Ten-year-old Winmalee resident Millana Wylie always had a natural talent for fast bowling — she just didn’t know it.
Tagging along to her eight-year-old brother Jacob’s trial session for Springwood Cricket Club’s U9s last August, she was asked to come onto the pitch and have a bowl.
A few hours later, despite having no previous experience, Millana was selected in the team with Jacob and a few weeks later they played their first competition match together, forming half the side’s bowling attack.
“I was the only girl in the team and some of the boys I played against were surprised to see me getting wickets in the beginning,” the Year 5 Winmalee public school student said.
“We lost the first few games and then started winning — we didn’t make the finals but we did okay.
“I had to borrow a lot of things like bats and a helmet because I didn’t have any, but for Christmas I got all my cricket gear as presents from family and friends.”
Another good Christmas present came in Millana’s selection in early December into the Penrith District U13s girls’ representative team for January’s Mollie Dive Shield state T20 cricket carnival.
Millana said she was ecstatic when she received her selection letter, given she’d only played “serious cricket” for less than four months.
Also selected in the team were fellow Blue Mountains girls Emily Coad, 11, and Eloise Williams, 9, who both have played at least two seasons of club cricket.
Penrith ended up winning the shield after winning two out of its three pool matches and the final on Australia Day against Central Coast.
“We could bowl three overs each and I got one wicket in our game against Newcastle,” Millana said.
“I’d bowled a few balls at normal pace and then a slower one which was hit into the air and caught at point.
“It’s always a good feeling getting a wicket and it was great to meet lots of new people.
“We even got to play a preparation game against the U15s girls side — I’m the tallest girl in my class, but these girls were much bigger than me.
“It was fun to play against them.”
Millana said she practises a lot in the backyard with her dad and brother, enjoys team training sessions and has learnt a lot of technical skills from Penrith U13s girls coach David Williams and Doug Rogers, who plays for the NSW U15s boys.
“Doug taught me to be more side-on when I release — ‘smell your armpits’ he’d say — and that’s helped me to bowl straighter and with more accuracy.
“I can also swing the ball a bit now.”
Coach Williams said Millana will most likely play in the Springwood U10s boys’ team in the next Nepean Cricket Association junior cricket season, which will put her in good stead to maintain her spot in the Penrith district U13s girls’ representative squad.
“Bowling is one of the hardest parts of the game of cricket to master and for someone who’s only picked it up six months ago, Millie’s been doing things at a level in excess of what you would expect,” he said.