Emma Kearney has opened up about the tremendous strain that she was under while playing both football and cricket.
Kearney, 28, is now looking forward to her first Christmas break for “six or seven years” – but at one stage she admits she often hoped for matches to be called off to bring some relief from her exhausting schedule.
The 2018 AFLW best and fairest winner – who has moved from the Western Bulldogs to competition newcomer North Melbourne - will be absent when the Melbourne Stars open their WBBL campaign at the Junction Oval on December 1.
“For me, cricket never came naturally,” Kearney said. “Sometimes before a game, I’d hope it was gonna be a washout because I felt so much pressure to perform.”
Kearney, a right-arm medium paced bowler, knew halfway through the 2017/18 WBBL season that her time playing two sports would have to end. She usually had one-day cricket for Victoria to warm her up for the WBBL but this time, she had come in underprepared.
“I had no first-class cricket to come off the back of. I knew it would take a few games to get the momentum rolling, but it just never happened,” she says.
Kearney describes herself as ultra-competitive but found she couldn’t find the time to train and work as hard she wanted to because of her full-time job. At the time, she was working at the AFL. Previously, working as a teacher had meant longer summer holidays and plenty of time to do “extras”.
At risk of burning herself out, and after going through a tough 2017/18 season, where her bowling average doubled and her economy rate went from 5.28 runs per over to 8.23, Kearney says she “grew out of love for cricket”.
Growing up in Cavendish, a small town in the Grampians with a population of 334, Kearney had a paddock for a backyard. In summer, her Dad would set the paddock up as cricket field for Kearney and her two brothers. In winter, the goal posts went up.
It was only when she was forced to stop playing football at aged 12 - because there was no pathway - that cricket came to the fore.
Kearney says that footy feels natural and that she’s a completely different person before games.
“I just sit there, don’t think about much, and go about my business,” she said.