1. ALYSSA HEALY
By Sam Squiers
Losing her sister as a teenager gave Australian cricketer Alyssa Healy a valuable sense of perspective on life. Alyssa joins host & sports journalist Sam Squiers to discuss what she learned by growing up playing with boys, the impact of losing her sister as a teenager and how she’s seen women’s cricket change over time.
Hey, I’m sports journalist, Sam Squiers. Welcome to “One Her Game”.
Over the past fifteen years, I’ve seen women’s sports thrive. It’s on our TVs, it’s filling our stadiums and our athletes are some of the best in the world. But it hasn’t always been easy for them. In each episode, I speak to an elite Australian sportswoman and get to know to know the person behind the athlete. I find out how they’ve overcome challenges and setbacks on the rise to the top of their field.
Not only do I love watching and playing sports myself, but when my daughter Imogen was born, I promised myself that I would introduce her to this wide world of Women in Sport. So, that’s what I want to do with this Podcast series, I want to share these elite sportswomen’s stories and inspire the next generation of little girls and boys to dream big and believe in themselves and their sporting ability.
I’ve been following Alyssa Healy’s career long before you could easily access information on the Australian Women’s Cricket team in the media or do something as simple as switch over the channel and watch them on TV. I’m almost ashamed to admit to it now, but I was always particularly interested in how this wicketkeeper with the famous surname would go. Even early on, I knew the answer was far.
Alyssa first wore the Green and Gold when she was just 19 and has gone on to be one of the most recognisable faces in cricket and has there ever been any bigger show, the power of the women’s game, than the ICC T20 Final at the MCG with a record of 86,000+ fans cheering Australia on to an incredible victory. The Player of that Final was Alyssa, she’s a game changer on the field but also cheeky, a loveable trickster, a self-confessed pest and just basically a whole lot of fun. But she’s overcome some big challenges too, in particular the loss of her big sister when she was just a teenager. Alyssa comes from a legendary cricketing family but as a kid, she just wasn’t that interested in cricket.
SQUIERS: Now tell us, cricket is obviously in your blood, your surname is synonymous with Australian sport and Australian cricket. Your dad Greg, he played for Queensland, Ian your uncle, Heals, ah, obviously Australian cricket legend, playing for Australia for so long. Um, I feel like Ken your uncle always misses out, but he played cricket for Queensland as well.
HEALY: Yeah, he did, he’s the one that’s forgotten in the whole, in the whole lot he was actually pretty good as well.
SQUIERS: (laughs) Yeah Kenny, Kenny we’ll give you a shout out, but tell us your story how did you start?
HEALY: Ah, yeah, well I think everyone naturally assumes that I sort of just started the game because everyone else played cricket in my family, but it wasn’t really the case, I didn’t want a bar of it when we were living in Queensland. Obviously born up there and, um, didn’t want to, didn’t want to play cricket, I was heavily into soccer and every other sport (Squiers: mmm) other than cricket. And it wasn’t until we moved to Sydney when I was seven that, um, actually one of the girls at school said to me, ‘like to go down to the local park this weekend and try this, ah, it was called “Milo Have a Go’” at this stage.’
Went down and gave it a go and still didn’t like it I think I found myself in the sandpit a few times and dad was coming down (laughs), running down the hill and telling me to have another go. And it must have clicked a couple of weeks in and all of a sudden, I was playing in the, in the local Junior’s Boys Comp after that.
But, um, yeah, I didn’t really, I wasn’t really interested in the game, I didn’t really understand what Uncle Ian was doing at the time (Squiers: mmm), all I saw was him on the TV wearing his green hat and white clothes (laughs). And I probably didn’t really understand what was happening that, ah, I guess once I fell into the game a little bit more, both dad and Uncle Ian probably took a little bit more notice and thought they could probably help out with where, where I might need.
SQUIERS: What about backyard cricket, was that part of your family tradition at all?
HEALY: Oh, a little, bit I think Christmases and family events I think backyard cricket came out, but I’m sort of the oldest one of all of our cousins (Squiers: mmm), so we were still quite young when we were living up there, when we were having those family gatherings. So, it was there it was present, but it wasn’t any, any of the quality like it has been, um, now that we’re all a little bit older.
SQUIERS: You were in the sandpit.
HEALY: Yeah (laughs), I was in the pool probably more than anything else. I was a water baby, so yeah it was there but I think probably dad and both my uncles played so much cricket over the years that family time was family time (Squiers: yeah) and we sort of didn’t do it too much, but all of my male cousins since, um, you know, played the game (Squiers: mmm) and they still play. I think Uncle Ken still plays with his son Lewis in the club competition (laughs) and so it’s, um, yeah, it’s still, it’s still within our family. But I’m not the only female that seems to play the game.
SQUIERS: So, when then did it go, when did it click, when did cricket start being something you took seriously, that you thought ‘okay I could give this a good go’?
HEALY: Funnily enough it was probably only when I debuted for Australia. it sounds really stupid (laughs) and probably people are very surprised by that (Squiers: yeah). But I, I sort of, it was just a hobby of mine, it was something I really enjoyed and like I said before I’ve played, I’ve played every sport under the sun (Squiers: mmm). All I wanted to do was be outside and, and playing with my friends and in saying that cricket was the one constant throughout that whole time I played a lot of other sports during, during the Winter but I always played cricket and I was always training, um, with NSW Pathways Squads and throughout the year.
So, it probably never dawned on me that, that was what I could do, but in saying that, it was always a constant so it does surprise me in a way that it took me to debut for Australia that I could take this seriously and this could be my career. And it was probably the, the way the game was at the minute, at that time as well, you know, it wasn’t fully professional, a lot of the girls were still working full-time. You know, you hardly ever saw the Australian team on the TV, so for us it wasn’t really a real dream considering we didn’t know that it really existed. So, I guess once we were there and we were experiencing it, we probably thought ‘this is actually a pretty cool job and maybe I can see where I could take it’.
SQUIERS: You say you played lots of sports as soccer and so many of them, but what, what was it then about cricket that really stuck out to you?
HEALY: I’m not sure, I think I loved playing team sports that was one thing that was consistent in all the sports I played, they were all team sports. I only gave, I gave tennis about six weeks of my life and hated it (laughs) (Squiers: me too). I did diving for about four weeks, hated that too. I couldn’t handle the pressure on my own, I needed my teammates around me.
So, yeah, I’m not 100% certain, it was just there, I think I was good it, I honestly think that’s what, what it came down to. I probably didn’t know that at the time, but I was probably good at it. I loved my teammates, whether it be the boys or, or the girls I was playing with in the local competition. I just enjoyed being out there with friends and I think that, that probably helped me stick to it. But I think I was good at it as well which I think does help.
SQUIERS: Tell me was there any pressure then having that Healy surname and playing cricket?
HEALY: Definitely, I think looking back on it there was probably a lot of pressure, but I actually saw it as a bit of a blessing. I often think that would they have looked twice if my last name wasn’t Healy? There was a Healy behind the stumps, would they have stopped and actually watched it to see what she could do, I, I often wonder that. But there was a lot of added pressure I think, um, you know, especially being a wicketkeeper, everyone assumes you can do everything just as well as he can. I think even being a female, I think, um, people still assume that you should be able to do it really well, so a little added pressure but at the same I, I, I saw it as a, as a blessing and, and something that I could try and achieve what I wanted to achieve.
I think a lot of the time throughout my younger days, everyone compared me to Ian, and I was always Ian Healy’s niece, so it’s kind of nice to knock down a few of those walls now and, and I’m just my own person. It doesn’t get brought up too much so, um, um, you know, Ian Healy’s niece playing for Australia. it’s, it’s actually Alyssa Healy playing for Australia, which I think is really nice and it’s, um, and it’s nice to have that comparison. It’s nice to have that person at the other end of the phone call (Squiers: mmm) as well to talk about the game but, um, it was definitely more of a blessing than, than pressure.
SQUIERS: I think Ian would probably say that now he gets called Alyssa Healy’s uncle (laughs) not just Ian Healy. Um, well let’s fast forward then to 2006, you’re selected in the Barker College Cricket First XI. Um, for those who don’t know what its Eleven is, it’s the best team in the whole school and that’s a co-ed school for you as well. By the best team you’re actually playing with the boys in that competition but, um, it didn’t go down so well with everyone (laughs), can you tell us that story?
HEALY: Yeah it was, for me it was a really exciting time in my life, I feel like I think it helped me to develop a lot really quickly. But yeah it was, it was obviously really interesting at the time. Ah, I was just playing outside school, I was playing for NSW at the time.
SQUIERS: In girls’?
In the, in the women’s team and it was just sort of, I guess still learning the game but still playing at a reasonably high level and the Head of Cricket there wandered over to me one day and approached me and said ‘look do you want to try out for the First Eleven (XI)?’ And I said, ‘oh sure, why not, I’ve played with the boys my whole life’. I’d probably taken a break twelve months before from that to focus more on the women’s, um, game and so I hadn’t played with the boys for probably eighteen months and I thought ‘oh I’d give it a crack, I’ll test, test myself out and see where I’m at. Look if I’m not good enough please don’t pick me just for the sake of it because I don’t want that, I’ll play Second XI if that’s where you see me. But let me trial along with everybody else and let’s see how I go’.
SQUIERS: Was there a woman’s team in the school at that point?
HEALY: Nah there wasn’t, yeah if I wanted to, to play cricket at the school it was going to be with the boys and funnily enough I trialled and I get a phone call to say I’d be picked in the First XI and, ah, literally after that all hell broke loose. I think I remember my parents being away, my dad travelled a lot for his work and they were overseas and my grandma was looking after me and I remember a knock on the door at 6am and it’s Denham Hitchcock from Channel Nine News with the newspaper and saying would you like to comment on this?
And I said, I’m still in my pyjamas (laughs), I said ‘excuse me, what are you talking about?’ And as I looked a little closer at the newspaper, it was a headline about Osama Bin-Laden and a photo of me in my Barker School outfit, um, holding a bat. Um, it turns out that one of the Old Boys had written a, a letter in disgust that a female is playing in the, in the boys’ side and, you know, it was disgrace for the competition and obviously the school. And, unbeknownst to me, all the media had picked up on it, um, and had really run with it that day so I was in for a shock that day. Thankfully I didn’t have to get the train (laughs), somebody drove me to school and, um, I escaped through a, a side gate and watched the Principal run around to all the gates answering media all day which was quite funny for all of my friends. (laughs)
SQUIERS: You’re sixteen, seventeen at this stage.
HEALY: Yep, yeah, still, I think I was seventeen at the time and I probably hadn’t been used to that much media and that much scrutiny. It probably was the first time (Squiers: mmm) that I had really probably been scrutinised so, um, but look the school were unbelievable in handling that, all the teammates of mine were fantastic as well (Squiers: mmm). I didn’t feel like anyone different from them, ah, they accepted the fact I was in the team and, um, and I didn’t have the best season I remember being really nervous for most of it. But we won the premiership and that’s all that matters.
SQUIERS: (laughs) Does that just make it even more sweeter the fact that you did win that?
HEALY: Yeah, it was probably really nice as well to see the school and, and a lot of the older community, um, Barker community support me as well. I think that was probably the first time that I really felt supported by the whole community. I think that, you know, a lot of the time there is a lot of that scrutiny, ah, about females playing sport and, you know, and whether or not they can handle that. And I guess for a lot of the, the older, the older community within the school and my friends as well to say, ‘you know what, she’s been good enough, she’s been picked, let’s see how she goes and’.
SQUIERS: And your teammates, the boys in the team, they fully supported you at that time as well? Because it’s a different landscape for women back in 2006 to what it is now.
HEALY: Yeah, I, I think so, I’ve still have some really good friends I played with and against, um, in that competition throughout that, that season so for me I felt really supported, the boys all got really around me and, and made sure I was okay. And honestly when I am just with my, that’s how I’ve always approached life, it was just ‘move on and let’s, um, let’s just go and play cricket’, it’s what I enjoyed doing and I honestly say to this day that it really improved my cricket at that point in time I think (Squiers: yeah), it was an extra step up. The boys were obviously a lot bigger and stronger than I had been playing against and for me it was a really good learning curve and I learned a lot about my game and I guess how I could develop it moving forward and obviously take that into the female game and, you know, hopefully play for Australia.
SQUIERS: I just want to take a step back and talk about that email from that Old Boy that was sent to the School Principal, it was titled ‘Save Barker Cricket now’ and like you said he called it an attack, a disgrace and a challenge to the institution. And you’re sixteen, seventeen, seventeen years old at that stage, take me back to those feelings that you were feeling at that time, having reporters.
HEALY: Yeah it was, it was weird, um, I probably didn’t fully understand it. I think now I’m a little bit older and I probably see what happens, probably in society a little bit more than I was back then. I was, I always just thought growing up playing with the boys, I was one of the boys, I never thought any different (Squiers: mmm). Yeah, but being young female, being put under that much pressure, on the Front Page of the newspaper with a fairly nasty headline underneath. Yeah, look it was interesting, but for me it didn’t bother me that much and I think, I just put everything I could into the cricket and I wanted to just prove to them that I was good enough.
I obviously was selected for a reason and funnily enough bumped into the boy, he was the Second XI Keeper, who was obviously was supposed to be in the First XI (Squiers: right), his brother-in-law the other day at, um, at Qantas Club and he said ‘are you Alyssa Healy?’ And I said ‘yeah’. And he said, ‘oh, you bumped out Alex out of the First XI, um, back at Barker’ (laughs). And I said ‘so, people still talk about it and get a laugh out of it.’
Look it didn’t bother me that much but for me it was probably just an eye-opening experience about, you know, how people really reacted at that time to (Squiers: mmm), you know, females playing, doing what they’re doing and playing in sport. Like I said that little stint improved my cricket.
SQUIERS: Made you stronger.
HEALY: I think it, yeah it did, and I think it made me a bit of a better human at the end of the day as well. I had to adapt to many different situations, I remember touring with the boys’, and I was stuck on my own in a whole boarding house. The boys weren’t allowed anywhere near it, it was just me, in my own, so I was alone, and I accidentally slept through the dinner because I was on my own, no one waked me up (Squiers: oh no). So, little things like that. I overcome a lot of little, little challenges along the way (Squiers: mmm), but ultimately, I think it made me a better cricketer and, and probably a better whole rounded person as well.
SQUIERS: Did you ever find out who that Old Boy was?
HEALY: (laughs) No I didn’t.
SQUIERS: Do you have any inkling at all?
HEALY: Nah, I never wanted to delve into any more than that, I probably just didn’t want to give it any more time than it was getting. I think it was, I think it got way too much publicity, way too much media and at the end of the day I did my job for that team we won a premiership and he can suck it. (laughs)
SQUIERS: Do you ever think as well with the landscape changing so much, do you think that Barker incident could happen now?
HEALY: There’s always a lot of people with differing opinions and there’s probably emails that are going to be sent but I think it’s probably more acceptable now that there’s going to be a female in that side if they’re good enough. And I think Meg Lanning did it probably two years after me down in, um, down in Melbourne, Caulfield Grammar I think she was at.
So, um, it happens and a lot of time it’s whether or not the young girl is comfortably in doing that, I grew up playing with the boys, but now there’s so many opportunities for girls to play with other girls in competitions below the boys if they want. So, ultimately if they’re comfortable playing with the boys I think we’re going to see more and more young girls, you know, break boundaries and, and play the boys and men’s, men’s teams if they want to but ultimately, it’s if they’re comfortable or not. So, with more opportunities I guess there’s more choices.
SQUIERS: You’ve really seen both sides of cricket, evolution for women and this shift and changing landscape, um, you started playing for Australia when you were nineteen or twenty?
HEALY: Nineteen, yeah.
SQUIERS: You know, you started playing for Australia at the back end of the what could be described as the bad old days or the tough old days, um, and enjoying better days obviously now. But what do you remember as being the biggest change from that?
HEALY: Well for me I think I saw it more at the, the domestic level, I started playing, I started playing for the (NSW) Breakers when I was sixteen and just seeing the girls work full-time throughout the day, and back then we used to train six to eight at night or six to eight-thirty if we could get the lights on, to stay on for an extra half an hour at the SCG (laughs). And I remember just (Squiers: did they ever go off on you?). Yeah, all the time (Squiers: really?), yeah it was eight o’clock, off they go, off you get, you can go inside if you want.
SQUIERS: Even if training hadn’t finished, they were off.
HEALY: Yeah, so be it. So, that was (Squiers: it’d be dark?). It was very dark (laughs). You’d have to go inside and hit more balls if you wanted but I think seeing the older girls in the side, the more experienced ones having to work full-time, come straight from work, some of them would only show up at six-thirty, have to quickly warm up, bowl their ten overs in the nets and then have a five minute hit at the end. I think to see, to see that as a young, as a young girl still at school, feel like you have the world at your feet was really eye-opening and I guess gave me a little bit of perspective about how lucky I was that I was already in this side making a little bit of money, but I was making money and I was still at school (laughs) and I felt thought that was really cool.
But these guys were still working full-time, showing up, still performing really well for NSW, for Australia and I thought that was really cool. And I remember my first season in the Australian squad and we had a team, big team meeting at our first camp and I remember buzzing about and I thought this is really cool and I am so excited to be in this side and what’s this meeting going to be about?
And Belinda Clarke stands up at the front and says, ‘this is the way that we’re going to take Women’s cricket, we’re going to play T20, we’re only really going to play that format, and this is how we’re going to market the game.’
And I remember sitting there feeling so disappointed at, at the time I thought, ‘I just want to play Test cricket (Squiers: mmm), that’s, that’s what Uncle Ian did, it’s what all the boys do, I just want that Baggy Green and I just want to play Test cricket’. And maybe even one day cricket is a bit longer, I hadn’t felt like I had bit more time to sort of enjoy it.
So, I remember sitting there and I was so utterly disappointed and ten years later sitting here talking about it, I can see what an amazing step that was from them and move from them to say ‘this is how we’re going to do it’ (Squiers: mmm) and how much it’s opened up the game to the rest of the country and I guess the rest of the world as well.
So, yeah it was a lot different back then it was sort of, you were making pittance, and you were, it was really a hobby, it was, you were doing it for the love. And I think that’s what probably nowadays that’s something we almost have to teach the younger kids that you can still enjoy the game of cricket, it’s not just, it’s not just your job, it’s not just your career where you’re making money and this is what you’re going to do. It’s actually we played it for the love of it and that’s why this generation is so good because we saw both, both of those sides and we still appreciate the love of the game so (Squiers: yeah). But it’s changed so dramatically over just the ten years I’ve been involved, and I can’t wait to see what it’s like in another ten years for the, the young Phoebe Litchfield’s and young Stella Campbells of the world (laughs), I think it’s going to be incredibly cool for them.
SQUIERS: Did you have to work when you were playing as well? I, I noticed you’re still studying? (laughs)
HEALY: I’m ah, I’m still studying yeah, technically, I’ve been unenrolled by UTS (laughs) they said, ‘you’ve had enough time to try and finish your degree’, I’m about five subjects short of my Marine Biology degree, so (Squiers: what?) (laughs). So, yeah, I was really fortunate I didn’t have to work that much, I took a year after school and, I just, kids do gap years and go and travel, and I worked at KFC so, I felt like that kept me really grounded. Rode, rode my bike there every day and that’s how I, I sort of kept myself busy and allowed me to go to training and sort of enjoy my cricket and I enjoyed work as well, it sounds really silly (Squiers: at KFC) but I thoroughly enjoyed my work at KFC.
SQUIERS: Not many very healthy options back there either.
HEALY: There was grilled chicken back then (laughs), I used to make myself a grilled chicken wrap and would only snack on popcorn chicken (laughs) when necessary but I, I really enjoyed that twelve months. I think people, all my friends were travelling the world and working overseas and, you know, yahooing around Europe and I was working, stuck at KFC, training for my cricket and I loved it. I loved that balance and to be able to have enough time to go to uni and work and train, it was really cool, but it was the, the second year after that I got picked for that World Cup and it all ended. My schedule just went up and it was getting hard to sort of work and train and go to uni and slowly they’ve all subsided and eventually my uni’s just gone down the drain as well a little bit of late, but that’s just simply because we’re playing more, and, and that’s just seen that change throughout that time.
SQUIERS: And that big change is that you get paid to play now in the Australian setup as well and, um, and pay has increased for women. Um, saying that, that’s probably been the biggest shift, the Australian women’s cricket sporting landscape, what’s the biggest challenge facing women in cricket at the moment do you think then?
HEALY: Yeah, you know I think there’s a lot of challenges that we’re going to face over the next few years. I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for these young girls, ah, coming up but at the same time there’s going to be a lot more scrutiny on our, on our performance coming up. I think there’s going to, I think we get paid very handsomely for what we do for Australia and obviously I’m married to a male player (Mitchell Starc) so I can see the stark contrast (no pun intended) (laughs) in the, in that pay packet but I think for, for what we do we’re paid reasonably well. And I think with that naturally will come a high level of scrutiny and when you’re not performing your best people are going to call you out on that and I think that’s something that women’s sport traditionally hasn’t had. I just think naturally everyone just wants to shit can the fact that we’re female, and we’re not doing stuff as well as the men, but I think when you really delve into that, um, because you’re getting paid more and because you’re on TV more, you will get a lot more scrutiny about your performance.
And I saw that throughout WBBL05 in that, you know, I was pretty a bit tired, a bit mentally fatigued and, and I wasn’t making a lot of runs with the bat and I was coping a lot more on social media. And at the same time, I think it’s great people are watching (Squiers: that’s right, yeah) and people care, I guess we’ve got to take it that way. But it’s all about how we’re going to handle that moving forward, we’ve always just slid under the radar and, and gone about our business.
But when people genuinely care and are investing in something they’re going to scrutinise what you do and make sure you perform to the best of your ability, so I think that’s a real challenge moving forward and I think our domestic system as well I think is sort of teetering at the moment and I think we invest a little bit more in that, um, in that second rung. I think it would make it easier for players to stay in the game a little bit longer and then we won’t have fourteen or fifteen-year-old kids coming through, um, you know, who aren’t ready to play for Australia (Squiers: mmm). I think we’ll still see the, the older there like (Erin) Burns and, and the like stay in the game a little bit longer which is what we ultimately want, what we want.
SQUIERS: Mmm, it’s interesting that you talk about, um, scrutiny, because I remember in the first couple of years of the WBBL, I had a lot of male commentators come up to me at work and they were like ‘Sammy, how do we do this, like how do we, you know, if they’re performance isn’t good enough, can I say that, like can I say it, like if they’re not fit enough, how do I not say that they’re not overweight or they’re fat, um, like?’
And I was like ‘you can say they’re unfit, like women sport’s not going to benefit from false praise (Healy: that’s right), it’s only going to benefit from real authentic criticism and praise as well’. But a lot of males were nervous the first time when women’s sport started to come through into mainstream media they were like ‘we don’t know how to call this without feeling like we’re being unfair for some reason’.
So it was, it’s interesting that, um, but yeah, I think it’s a good development that you are as awful as it must be (laughs) getting criticised.
I’m going to change direction a little bit now and talk about something personal, um, I want to talk about your sister, Kareen (Healy: okay), can, can you tell me a little bit about her?
HEALY: She was the golden child (laughs), yeah my sister Kareen, yeah, she was, unfortunately passed away when I was twelve, um, which is something that I wish upon nobody, um, in the entire world it’s, especially for my parents it’s something that you never truly get over. I was obviously quite young at the time, so probably didn’t hit me as much as what it does now, to be able to share some memories and things like that with her and she’s a bit, she would have been a bit older than me.
So, to have, um, you know, little nieces and nephews running around would have been nice (Squiers: mmm). But, um, look that was obviously a really tragic part of our family and something for me that has enabled me perspective right throughout my life. That I often think that when things are getting really tough at cricket, because cricket is literally my life, um, when get things get a little bit tough, it’s not tough to sit back and think, ‘you know, it’s not the be all or end all’, it’s just a game, it’s something I love to do and it’s always, um, given me an escape from, you know, the grief and sadness of, you know, losing someone in your family. So, yeah it was, it was not a nice moment at the time, in time but, you know, I think it’s given me a lot of strength along the way and hopefully I, I can, make sure I keep doing my best I can to, to make sure that, you know, that I’m living up to what she would have wanted.
SQUIERS: Can you take us back to that day, the day she passed away?
HEALY: Yeah well, um, I actually remember it vividly simply because my mum had a sick feeling because I remember coming home from school and Kareen played touch footy with her friends, she used to go straight there from school, straight to her friend’s house and they’d go straight to the touch footy field and someone would drop her home later or mum would go late and pick her up. And I remember coming home from school and I was sitting on the couch doing what I’d do, just probably being a pain in the bum like I was and I remember mum fed me and she was just sort of sitting there and, and I ended up just going into the TV room and watching and she came in and said, ‘I’ve got to go’.
And I said, ‘what do you mean?’ And she goes ‘I just feel like I need to go and watch Kareen play’. And I said, ‘oh, okay’ and my dad was away at a conference and I said, ‘sure no worries, like I’m fine’. I was twelve (Squiers: mmm), but I was ‘I’m fine here, you go and do what you need to do.’
And that’s the last I heard, and all of a sudden, our family friend, um, friends who lived around the corner, knocked on the door and she came and picked me up and said ‘oh, you’re coming to stay with us tonight’. She didn’t tell me at the time (Squiers: mmm), she didn’t say, she just said ‘your mum’s, um, they’re going to be out late, you’re coming to stay with us, it’s fine’.
And, so I remember having the best night of my life, I was hanging out with my friends (Squiers: you had no idea) and the next morning I was playing in the pool and I saw mum come around the corner of the house. And I had, I had no inkling whatsoever, no one had told me, um, I don’t even know how our family friends’ kept a straight face the whole night (Squiers: mmm), because I was chirpy as I was, I was a bit of a pest.
And, yeah, mum just came around the corner and, um, sat me down and said, ‘Ah, Kareen passed, she hadn’t passed then, she had collapsed at touch footy and she’s in hospital and, um, she’s on life support and, um, it’s not good, it’s not looking good’ (Squiers: mmm). And I remember sitting there and it shocked me a little bit more than anything else and I was probably like ‘oh, just, she’ll be okay’ (Squiers: mmm), she’s in hospital, she’s getting the best care, she’ll be okay’.
I remember going back and playing a little bit but just seeing the look on mum’s face that things weren’t okay and it was probably only a couple of days later that, you know, she wasn’t any better and visiting her in hospital was not overly nice and seeing all the tubes coming out of her. And, yeah, it was, interestingly enough I was playing cricket that they decided to switch off the machines, I was at Drummoyne Oval playing with, with MLC, with my school team, which is, ah, where I went to high school first, and all of her friends were actually in that side and obviously knew what was going on.
And, um, interestingly enough I made hundred that day and after I walked off, um, dad came over and said that ‘they’d just switched off the life-support and if you want to go and say your last goodbyes you could go and do that’ (chokes up). So, sorry, um, so it was so, it, it was a surreal day of a nice memory turned into a horrible one and interestingly enough it, it’s always sort of on that day we play a game of cricket and funnily enough I’ve seem to make a hundred every year, which is, um, kind of bizarre. It’s a bizarre feeling but a nice one as well.
SQUIERS: When you’re twelve, um, and you’re chirpy and (laughs) a bit of a pest like Alyssa, you don’t have a sense of mortality do you, and you watch TV and people at hospital collapse and then they go into a coma or something like that, and they come out (Healy: yep). What was it like then for you and how much did that just change your life completely knowing, just that sense of mortality and that your sister didn’t come out of, didn’t get better?
HEALY: Mmm, yeah you’re right, it’s sort of, it’s probably something that I’d never even experienced, I’d never really thought of, our grandpa passed away when we were quite young so it sort of didn’t quite have the effect and, and we weren’t living in the state anyway. So, didn’t, didn’t quite have the effect and so I had never really experiencing anything like that but, to have all of a sudden having someone sitting opposite you at the table and, and fighting and arguing over whatever we might have been doing, playing Mario Kart on, on the 64 or, or whatever it might have been, to all of a sudden to have no one.
Um, yeah, it was a different sort of feeling and obviously my parents still struggle to this day that, um, that it happened and why did it happen to them and, and to us. What did we do wrong sort of thing and they struggled a lot, um, and I remember watching them struggle and for me I probably went more internal than anything else and, and probably just shut down a little bit and probably got a little quiet. Probably wasn’t the best daughter as a teenager either, when you’re going through teenage years and you’re also, you know, dealing with grief and sadness, and, and loneliness as well in the house.
I think, um, it probably came out more in that way at home, I feel like I was pretty chirpy around the cricket field. I think my friends just brought that out in me, but at home I probably shut down a little bit more and, um, so yeah it was just a, a complete shock to the system I would, I would say, ah, more than anything else. And, yeah, still to this day it’s not easy to talk about and I don’t actually have to talk about it, um, very much, not too many people know, ah, about my past unless I, I, I choose to tell them so it’s, it’s not nice to talk about. But at the same time I think I can I guess share the story to show that, you know, what you can still achieve, um, and that it’s given me perspective throughout my life and almost, um, find a little tiny positive out of it then so be it.
SQUIERS: Thank you for sharing that with us and there’s a lot of other people going through grief or unexpected things that would take a lot of strength from what you said. And Kareen being your only sister, your only sibling (Healy: mmm), that put a bit of fire in your belly that you wanted to kind of, do things to and achieve things to help your parents or to make them proud or, was it extra fire in your belly that you put into your sport and into your life?
HEALY: Yeah I think so and my mum hates it when I say it, but she heard me say it recently in an interview that I did, you know, everything I do is I want to make them feel proud, I want them to feel happy, you know, it’s a sad time for them. It’s, Kareen would have been thirty-odd now and they miss out on all these life events that they would have had. And for me, if I can do a little bit in what I do and to make them proud and make them happy, you know, make them enjoy coming to watch me play cricket and see that I’m enjoying myself. I think, you know I guess I do that subconsciously that my mum hates it when I say it out loud (Squiers: mmm) because she often says ‘you don’t need to make us proud like you, you’re going well, don’t even worry about us’.
But it is, it is a little bit there, yeah just to make sure I am enjoying myself as well and, you know, when it does get tough to just keep smiling because it’s not that tough. At the end of the day I’m, I’m travelling the world, playing a game that I love and yeah results don’t always go my way but I’m still here, I’m on this, walking around on this planet and I’m doing something I love. And that perspective I think’s, you know, got me to where I am and hopefully for a little bit longer.
SQUIERS: And you’ve got this guardian angel (Healy: yeah) looking down on you, um, especially with the bat.
HEALY: Unfortunately I probably use it a little bit naughtily sometimes when I cop a little bit of stick, so people often ask if I have, I have any siblings and I often just answer no because I never want to make someone else uncomfortable if I just drop that on them. But as soon as they give me a bit of stick about it ‘oh that makes sense, an only child, like look at her spoiled over here.’ I sit there and laugh along and then I’ll drop a bomb on them (laughs) (Squiers: really?) at some point so I’m probably a bit naughty in that regard.
SQUIERS: If must hurt though if they say that though?
HEALY: No, it’s fine, it’s all, it’s all good, but yeah, I never want to make them feel uncomfortable until (Squiers: they say that) they start ribbing me for that.
SQUIERS: (laughs) In trouble form. I want to talk about another very special friendship Ellyse Perry (Healy: yep), it’s, you guys have, have played, um, been around each other, and been the cricket, the two cricket sporting heroes since you were like teenagers.
HEALY: She’s been the golden girl, I’ve been, I’ve been tugging along (Squiers: are you sure?) behind her (laughs) just like riding on the coattails of Pez.
SQUIERS: That’s one thing that if you ask her, she’d say she’s riding the coattails of you (Healy: no way, no way) as well, but it is a very special friendship that, that you two have been on isn’t it?
HEALY: Yeah and I think funnily enough that tragedy that happened probably brought us closer and we became sisters like over that. It was almost like, I’m a bit older than Pez, only couple of months older (laughs) (Squiers: a couple of months) so I claim it but we, we always got along really well.
I remember the first time I met her we were nine and playing for NSW and down in Cobram and Barooga and got along like a house on fire and just wanted to be outside the whole day. I remember our parents yelling out, back into the hotel we were staying at, we were playing on the driving range, um, hitting balls and I remember our parents yelling when it got dark for us to come back inside. Um, ‘you’ve got a game to play tomorrow’ and we just did not care, we were just having a great time and, yeah, I guess we probably bonded a little bit more after that and sort of just became sisters.
And, we argue, we fight like sisters do (laughs), um, and we’ve got very different opinions at times on, on, you know, on how things should operate and she’s obviously the, the ultimate professional in the game of cricket and you can see that throughout her consistency of her career. Whereas I was sort of the other end of the, of the spectrum and really just enjoying my time, ah, on tour or just playing for Australia. So, as, as different as we were, we, we got along really well and, and we were just, just like sisters so it’s, um, yeah, it’s a really special thing that we’ve been able to, to share throughout our careers.
I think she’s done some really unbelievable things for female sport in this country and, you know, I sit here and I’m always really proud of, you know, of some of the things she does and even writing a book (Squiers: yeah) I think is something pretty cool and we always have a laugh about that and I said ‘I’m not sure, I’m sure if I can read it, I don’t know if you’re going to tell any stories about us.’ But she said, ‘no there’s nothing like that’, funnily enough she’ll, she’ll leave me to write them for my book, so (Squiers: nah). So, yeah, we’ve been really lucky to share some really cool experiences together and hopefully it, it can continue for a couple more years.
SQUIERS: It’s been very cool to see you, both of you rise up, um, let’s talk about the other love of your life, um, Mitchell Starc, who’s obviously Australian Men’s fast bowler. You guys were teammates when you were little as well (Healy: yeah), but tell us, how young were you at that stage, do remember much about that stage?
HEALY: Yeah, we played from Under 9s through to, I stopped playing in the Rep side about Under 15s, Under 16s. I think I played a couple of games in Under 16s, but yeah from Under 9s to Under 15s we played in the rep side together for Northern Districts and we actually used to share the wicket-keeping for the first three seasons (Squiers: I find that hilarious) (laughs). No, he was a little bit shorter and a little bit wider back then and, um.
SQUIERS: (laughs) I’ve seen a photo, he doesn’t look anything like himself at all (Healy: he’s stretched), you look exactly the same, but…
HEALY: Yeah, he’s stretched big time around the fifteen (Squiers: the right way) he was, yeah, he got very tall, but yeah that was, um, it’s always a really cool story to tell people. Um, we obviously weren’t going out at that stage (Squiers: no), we were way too young, but he always tells the story that, um, he always remembered me. Well, I was the only girl in the side so naturally (laughs), so naturally the boys are going to remember that the, that there was a girl whereas I sort of, there was ten other boys in the side. I’d, I probably didn’t remember Mitch that much, he was quiet, um, as he still kind of is, really quiet, very reserved, so, ah, I probably hung around the boys that were a bit more loud and, um, a bit more my style, so (Squiers: mmm). But yeah, he often jokes that he still remembers going down to Cheltenham Oval at, at, at nine and seeing this little blonde girl running around playing cricket, so it’s kind of cute (Squiers: very cute, very cute), but yeah a couple of years it, it all happened.
SQUIERS: And now married (Healy: mmm), does it make, and you alluded to this earlier, does it make the gender pay gap (laughs), in women’s sport even more evident when your husband essentially does that same job as Australian cricketer as well and you see how much he earns to how much you earn. Does it, how does it make you feel?
HEALY: Yeah, it’s, hmm, I don’t, I don’t know how I feel about it, it sorts of frustrates me sometimes but I also what he has to put up with as well. He’s on the road eleven months of the year, you know, he’s very highly scrutinised in the media, um, you know, especially being a fast bowler as well, the load he puts through his body. Whilst I think, you know, I train harder than him, I think, I, I see what, what he goes through and I guess what he does for cricket in this country as well.
Like he’s, he’s fairly well-known and a lot of the young kids aspire to be Mitchell Starc, so from that point of view I feel like what he, what he earns is justified and yeah that pay gap’s there, don’t get me wrong, I’m very realistic about that. And I think we’ll see it close; it has closed dramatically over the last even five years that, that I’ve been, well noticing it so. But it’s always an interesting discussion to have at, at the dinner table, ultimately it goes into the same pot for us so we’re, we’re not too bothered but it’s, from my point of view, it’s nice to have somebody from our side in that environment fighting for us a little bit.
He sits there and knows what we go through as, as female cricketers and, um, ultimately what we think we should deserve or, you know, even just the language that’s used around women’s cricket, um, we’ve got a, a little one in the other side in the their camp that says, pulls people up on things. And I think that’s been the best thing that I’ve, I’ve seen and, and something that I’ve sort of feel like I’ve taken a little bit responsibility for in that, for, for my generation coming through it wasn’t normal that women’s cricket was there as well, it was seen as almost competing with the men like boys would be like ‘well, we need the nets now sort of thing’.
But for the young sixteen, seventeen-year-old girls coming through, the boys that are playing there as well have just seen women’s cricket, they know that it’s there, it exists, they’re one of us. So, there it’s just such an advantage for these young girls to say ‘well, don’t segregate yourself, join in with them and say go and train together, go and talk cricket together, I think you’ve got a real advantage’.
So, for, for me I see it as a, as an advantage that I’m actually around that, the Aussie men’s team quite a lot, um, you know, touring with Mitch when I can, and for me I love talking cricket. So, I’ll jump in there and I’ll sit with JL and talk about cricket for an hour and a half, I’ll sit with Tim Paine and talk about wicket-keeping. And for them to just have those discussions with me as well I just think just normalises cricket that it’s men, women, it’s anyone who’s playing it. So, that’s something that, you know, I feel like I’m obliged to do, it’s something I, I like doing but yeah, it’s sort of just normalising it that, you know, women play as well and we can just do that together like it works.
SQUIERS: So, both you are kind of working inside to (laughs), to change the landscape.
HEALY: (laughs) It sounds, yeah, I sound like a super-spy, but yeah.
SQUIERS: No, not but it does, it makes sense and it’s normalising, you’re right. You need people, you know, who understand the women’s game and you, you were talking about how much he trains but you train so much. And the impact he has on the, on the cricket landscape and Australian sport don’t underestimate Alyssa Healy and so many little girls and boys are now watching WBBL and the Southern Stars and, and wanting to play like Alyssa (Healy: yeah, I hope so), um, but progression is progression there like you talked about (Healy: yeah there is).
And another big change in that sporting landscape, ah, is something that came in, in 2019 just recently that change in parental leave for cricket, recently amazing changes in parental leave (Healy: yeah). Um, women and now get twelve-months paid parental leave (Healy: yep), um, a surety that your contract will be there when you want to come back, no rush and also support for, um, a carer when you are travelling on tour.
Um, how did that, how does that change for you, have you changed anything about the way approach cricket and motherhood and the way you see your future as well?
HEALY: Unfortunately, not for me (laughs). I’m a little bit older, I think if I was maybe four years younger, I think it would really make me reassess potentially having kids and, um, still being able to, to play cricket at the top level. But I, it’s just an unbelievable policy I think, it’s also equal for men and the women, you know, the boys playing domestic cricket get it just as good as, where they can take a carer with their wife, whose just had a baby. I know that Krista Henriques is due really soon and Moises is going to have to take some time off the, the Big Bash to, to go and help her with her, um, birth.
So, it’s, it’s equal, which I think is really cool, that’s been the best part about it, but yeah, it’s, it’s a real game changer in my mind for women’s sport in this country. But also I think for women in general that an organisation is willing to, to back a person to say, ‘you know, you can go and be a female, you can go have a life outside of cricket and we will support you through that 100% and when you decide to come back and play the game, we will continue to support you for as long as you feel like you want to play the game’.
So, it’s, um, it’s unbelievably exciting, I, it hasn’t changed my plans too much I think I was always nervous having to squat down behind the stumps after giving birth (laughs). It scares the hell out of me (Squiers: yeah, right), so I’m probably going to leave that for, um, until after I finish playing but I think for, for the young girls that are involved in the game now. And we’ve just seen Jess Duffin announce (Squiers: mmm) their pregnancy, she’s going to be the first one to, to test it out, hopefully, anyway (Squiers: yeah), she’ll come back and play the game. But for the young girls that are coming through now to, to normalise the fact that, you can be a female, you can have a life, you can have a family and still play elite sport, I think is really exciting, yep.
SQUIERS: Yep, you don’t have to choose, do you think we’ll see more mums competing at the highest level, within cricket because of this?
HEALY: I hope so, I’ve seen, we’ve seen Sarah Elliott do it for Australia in a test match. I was so young (Squiers: were you playing then?). Yeah I was so young and naïve and was running drinks in England and walked into the change room at lunch and was like ‘what is that noise? It sounds like a, like a drone sort of noise.’
And was like, and I walk around the corner and there’s Sarah Elliott pumping breast milk so that Rob her husband could feed the baby whilst she was out there making a hundred (Squiers: a hundred, yeah) like that’s a remarkable story when you think about it now (Squiers: it is so incredible) and I know how much their family struggled to, to come away on tour with her, to help her support her.
So, to have her there at the launch to talk about her story and I guess just show what she’d been through and then for the young girls to sort of recognise that as well, that they’re going to be looked after I think was a, I think it was a nice perspective for everyone.
SQUIERS: We finish the show, um, by asking each and every guest to tell us what advice if they could go back to their ten-year-old self, what advice would you give to that little pest (laughs) as you call yourself (Healy: yep) Alyssa Healy?
HEALY: Welp, well, I think, you know, and I’ve shared the story of, of our family and for me I, I wish I had hugged my sister a little bit more, that’s what I would have told my ten-year-old self to enjoy those family times together. Not fight so much, hug her a little bit more, but at the same time I think if you wanna, if I wanna, if I knew I wanted to play for Australia at that point in time I would, I think I would have knuckled down and, and done it properly. You know, it’s taken me eight years of my professional career to, to, to pull my finger out and, and start contributing the way that I should have the whole time.
Um, I think I was too busy enjoying myself to remember to actually knuckle down and do the right thing. So, for me I would have loved to give my younger self that advice to, to knuckle down and remember to enjoy it but to work really hard at what you do, but definitely hug your family a little bit more when I was ten, eleven or twelve would have been nice as well.
SQUIERS: Alyssa, thank you so much for coming on “On Her Game” and, and sharing your story with us.
HEALY: Thank you very much for having me.
SQUIERS: On her game is presented by me, Sam Squiers and produced in collaboration with Podcast One Australia, Producer Lindsey Green, Audio Producer Darcy Thompson, Executive Producer, Jennifer Goggin. For more episodes, head to podcastoneaustralia.com.au download the free Podcast One Australia app or search on On Her Game podcasts.
Transcribed by Nadine Maraldo www.gossipcom.com