playing in that team as well, and a lot of the girls that I’d played cricket with, so it was a fun time to be involved as well. I have a lot of good memories of playing underage cricket for Tasmania.”
Junior opportunities were scarce for Fryett and her contemporaries, compared to what is on offer for girls coming through the system today. She would often find herself having to play in older age groups, and the difference being able to play against cricketers her own age made was cast in sharp relief in her final year of the under-17 championships.
“I got to captain an under-17 state team when I was the top age, and I found that was really helpful for my development,” she said. “Rather than playing always against older players, it was playing against your benchmark in the country.
“That was a really helpful tournament for me and I think the girls coming through today are so lucky, because they’ve got under 13s playing national carnivals. You’ve got 13s, 15s, 18s – so to have eight years of state cricket under your belt, I think it sets people up really well to make that transition into a national league at the top level in Australia, the WNCL or WBBL, because you’ve been playing against those kind of players the whole way through.
“They are really lucky how much cricket they’ve got and then every summer they get to test themselves against the best girls in their age group across Australia.”
Being among the youngest players in a team would become habit for Fryett early in her elite cricket career, lining up for the Roar in the CA Cup – before its promotion to the WNCL – when she was in her mid-teens, before making her WNCL debut at 17.
Current Tasmania Roar and Hobart Hurricanes coach Julia Price, who first made her way down to the Apple Isle to help out the team as it made its foray into the national competition, was impressed by the skillful teenaged Fryett she met then, and has become ever more so in the years since.
“Katelyn is just a natural athlete,” Price said. “She probably didn’t realise that for a long time.
“She was just one of those players who just relied on that natural ability, and probably didn’t have to work too hard to be successful.
“But the way that the game has improved and the professionalism down here in Tasmania, there was a bit of a choice for her, whether she continued just to cruise along and rely on that natural ability, or really dig in and try to improve her game, and she’s really done brilliantly.”
A trip to Ireland over the Australia winter last year did its bit to help her game.
She received the Adam Gilchrist Cricket Scholarship through the Lords Taverners to play overseas.
“They were fantastic in finding me a place to play and extremely supportive during my time in Ireland,” Fryett said.
“The support of the scholarship and Lords Taverners made it very easy to enjoy my time in Ireland and get the most out of my cricket.”
Price said the benefits of the trip are clear to see with Fryett, highlighting the time she spent working on her technique and improving her variations.