Advertisement

Emerging talent up for the challenge

Megan Banting's competitive spirit has always driven her to get the best out of herself: in life and in cricket

Megan Banting realised very early on in her cricket career that bowling was not for her.

Starting out in a Twenty20 competition when she was eight years old at the behest of her best friend Emma Dixon, whose dad had got the ball rolling, she soon worked out her strengths and weaknesses in the sport.

Playing alongside her friends in the local competition, she began to show signs of promise. And what she lacked in ferocity with the ball in hand, she more than made up for with her batting.

"I was always a batter," the young Perth Scorchers batter-wicketkeeper told bigbash.com.au. "I loved batting and I was always aggressive.

"But I definitely couldn't bowl to save my life – I figured that out pretty quickly. I just tried to bowl as quick as I could and it didn’t end too well."

Banting, who loved her sports, soon found her rhythm in the game, enough to catch the eye of a man involved with the Tuart Hill Cricket Club.

He saw her potential, and it was enough to encourage Banting to pursue it more seriously.

"I kept playing and went down to the Tuart Hill Cricket Club and played against the boys," she said. 

"It all started from there. I played A-grade when I was about 10 years old – for the senior women's team – and haven't looked back since."

Banting said she the prospect of playing against adults when she was still in primary school "didn't faze me" in the long run.

The opportunity, when first presented to her, was "a little daunting", but her teammates and opponents alike were welcoming, and her competitive nature was up to the task.

Perth Scorchers Chloe Piparo (left) and Megan Banting watch on from the dugout during a WBBL match // Getty
Perth Scorchers Chloe Piparo (left) and Megan Banting watch on from the dugout during a WBBL match // Getty

"I just loved it too much and enjoyed the challenge," Banting said.

But at that age, cricket was a side attraction for the Tuart Hill-raised youngster. She played any sport she could access, but her passion then was hockey, which for a long time was her main passion and sporting pursuit.

She was even selected on representative teams, playing for North Creek Raiders.

But as she grew older, cricket started to take over, and she eventually gave hockey away when she was contracted to Western Fury at just 16 years of age.

"I was contracted pretty young … so I sort of made my decision then," Banting said.

"I was still playing hockey – I was playing a high level of seniors then – and then I got offered my first contract when I was 16, and decided I was going to pursue cricket and give that my best crack. So I stopped playing hockey and all the other sports."

The "other sports" were a wide variety of pursuits an adventurous Banting was willing to try.

She'd juggled netball, soccer, tennis and water polo, among others, with the ceaseless support of her parents, Michael and Julie, who were more than willing to assist their daughter's sporting ambitions.

"It was pretty good – I've got the best parents ever, they're so supportive," Banting said.

“They would just run me around, no matter what. They really encouraged me.

“Growing up, I was a natural athlete, so they always encouraged me to do my best and to be able to play as many sports and meet as many friends (as I could, so I) could develop personal traits and everything whilst playing sports, and team sport especially."

While Banting's parents were both avid sports enthusiasts – Michael played about 400 games for Australian football club Wesley Curtain – they were happy to let her find her own way.

"They just let me discover and play any sports I wanted and have a crack at it," she said.

Match highlights: Thunder dash Heat hopes

It was the people she met that played a big role in Banting eventually choosing cricket. She loves the sport and has great passion for it, but it was her friends, and the opportunity to travel around Australia through representative cricket, that won her over.

"It was the friends that I met and the fact that I could travel around Australia for free, and playing in all those tournaments was great to meet people," she said.

"It was just an awesome experience growing up, being exposed to all that."

Banting started her pathways career in the under-15s, and she soon became a regular in the system, playing every year up until her final year of under-18s, capping off her junior representative career with captaincy honours of the state team.

By that point, she was already a rookie on the Fury's list, having got the call after her first under-18s tournament.

Pursuing an elite cricket career while still at school was difficult, and it was at a time when the Australian female cricket landscape was rapidly changing.

"We didn't get paid the first year I was in – obviously the growth has been crazy since, money-wise," Banting said.

"The majority of training was after-hours, but obviously I had to attend school and I did WACE – or ATAR, I guess they call it now – and that was a really big thing for me.

"Cricket was definitely a priority, but my Year 12 studies were very, very important to me.

"It was difficult balancing it all, but I definitely felt that the WACA and other support staff were very encouraging of where I was in life, especially with school. It was definitely challenging, but it was good."

Megan Banting keeps for Perth Scorchers in WBBL|02 // Getty
Megan Banting keeps for Perth Scorchers in WBBL|02 // Getty

Adding on to the pressure, Banting had set herself the lofty goal of getting into a top university in Western Australia, and was determined to get a high Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) to give herself every chance of getting in.

As the Rebel WBBL|03 season approached, she was once again caught in the throes of a balancing act, squeezing in Perth Scorchers and Western Fury commitments around her fourth-year studies with a double-major.

She studied psychology, as well as health and exercise, combining her great passions.

And she's already eyeing off the next phase.

"I'll definitely do more study – maybe my masters, definitely my honours, and do a post-grad. But I'm not 100 per cent sure where it's going to take me."

***

Wicketkeeping is something that didn't come into the frame until later for Banting. She'd plied her trade exclusively as a batter through most of her formative years.

Last summer was her first genuine crack at 'keeping, and she donned the gloves for the Scorchers in a handful of games, alternating the job with Emily Smith.

But with Smith holding down the position this year, Banting has been able to return in recent games to a batting role for the Scorchers, slotting in at No.3 behind superstar openers Elyse Villani and Nicole Bolton.

"I'm a very young 'keeper, in terms of training," Banting said. "I started training for 'keeping when I was a lot older, and didn't really do too much of it, so I'm still really developing, but it was good to be earmarked for the role at such a young age.

"The things that I need to improve (in terms of my batting) is just probably making sure that I'm making consistent runs."

Her Perth Scorchers and Western Fury coach Lisa Keightley said Banting "ticks a lot of boxes" for the Scorchers, who are keen to build a list around Western Australia talent, with the view to the long-term success of the club.

"We really like to support our local players, and if the Scorchers are going to be successful, the more homegrown players we have, (the more likely) we'll start a legacy over here, and Megan definitely falls into that category," Keightley said.

"Megan's work ethic and her attention to detail is a credit to herself. She works extremely hard and I hope she get the rewards for the work that she puts in.

"She's an exciting, powerful player who can really strike the ball hard. And in T20, that's obviously very attractive.

"With the gloves, she's getting better every time she keeps and, every time she gets the opportunity, she's improving.

"She's putting the hard work in, so I have no doubt, as she goes through her career, she's just going to get better and better."