Darke a bright spark for Sydney Sixers
From fan to teammate, Maddy Darke ticked off a major milestone when she made her Rebel WBBL debut on Friday night
19 October 2019, 10:00 AM AEST
The first time Maddy Darke met Alyssa Healy, she was a cricket-mad teenager leaning over the fence for a selfie following a Sydney Sixers match.
Darke is still a cricket-mad teenager, but with one key difference: this summer, she is a Sydney Sixer, and Healy is her teammate.
At 18, Darke is rapidly racking up some major achievements and fittingly, it was Healy who presented Darke with her cap ahead of her Big Bash debut under lights at North Sydney Oval on Friday night.
She then provided perhaps the most dramatic moment of the season opener when she came to the crease in the final over of the Sixers' innings; running for a quick single off the first ball she faced, Darke slipped and fell, clutching at her foot.
She was attended to by the Sixers physio – understandably concerned with the teenager only recently recovering from stress fractures in her foot – but she regained her feet and continued her innings, finishing with two runs from two deliveries faced, and later picked up a catch in what was a dominant victory for the magenta team.
As a wicketkeeper-batter, not to mention a dyed-in-the-wool Sixers fan, Darke can’t imagine a better Rebel WBBL home than the Sixers, where she’ll be in a perfect position to learn from Australia star Healy.
"I was pretty stoked when Benny (Sawyer) rang me earlier this year," Darke told cricket.com.au of the phone call from the Sixers coach which changed her life.
"She’ll be the best to learn off, Alyssa Healy. I’m hoping to take little bits and pieces about how she approaches her batting and wicketkeeping.
"When I first met the girls I was a bit starstruck, so to be in a dressing room now with them is a bit surreal, really."
It’s the latest step in what’s been a breakthrough year for Darke.
She spent valuable weeks at the Bupa National Cricket Centre through the winter as part of the National Performance Squad – a group of players earmarked for higher honours – before earning what she described as a “shock” call-up for Australia A’s tour of the United Kingdom in July, brought into the squad as an injury replacement for Victorian Annabel Sutherland.
"That was a really fantastic experience," Darke said. "There are a lot of girls in that team who have played for Australia or who are there or thereabouts, so to be able to mix with them, I think that took my game to a higher standard.
"That little taste (of overseas touring) definitely motives me as well, it was a really fun tour."
Darke is one of five teenagers in the Sixers’ 15-player squad, and one Healy is looking forward to working with.
"It’s a bit scary (being a mentor) because I’m not always the best at doing things properly, so it’ll be a nice test for me to make sure I’m doing everything to the best of my ability in training and at games to make sure I’m teaching her the right thing to do," Healy told cricket.com.au.
"Maddy’s already incredible, she’s got a great work ethic and she trains the house down, so no doubt she’ll be showing me how to do that.
"I’ve never really been the old girl in any team I’ve been part of, so it’s starting to become a bit surreal that I’m older than the rest of them.
"I hope I can give (the teenagers) a bit of perspective. Showing them you can have a bit of fun alongside playing will be important."
Darke first found her way into cricket when she was seven years old. She played soccer in the winter and when summer arrived, she naturally followed her teammates – all boys – to Easts Cricket Club.
She quickly discovered a love for ‘keeping - "I just like being in the action, I really enjoyed it from the start because you’re in the game all the time" – and once her talent was spotted, she made her way through the NSW pathway.
Easts recently received a $12,100 grant from the NSW Government ICC T20 World Cup 2020 Cricket Legacy Fund, which will be put towards its Girls Cricket Program to encourage more girls to take up the sport.
"They’ve got a junior academy which they’re launching this year, which is really exciting, with the aim in a few years to have an Easts women’s team," Darke said.
"There aren’t too many girls (playing) there at the minute so it’d be great to get some more numbers."