Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Perth Scorchers: Connolly Kickstarts Captivating Career

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On Friday 6 January, 2023, the day before Perth Scorchers’ clash with Brisbane Heat, a nineteen-year-old allrounder from Scarborough received a call most could only dream of.

“Coops, I’ve got some good news for you, you’re going to make your debut,” said Scorchers Head Coach Adam Voges from the other end of the line.

From humble beginnings at Doubleview-Carine Cricket Club watching his old man “push some left-arm thunderbolts” to receiving Perth Scorchers cap number 75 from Scarborough teammate Andrew Tye, Cooper Connolly’s journey to the big time has been unique. 

It took him one game to win the affections of the Scorchers faithful, who could be heard shouting the name “Coops” from all pockets of Optus Stadium as Perth triumphed over Brisbane Heat by seven wickets on 7 January.

This support helped calm the talented teenager’s nerves on debut. 

“Walking out there I was nervous, but then you sort of just listen to the crowd and you know they’ve got your back, no matter what,” Connolly said.

“It’s so hard for teams to travel to The Furnace because the fans are just so loud. The support is wonderful, and everyone is grateful for it.” 

An archetypal product of the WA talent pathway, Connolly made his First Grade Premier Cricket debut for Scarborough in 2020, aged just 16. 

The hard-hitting left-hander has come a long way since, averaging 62.4 (strike rate 84.3) including a 240-ball 188, his maiden First Grade century. 

“Hitting that hundred was a big relief for me after the big pre-season I had; I felt like I did everything I could to prepare. It felt so good after, I had the biggest smile on my face.”

In addition to his exciting, all-rounder cricketing attributes, Connolly is regarded by many as a leader of considerable promise. 

He has already assumed the captaincy of several pathway teams, including WA’s victorious Under 17 team, who claimed the 2019 National Championship with Connolly named Player of the Tournament. 

“That was bloody awesome,” Connolly recalled. 

“We didn’t think we were going to come close, we thought we were the underdogs. 

“It was one of the bigger moments of my cricketing career so far, winning that tournament.” 

Off the back of his composed performances for WA, Connolly represented the Cricket Australia XI in that year’s Under 19 National Championship. 

Selection for Australia in the 2020 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup followed, and Connolly grasped the chance with both hands, striking a 53-ball 64 against the West Indies. 

The entertaining knock proved a turning point for Connolly, who realised he could make it at the elite level. 

Two years later, Connolly skippered his country during the same marquee tournament, this time held in the West Indies. 

“It was new to me, captaining the Australian team, but you’ve just got to go with your gut,” Connolly said. 

“You can’t be a reactive captain. I was always just trying to stay one step ahead and see if I could read the batter before the did something.”

Connolly this year took the reins of WA’s Second XI team, playing alongside renowned Perth Scorchers captain Ashton Turner. 

“Ashton has been incredible, and I’ve learned a lot from him,” Connolly said. 

“He’ll come up to me and say ‘What do you think about this? You don’t have to do it’. It just put some thoughts in my mind just to help me out, to see if I could be a little smarter which is nice.” 

The easy-going left-hander also attributes his sharp rise to the intensity of WA Cricket’s high performance program. 

“You just notice how every squad member goes about their game and routine with absolute professionalism,” Connolly said. 

“I pretty laidback, but the high performance program has taught me the importance of showing intent.”

Scorchers fans have plenty to look forward to as Connolly continues to grow at the elite level. 

Sunday’s unbeaten 20 against Melbourne Renegades, compiled at the death from just 11 deliveries, proves as much. 

Classing himself as a batting allrounder, Connolly is eager to play all formats of the game and possesses the versatility to bat wherever the team needs. 

“I like to play my shots no matter what colour the ball is, but especially for the Scorchers,” he said. 

“I think my role could be anywhere from one to seven in the batting order.” 

Connolly is expected to play a pivotal role in Perth’s finals campaign, occupying No.7 in the absence of India-bound allrounder Ashton Agar. 

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