Jess Jonassen is an all-rounder for the Australia Cricket Team and also plays for the Brisbane Heat and Queensland Fire. Growing up in Rockhampton Jess has been playing professional cricket since she was 15 years old traveling back and fourth to play for the Queensland Fire while she was still at school. Jess shares her journey of playing for the Southern Stars, her experience with one on one coaching and how she is dealing with her fourth knee injury.
You have recently suffered a knee injury, how is rehab going and when will we see you back playing?
I’m a bit of a veteran with knee rehab, this is the fourth time. Rehab is going really well and I am looking to join the team soon.
How do you overcome setbacks? Is it something you need to work on both physically and mentally?
I think half the battle is mental. For me especially being the fourth time, the first time was also a World Cup year, I had some not so great memories and experiences flood back straight away. I have a really great support network through Cricket Australia and QLD Cricket, that I am able to work through the mental demons.
You grew up in Rockhampton. You played all of your junior cricket with boys. Do you think that is something that really helped you and do you advise young girls to play their junior cricket with and against boys?
For me, it made me the cricketer that I am today. We weren’t fortunate enough to have all girl competitions in Rockhampton when I first started playing. I would strongly encourage it and it makes you hone your skills. There was more competition because the boys never liked getting out to a girl and the girls always worked harder to get them out. In saying that, it is great that girls can now play in all girls teams, just for that comfort aspect because playing in the boys competition definitely had its challenges.
The major battle is in regional areas. There is a lot of hard work going on by Cricket Australia and state organisations to get opportunities to the regional centres for young girls to play cricket. Now with the WBBL and the new TV rights, there is a lot more of women’s cricket out there and the girls are going to be encouraged to take up the game and continue playing cricket.
You started playing for the QLD Fire at 15 years of age. You were still at school at that age. How did you find juggling school, playing professional cricket and still living in Rockhampton?
To be honest, I don’t know how I did it. Looking back now, I was so young and I didn’t really think about it. People were telling me when I needed to be on a plane, they would take me to places that I needed to be. I had this amazing support network that helped me manage all of my comittments. Leading into a round I would be at school up until Thursday for a half day and then fly down to Brisbane for training, play Saturday/Sunday and then back on a plane for school on Monday morning. I don’t know how I did it, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Was there anyone in the team that particularly helped you when your first got into the team an took on the mentor role for you?
When I first moved to Brisbane, I lived with Delissa Kimmince, she was also a country girl. She made it that little bit easier for me, she is a similar person to me and we are still really great friends, and to have her in the Australian team as well it has been a really nice journey we can share together.
As someone who is now an older player in the team, have you transitioned to mentoring the newer players in the team?
Especially in the past couple of years I have tried to take on the mentor role for the younger girls. Particularly with my spin unit in the team.
I just want to be able to leave the environment in a positive space. To be able to give them a positive experience and enjoy what they are doing. If I can play any part in that, I am going to do my best to do so.
You have said previously that your coach in Rockhampton helped shape you as a cricketer. In what ways did they help you?
My first and only junior cricketer coach in Rockhampton was Scott Deeth. What he did for me, I pretty much owe him my career. Initially, it was just Dad and I at the nets getting ready for school cricket. Scott was in the nets next to me getting his kids ready for the same competition. He invited me down to the club sign on day and then pretty much played all of my junior cricket with him.
When I was about 14 he had done a whole lot of research into the Women’s Game and changed me from a medium pace bowler to a spinner. At that time there was only one player who was a left arm spinner and he saw that as an avenue for me to take my game to the next level and to give myself greater opportunities. That change for me has got me to where I am now.
Would you say Scott Deeth has had the biggest impact on your career?
Without a doubt. Other than my Dad, who spent hours with me at the nets, it would definitely be Scott.
Earlier this year, Alex Blackwell announced her retirement from cricket, was she someone who played a mentor role in your career?
Yes, a couple of my first Australian tours I roomed with Alex. She was somebody that you could just have conversation with about anything, not just cricket but life as well. To have somebody like her in the team was something that opened my eyes to how I wanted to be as a person. Her knowledge of the game and life, she was an exceptional person, I cannot speak highly enough of her.
You are an all-rounder. Do you dedicate the same time to batting and bowling or is there one skill you work on more?
It is a bit of a challenge. Particularly in the QLD environment I am quite evenly spread amongst both batting, bowling and in the field as well. Whereas, in the Australian environment my predominant skill is more bowling at this stage. I try to spread it out as evenly as I can.
Before an Australian tour, would you spend more time bowling that you do batting?
Yeah and it also depends on what format you are going into. For me over the next 3-4 months it is going to be T20 focus. I generally try and focus on training for the format.
You just need to make sure whatever training you are doing has a purpose and replicating what format you are going into.
Cricket must be a nerve wracking experience. Especially waiting in the sheds to bat. Earlier this year you proposed to your partner, is that the most nervous you have ever been or is batting in ashes test more nerve wracking?
Definitely proposing was the most nervous I have ever been in my life. She had kind of been at me for a while, a couple of our friends had been getting engaged. I had planned to propose just before I went away on a tour, her birthday was going to be when I was away as well. So I kind of used that as an excuse to go out for a nice dinner. I left it as late as I possibly could to buy the ring, because I knew she would find it or I would let it slip. We went out to dinner in South Bank, the weather was perfect. I got an old QLD Fire manager who is really good at photography to meet us at the spot and be incognito. She had no idea and I got down and one knee and popped the question. It ended up going perfectly, at the same time we only had a few days to celebrate and then I was off to India.
You have played professional cricket for 10 years. What has changed in the Women’s game within that time?
When I was first selected for Australia that was when the first central contracts for the Australian team were created. Financial support is one huge thing that has happened and media exposure (to the wider population) is the second thing. With the new TV deal with Channel 7 and Fox Sports we have the most female cricket ever on TV. To be able to get our product out there to the greater audience was something I never dreamt of.
It wasn’t until I was about 14 that I realised there was an Australian women’s team. The fact that we can project our image to young girls hopefully they can have that realisation from a younger age that they too can play for Australia in Cricket.
Cricket Australia released the #WATCHME campaign which was dedicated solely to the Southern Stars, how did it feel to be involved in such a powerful campaign?
We had so much enjoyment just creating it and being involved in it. To see the final product and how it comes across, it just shows that yes we are women, but we are strong, powerful and skilful. It doesn’t matter what our gender is, we can still put a really positive product out there. The words Watch Me really resonate, just watch and you will be surprised what we can do.
What advice would you give to young girls and boys wanting to be a professional cricketer?
In cricket there is more down days than good days. Making sure you don’t get disheartened if things don’t go your way early. You just need to keep working hard and putting in the effort.
Feature Image via Jess Jonassen’s Instagram