Penna pushes past pain to make whirlwind entrance
Not on a roster just days out from the start of WBBL05, Madeline Penna, an injury-riddled leg-spinner from Bankstown, has made an immediate impact
29 October 2019, 08:39 PM AEST
Two days before the first match of the Rebel WBBL season, Madeline Penna thought she'd be watching the first standalone edition of the competition from the stands or on television.
Then came the call from the Melbourne Stars.
A fractured thumb was set to sideline leg-spinner Alana King for the first few weeks of the season, would Penna be interested in joining the Stars as her replacement?
Penna may live in Sydney and be rapidly approaching the end of her university semester, but the 19-year-old did not have to think twice.
The next day, the leg-spinner was on a plane to Melbourne.
"I was shocked and confused and excited, then I flew to Melbourne on Thursday night and it all happened from there," Penna told cricket.com.au.
"I love being around the girls, they're a great group.
"It's such good experience playing with girls like Junior (Elyse Villani) and Oz (Erin Osborne), so it's really good to be out there among it all.
"When I first got here I was really nervous, but I have a few girls from the ACT Meteors here and they've helped me which is really good.
"I'm studying exercise sports science at Uni, so I've had to get a few extensions on my assessments … (It) is a bit stressful but I'm getting it done."
Penna carried the drinks for the Stars' first two matches against Hobart Hurricanes at Junction Oval, before making the trip back to Sydney with the squad on Friday.
Then, after a training session at Hurstville Oval on Friday, came the news from coach David Hemp and captain Villani: she would be making her debut against the Sydney Sixers on Saturday.
Penna bowled 2.1 overs and went wicketless on debut, before announcing herself in Sunday's match against the Sydney Thunder, capturing 4-20 in a four-over spell that almost snagged the Stars' first win of WBBL|05, before the heroics of veteran Alex Blackwell snatched it away.
Fittingly, that game was played at Bankstown Oval – Penna's home club ground, where she plays for Bankstown Sports Women's Cricket Club.
It hasn't been an easy journey to the Big Bash for Penna, who has undergone knee surgery and battled years of pain to reach this point.
At age nine, she was diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans – in layman's terms, loose bone under her kneecap. She underwent surgery at the time, but when it didn't fix the problem, she was advised to focus on her strength, fitness and recovery to manage the situation.
"They thought I'd grow out of it, and I worked really hard on strength and fitness but the more training I did, the worse it got," she said.
It came to a head last summer, when the pain became too much for Penna to handle.
"I was with the Thunder last year in their academy and they said you should get (surgery) done sooner rather than later, because I was struggling on the field and performance-wise I couldn't cope with the pain," she said.
"I was on crutches for six weeks with a knee brace, and then in a knee brace while walking for another month so it was tough, but it was the best thing for me to get that done when I look back on it.
"It was frustrating, but luckily I got it sorted and now I'm back on the cricket field."
Penna can also see how the experience has made her a more resilient player, and person.
"I was doing things not many other girls had, I was coming home after every training session to have an ice bath, to roll, stretch and work on my strength training every day," she said.
"It got to a point where I was like, 'I'm kind of lucky in a sense, because I've worked harder at doing the little things that not many other people had to do and it's made me who I am today."
It's also part of the reason Penna started bowling spin, although a certain Australian great also nudged her in the right direction.
"It was actually Lisa Sthalekar at a training session with the NSW under 15s who told me to start bowling spin, and I stuck with it from there," she explained.
Her call-up to the Stars is the second big break the spinner has experienced this summer, after she made her Women's National Cricket League debut for the ACT Meteors – where she had previously trained as a rookie – after being recruited as a replacement player for the injured Angela Reakes.
Now, she's hoping to soak up every bit of experience she can during her stint with the Stars.
"I'm loving every second I'm here, the knowledge I'm getting especially players like Elyse Villani, Erin Osborne and Kristen Beams, it's not something you get sitting at home," she said.
"I'm grateful for every opportunity."