Photo Credit: Brisbane Heat
Australia proved once again they are a ruthless winning machine, focused solely on one thing – being the best.
They left the seven other teams trailing in their wake to seal the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 trophy, with victory over England in the final at Hagley Oval.
But as the confetti fell down, a softer, more fun Australia emerged and it was led by the one player who didn’t take to the field during the tournament.
Grace Harris happily admits that she didn’t expect to be in the team long after the T20 portion of the Women’s Ashes wrapped up in January.
Instead, she has found herself in Christchurch two months later with a winner’s medal around her neck as part of the 15-strong squad that helped Australia add the one-day trophy to the T20 title they earned in 2020.
And the 28-year-old is perhaps the perfect bridge between the fun-loving Aussies off the pitch and the focused Australia on it, her disappointment at missing out matched by her enthusiasm at just being here.
“It’s always disappointing to not get selected but there’s far worse things in the world than missing out on playing games of cricket,” she said.
“I have had the best seat in the house, aside from maybe being out in the middle, but sitting live and watching all the games in action straight on the sidelines, I guess it gives you a bit more hunger to actually do the best that you can to try and break into the squad.”
Harris also readily admits that had it not been for an injury to Sophie Molineux she was unlikely to have been standing in a square in Christchurch sleep-deprived, bleary-eyed but a world champion.
It is another sign of the strength in depth that Australia have that the player with the fastest-ever Women’s Big Bash League century was selected in the squad to replace the spin of Molineux.
The all-rounder’s two stints in the Australia team have bookended the rebuild from the disappointment of the 2017 semi-final loss to India.
Harris’ last appearances in green and gold came in November 2016 before she broke back into the side in 2022 with a stellar WBBL campaign.
She is then best placed to give perspective on the changes that have been made to catapult Australia to the best team in the world.
For her, it has been the nurturing of players rather than the building of a relentless winning team that has stood out.
She said: “I think the main core group are very well run by [captain] Meg Lanning and [vice-captain] Rachael Haynes.
“They give us all a purpose when we’re within the squad, which I think the last time I was in probably lacked that. Back in 2016, you lacked a bit of clarity on what role you would play within the team. Off the field, it is a good, happy bunch of people.”
While Harris’ role on the pitch was not realised this time around, she was in no doubt about her duty off it.
“If spinners went down, I was in, but mainly morale-boosting off the field is always a good thing to have as a tourist when you know that you’re not really playing,” the veterinary nursing student added.
“You can kick the dirt, you can carry on about not getting selected in the squad or you can choose to still be happy doing whatever you do.
“I was just trying to get around all the girls that were performing and not really let my own disappointment impact them.
“Not that I’m too disappointed, it’s an Australian team, you don’t get to do this too often.”
Harris smiles as she gestures to her teammates around her, the trophy being passed from player to player as they reflect on the achievements of the day before.
The Queenslander has achieved the title of World Cup winner, and she has also won a dare against her sister and fellow Brisbane Heat player, Laura Kimmince.
Kimmince took home a memento of her time in the Hundred last year, one of the foam boundary wedges, and tasked her younger sibling to do the same at the World Cup.
Harris succeeded, and also earned the bright pink coat of umpire Alex Wharf, after her role of running the drinks also turned into delivering messages to the officials in the middle with their radio feed temporarily down in one game.
The right-hander may have learned plenty from her time with the Australia team, including from her captain.
But it feels that Harris may have also taught the squad a thing or two, particularly to Lanning who admits to struggling to switch off from cricket.
She said: “I think it’s just a game at the end of the day, right? It’s not really life or death, so I’ll just enjoy it that way.
“If something happens tomorrow, and that was the last thing that I did with cricket, then I’m having fun when I’m doing it.”
Australia and Harris are now preparing to depart New Zealand with World Cup trophy, pink coat and boundary wedge in tow, their all-conquering exploits plain to see. But Harris hits home the importance of enjoying it as they do it.