Jodie Hicks still talks with her childhood cricket coach.
They keep in touch most days.
In fact, he often makes the 11-hour round trip from Hay – in south western New South Wales – to Canberra, just to see his protégé turn out for the ACT Meteors in the Women’s National Cricket League.
Soon Hay-to-Sydney road trips for Women’s Big Bash matches could be the norm.
“Ever since I started cricket, I had a coach, David Davies – he’s an old guy who teaches cricket in Hay just for the love of it,” Hicks explains to Sportette.
“From day one, we really bonded closely and stuck by each other’s side. We’d push each other to try and get me to the next level – he’s always challenging me.”
It’s a partnership that’s taken 18-year-old Hicks all the way from the matted wickets of Hay to the turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground, as a member of the Sydney Sixers’ inaugural WBBL side.
Growing up in a rural town of barely 3,000 people, there was no shortage of sports for Hicks to play, but a definite lack of women’s sides.
She’d get used to being the only girl on a team full of boys.
“I used to play everything. I loved cricket and AFL, and would take part with my brother and friends,” she says.
“I was always challenging myself to stay at their level, and I would hate it if they’d go easy on me!”
A cricket natural, Hicks’ immense talent was there for all to see.
Throughout her schooling, the batting all-rounder was routinely picked in ACT/NSW country teams – going as far as being selected in Australia’s under 18s Honours squad.
By 16, she was matching it with men – some more than double her age.
“I remember my first men’s training session was pretty daunting,” she says.
“There was such a big difference with how hard they hit the ball, and how quick they bowl. You thought you bowled a good ball but they’d just smash you!”
“When batting, his [David’s] best advice was to never back away to square-leg – if you started to back away it showed you were scared”.
The cricket pitch wasn’t the only sporting arena she excelled.
Like Sixers teammate Ellyse Perry, Hicks also found success on the football field, but with the Sherrin in hand.
She played junior AFL for Hay right up to under 14s level – unable to go further by playing senior men’s footy.
“I just really liked it [AFL] and stuck to it even though I knew there wasn’t really a future in it, except for the women’s representative games that would come up,” she says.
“I was captain in my last year at Hay [under 14s] and made a few state and under 18s women’s teams. I just thought I’d try and dominate each age group I played for as long as I could.”
Dominate she did.
Like with cricket, Hicks was selected to represent NSW/ACT at national level, and was twice named a Youth All-Australian player.
Her impressive state performances led to her being called up by the Melbourne Demons Women’s team as an emergency player for their historic exhibition match against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG last year.
“It was really a life-changing experience,” Hicks says.
“I’d never actually taken footy that seriously until I got there and saw how everyone treated the game. I was taking it serious, but I wasn’t thinking I could get to an elite level, until Irealised they train every day, when I was just playing when I could.”
For the time being, cricket – and becoming a regular for the ACT Meteors and Sydney Sixers – remains Hicks’ number one focus.
But she admits juggling a career in both sports is something she wants to do moving forward.
“I haven’t given up on an AFL career,” she says.
“It’s probably not the right moment, but I will get back to it in a couple of years’ time.”
Her most immediate goal is to break into a star-studded Sixers team that features the likes of Perry, Alyssa Healy, and former Australian great Lisa Sthalekar.
“Everyone in the Sixers team I can learn from, and I really do idolise all my team mates. I definitely look up to Ellyse Perry because she’s a duel sportsperson, and that’s something that I’d like to be.”
Yet to debut in the tournament, Hicks is hoping to make an impact for the Sixers in their remaining matches.
But even if a first appearance in magenta isn’t forthcoming this season, Hicks says the experience of rubbing shoulders with Australia’s top women’s players has been the highlight of her career so far.
“When you go to training, you have to be switched on 24-7 – you just can’t make basic mistakes because they won’t accept it,” Hicks says.
“You have good and bad days, but it happens to everyone, but I feel like I’m going along quite nicely. I’m just living out my dream – I have to remind myself what I’m doing sometimes.”
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