Nicole Bolton farewells the WBBL

‘I worry about the next generation of players’: retired cricket great Nicole Bolton speaks out

Nicole Bolton will always be remembered for her incredible contribution to the women’s national cricket team and the Australian national game.

The former opening bat played 50 ODIs, three Tests and two T20Is during his time in the green and gold, tallying nearly 2,000 runs and reaching four centuries at the top in his preferred one-day format.

Nicole Bolton raises her bat to teammates in the dugout after making 100 on her debut
Bolton is just one of seven players to make a century on ODI debut alongside Mithali Raj, Enid Bakewell and Lynne Thomas.(Getty: Darrian Traynor)

Bolton’s greatest claim to fame is that she still holds the record as the most successful debutante for Australia in the Women’s ODIs, having stunned England with 124 runs at the MCG in the multi-format Women’s Ashes series. 2014.

Her remarkable career spanned over 16 years, starting in her home state with Western Fury in the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) over 50 when she was a teenager.

She finally got her hands on the Ruth Preddy Cup in February 2020, when she scored 67 points in a player of the match performance against a long-dominant NSW Breakers, to lead Western Australia to their first WNCL title.

Western Australian crowd around the Ruth Preddy Cup with smiles on their faces
Bolton gets his hands on the trophy during WA’s WNCL celebrations.(Getty: Brendon Thorne)

Unfortunately, she was unable to top it all off with a Women’s Big Bash League trophy win over the weekend – having reached the final twice before with the Perth Scorchers in previous summers and with the Sydney Sixers this season. – falling to the Adelaide Strikers. by 10 passes.

But Bolton’s legacy goes deeper than the results she was able to produce on the cricket pitch, after her story took a turn in the summer of 2018/2019.

Bolton’s legacy around mental health

In October 2018, she represented her country in Kuala Lumpur, facing Pakistan in three ODIs. In January, she announced she was taking an indefinite leave from acting for personal reasons.

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Beamsy and Britt – Farewell Cricket starring Nicole Bolton

It became clear during that five-month break that Bolton had mental health issues.

In July she made a return to the Australian team – in what would be her final international series – heading to England for the Ashes and struggling to find form, managing just 13 runs in three ODIs and the Test autonomous.

And although she never officially retired from the national team, Bolton announced the end of her career in all long game formats in October 2021.

WA cricketer Nicole Bolton holds a cricket bat at the WACA.
WACA boss Christina Matthews said Bolton was the greatest player in state history. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“I think [the break] was a really important time in my life because it was a time when something had to change and I was lucky that being athletic meant I had a lot of access to resources and people to be able to help get through a really dark time,” Bolton told the ABC’s Beamsy and Britt podcast.

“Not everyone understands that, and I think one of the other benefits of being in the position that we’re in as athletes is that we’re able to create exposure and change. the stigma around these issues.”

Allyse Healy celebrates the Aussie wicket
Although there were some dark moments towards the end, Bolton enjoyed great success with her Australian teammates.(Getty: Darian Traynor)

“These days I’m probably in the best space I’ve ever been in, feeling consistent with how I deliver, my moods, what I want to do with my life, what gets me out of bed.

“I have no doubt this retirement is going to hit me at some point and it’s going to really challenge me, my sanity and the way I think about myself and who I am as a person…because trying to create an identity outside of cricket will be difficult.

“The good thing is I’ve done a lot of work in this space now, I have a lot of great people around me supporting me, and I know a lot of other players who have made this transition that I will be asking for advice. .”

Start a conversation

Since Bolton’s break and her courageous decision to open up about her battle with depression, we’ve seen a number of other female cricketers do the same.

Rising star Hannah Darlington opted to skip her commitments with the Australian squad during the Cricket World Cup in March.

An Australian player throws a ball against India.
Despite having had the chance of a lifetime to make the Australian squad at a World Cup, Darlington withdrew from the tournament.(Getty Images: Albert Perez)

England’s top all-around player Nat Sciver withdrew from an international series against India in September because she felt “emotionally tired”.

Not even the all-conquering Australia captain is immune, as Meg Lanning shocked fans when she went on indefinite leave in August three days after leading the team to Commonwealth Games glory.

England player Katherine Brunt consoles her partner and teammate Nat Sciver after the Women's Cricket World Cup.
Nat Sciver is consoled by teammate and wife Katherine Brunt after England lost in the 2022 World Cup Final.(Getty: Phil Walter/ICC)

Despite the emergence of more and more players feeling the need to step away, Bolton says the fact that they feel comfortable doing so is a “powerful thing” and his well-documented break there is. three years may well have inspired them to take care of their mental health as well.

“I was so overwhelmed with the response from people when I took my break, especially people I hadn’t really been in touch with in a long time, and I think that prompted others to reach out and say ‘I’m fighting too’, or ‘I’ve been through this before, what should I do?’

“I know the Australian Cricketers’ Association has looked much more into mental health and is now providing more resources and ways to support players.

“It’s great to see that people aren’t afraid to say ‘hey, I’m not fine’, but also from a team perspective, to be aware of how these players are feeling. and join them as well.”

Caring about the next generation

An Australian female cricketer looks to her right as she answers a question during a press conference.
Lanning had a particularly busy year as captain, winning the Ashes, the World Cup, the T20 International Tri-Series and the Commonwealth Games.(PA: Joel Carrett)

Asked if she thinks enough is being done to support players as demands continue to grow – especially for female cricketers, who now have more opportunities than ever before – Bolton says ‘she has real concerns about the mental health of the next generation.

“It’s become so professional that there’s this element of burnout, where players are unable to meet the demands and expectations of the sport,” she said.

“When you’re playing at that next level you don’t have to look too far because someone is always blowing down your neck for your place and it can be a really intense environment and a way of life and a state of being. mind, where it rules your life and everything you do.

Nicole Bolton fights back tears as she is consoled by teammate Maitlan Brown
Nicole Bolton had a tearful farewell in the WBBL.(Getty: Mark Kolbe)

“I think my biggest concern for the young girls coming in is that now you have to live with your phone, you live with your AMS (Athlete Management System) where you’re told what to do every day, day in and day out, and it there is no real autonomy for the players… we have to be careful not to encourage them to solve their problems on their own backs.

“I think there is an element that needs to be talked about from a clinical and psychological point of view, because even though the support is better, I still worry with the increasing demands on planning that the possibility for players to find a balance and a life outside of cricket is going to be limited.”

Listen to the Beamsy and Britt podcast here or find it via the Best of ABC Sport stream on the ABC Listen app.

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