For Tahlia Wilson, her love of cricket started with games in the backyard with older brother Tom.
Born in Figtree and playing junior cricket with Albion Park in the Under 10s, it was those games at home with her brother and father that gave the Sydney Thunder batter the thirst for cricket in the early days.
“Both of them definitely influenced me in wanting to play the game and I think playing in the backyard with my brother – and always having to bowl, because every time I’d bat he’d get me out – gave me the fight of actually wanting to play in a competition,” she said.
As a junior and as the girl in the boys’ comp, Tahlia played with Albion Park from Under 10s to 16s and from the start she loved wicketkeeping.
By the Under 12s she was sharing the role with another team member and her dad, being a wicketkeeper himself, gave her tips along the way.
“I really enjoyed it. You’re always in the game and my dad was a keeper. So I was lucky enough to get a few tips off him,” she told Region.
During those days, she would get some comments from other girls asking what was she doing playing in the boys’ comp, but she got on well with them, playing the majority of their junior cricket together and the parents became friends too.
From the Under 16s, Tahlia’s cricket commitments increased, combining Illawarra cricket on Saturdays with trips to Sydney on Sundays to play with the Campbelltown Camden Ghosts in the Under 18 Brewer Shield women’s competition.
“I was at Campbelltown for probably five years and then I made the move to the St George Sutherland Slayers where I am now and I have been here for about five years too,” she said.
While in Year 12, Tahlia combined her studies with playing and training.
“I was training for NSW and there were some games on around the HSC,” she said.
“Cricket NSW were really supportive of me finishing it, because at the moment cricket feels like a really big part of your life, but in the grand scheme of things, you need something after that, so finishing school was really important to them and to me as well.”
Not long after finishing her HSC, Tahlia, a rookie with the Sydney Sixers in the WBBL, made her debut in Hobart.
“Alyssa Healy (new Women’s Australian captain and a wicketkeeper herself) presented me with my Sixers cap, which was pretty cool, especially looking up to her as I grew up,” Tahlia said.
Tahlia has played the past four seasons across town with the Sydney Thunder, and despite the Thunder bowing out of this season’s finals, she’s firmly entrenched in the team as a batter-wicketkeeper.
Tahlia has also represented Australia as a teenager in the National Under 19s side and said it was a great experience playing in South Africa in a triangular series that also included England.
“I had never been out of the country before, so that was my first experience and South Africa is such a unique place,” she said.
The rise of the women’s game in recent years has been a positive for junior girls looking at getting into sport and cricket.
“When I started out playing, I played in the under 10s in a boys’ comp, pretty much all the way through,” she said.
“So to see so many women’s and girls’ competitions started up, even now on the South Coast, I think it’s pretty cool to see how far the game has come from when I started to where it is now.”
In recent years, Cricket Illawarra has been running an Under 13s girls’ competition, which this season comprises eight teams.
Administrator of Female Cricket and chair of the Cricket Illawarra Female Cricket Sub-Committee Maryann Head said when she created the league, it was so that girls could play cricket with other girls.
“Before the girls’ league, girls could only play in mixed gender teams on a Saturday morning with the boys,” she said.
“Over the years I have found that the confidence of the girls improves when playing with and against other girls. They also love the social aspect of these games.”
Maryann said the majority of talented girls playing cricket went on to play representative cricket for both Cricket Illawarra and the Greater Illawarra Cricket Zone, so the friendships gained in playing girls’ league assists with these long-term relationships.
Girls Only Cricket Blast sessions are run for the younger ones, with Tahlia giving back to the local cricket community by helping to run Come Try Cricket days as well.