For Nicole Bolton, the Cricket Australia Underage National Championships marked the beginning of a long career in a sport she adores.
Competing at her first National Championships as a 15-year-old in the under 19 age group, Bolton didn’t take long to find her feet, making her senior state debut at just 16, roughly 12 months after featuring in her first competitive match.
Fast forward 12 years and Bolton has now cemented herself in the Australian’s side and is just five games shy of her 50th international appearance.
How did you get involved in cricket?
I first got involved playing cricket in the backyard with my two older brothers. It was the only way I could join in with what they were doing. I became a specialist fielder for a few years until I was old enough to have a bat and a bowl against them. I had a ball in a sock that was attached to the tree out the back that I would hit for hours on end pretending I was an Australian cricketer and I would never get bored.
Who was the first club you played for and what did you enjoy about it the most?
The first club I played for was Subiaco Marist Cricket Club in Perth, Western Australia. I loved this club as it had a strong history and had some of the top state players playing for them from the Western Fury. It was the perfect introduction into my cricket career as I got to learn from these players and grow and develop as a person and a player.
At what age did you make your first representative team and how did it come about?
I was 15 years old when I first played state representative cricket for Western Australia at the Under 19 National Championships. It was quite daunting as I was the youngest player there. The coaches showed a lot of faith in me from a young age and I was grateful for the opportunity as I felt it fast tracked my development as a player playing against girls older than me and at a high standard.
With so many sports on offer what makes you continue with cricket?
I always loved cricket, I started playing because it brought me closer to my brothers, I saw it as a challenge. It tests you on so many levels and as the game continues to evolve it keeps me motivated to want to continue to set high standards and reach new heights in the sport. I feel like I’m continually learning about myself and my game and you never know what opportunities are on the horizon if you work hard.
What are some of your fondest memories of playing representative cricket for Western Australia?
I was privileged to captain my state at representative level and it was a great challenge as during my time we had some of the top cricketers today playing in that age group. I felt we started to become competitive as a state and this was pleasing for me as we began to experience some success and change the perception around our competitiveness.
Was there anyone you looked up to as a youngster that you ended up playing with?
I was new to cricket having only started playing when I was 15 and I didn’t realise there was a pathway for girls at that age, which limited my understanding of who were the top female cricketers going around at that time. I grew up wanting to be like Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting and it wasn’t until I started playing state representative cricket that I became aware of who some of the big names were, in particular Zoe Goss. To be able to say I have played cricket alongside Zoe is something I am very grateful for and to know her as a person and see the success she’s had on the field, it’s been a highlight of my career.
How did the underage National Championships help transitionyou into senior state cricket?
It provided the backbone of my development. I was playing state representative from the age of 15 and made my Western Fury debut at the age of 16 and I think being given the opportunity when I did was unbelievable. There were a number of players I played against and with for Western Australia that went on to represent Australia as well, including Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Delissa Kimmince, Elyse Villani, Meg Lanning, Jess Cameron and Sarah Coyte. To be able to play cricket against them from an early age helped the transition into state cricket because it was highly competitive and you were constantly testing yourself out against the best.