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Senior School staff member, Eloise Sheridan, shares with us her recent experiences as a cricket umpire at the top level.

I have been fortunate enough this year to experience two of the biggest achievements in cricket umpiring that anyone can dream of – both an Ashes series and a 50-over World Cup. Many times over the past three months, I have had to pinch myself when I thought about where I was and whom I was umpiring. Seeing Katherine Brunt steam in for the first over of the test match at Manuka Oval in late January will forever be one of my most treasured memories in umpiring. And then to have the match go down to the very last ball on day four, with any result still possible, was breathtaking. I have to admit that I didn’t really feel nervous going into the match – I was so excited I had to really try to contain myself each morning!

I have been asked a number of times what my ultimate goal in cricket umpiring is, and I always say an Ashes test match. Well, a test match first, but to add the Ashes in front is a dream. To be able to achieve my ultimate goal in only seven seasons of umpiring seems unimaginable. However, I also think about the hard work and sacrifices that have gone into achieving that goal. I have had to change jobs a number of times, I have spent a lot of time away from home and family, and I have spent countless hours preparing for matches through workshops, meetings, and TV umpire training, just on the off chance I might be able to move to the next level in my umpiring career. I have no doubt that being welcomed at Saint Ignatius’ College in 2021 was a catalyst for my successful 2021–22 season. I have always felt 100% supported by the College, even when cricket can take me away for long periods of time, and I will forever be grateful to those who have taken on extra duties in my absence.

Being away from home is not easy. In 2022, I had spent a mere 18 days in Adelaide prior to leaving for the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. I then had to go through the MIQ system in Auckland, although it was reduced from ten to seven days during our stay, which allowed us an extra three days to explore Auckland. MIQ was not a bad experience either; we were provided three good meals a day and allowed out for short walks around the carpark, and the International Cricket Council (ICC) arranged stationary bikes for our rooms. Once out of MIQ, we were flown to Christchurch for World Cup preparations and warm-up matches, and things went very quickly from there. My first World Cup match was in Dunedin in the South Island between South Africa and Bangladesh and was not as one-sided as everyone had expected. In fact, Bangladesh really surprised a few teams in this tournament and showed some real promise for the future of women’s cricket in their country. I’ve heard that this was the closest cricket World Cup ever, male or female, and the standard of cricket really did show that as well as the exciting future of women’s cricket worldwide. From three games in Dunedin, I travelled up to Hamilton on the North Island, then Tauranga, back to Hamilton, and then on to Christchurch – nine matches all within 16 days! Small charter planes are not my idea of fun, but I survived! I have also been part of ‘bubbles’ since November, all to varying degrees, although generally this means no indoor spaces, no interaction with those outside of the bubble, and masks everywhere. We hear more regularly about athletes citing ‘bubble fatigue’ and not wanting to enter another such environment, and I completely understand this. Whilst it is positive to find ways for sport to continue, it can be a draining environment where some of the fun of working in sport is diminished. Having said that, the biggest advantage of being in New Zealand in April is that a lot of tourist activities can take place outside, and I thoroughly enjoyed viewing albatross and seals in Dunedin, bushwalks around volcanos, visiting black sand beaches and stunning lookouts, and kayaking the Avon River in Christchurch.

I hope my experiences also show that there are opportunities in sport beyond a playing career. Although I had some success in my own playing career, by far my umpiring career has provided more opportunity. Each appointment to matches or series allows me to meet new people, gain experience, and contribute to a sport that has played a significant role in my life to date. On top of that, I have been able to travel and umpire all of mainland Australia (I just have Tasmania left to tick off!), as well as Scotland in 2019 and now New Zealand in 2022. These experiences provide opportunity to improve myself in a number of areas, including my leadership, communication, and confidence, all of which I am able to transfer to my teaching and Prefect roles here at the College. It might be very Ignatian to suggest, but it feels like I am able to work towards my own Magis and strive for more in each experience that I have been fortunate enough to be appointed to. I always make sure I take a moment (usually when I am at square leg) to look around and be in the moment of where I am, whom I am working with as my umpiring team, and whom I am umpiring.

I had no expectations going into either the Ashes series or the World Cup. On being told of my selection for each, I assumed as the most inexperienced umpire I would be ‘carrying the drinks’ as the fourth umpire in most matches. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to be called by our Head of Selectors at Cricket Australia informing me of my appointment on-field in the test match. I had mistakenly assumed I would be appointed for group matches only at the World Cup and again was pleasantly surprised to be selected as one of two Australian umpires for the semifinal matches. One of my umpiring coaches, who was an accomplished international umpire himself, always uses the phrase ‘prove the backers right’ when doubt creeps in. He chooses to focus on achieving what people expect of him, rather than try to prove someone wrong about a selection decision, as the old adage goes: ‘to prove the doubters wrong’. We don’t make the decisions, but we can choose to put forward our best possible performance, and for the most part, this will be more than enough. So, even if a selection decision may be a little surprising or be considered ‘left field’, it is worth remembering that someone has backed you in to be able to perform at that level. We don’t improve by having the same experience over and over again; rather, we can build on our experiences by challenging our abilities at higher levels. I now carry this phrase with me whenever I feel nervous or surprised by a selection decision, and it has served me very well so far – I am selected for matches because of someone’s belief in my abilities, so why would I ever question that? I feel confident that I have been able to prove my backers right by performing very strongly both in the Ashes test and throughout the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. To be one of the top-performing umpires in my first high-level ICC event is undoubtedly because I knew I had a lot of people in my corner, backing me in, including those here at the College.

Ms Eloise Sheridan
Prefect of Studies - Senior Years

Photos below:
First decision in the Ashes test match, Manuka Oval, Canberra
Walking out for the national anthems, Women’s World Cup Semi-Final, Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Signalling four during the Women’s World Cup Semi-Final, Hagley Oval, Christchurch

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