It has been a challenging past couple of months for Sam Bates, but when the Wallsend cricketer returns to Tasmania on Wednesday it will be with a renewed focus.
The Tasmanian Tigers and Sydney Thunder left-arm orthodox bowler spent the coronavirus lockdown period in her home town of Newcastle.
For the 27-year-old, it was a good chance to reset, rediscover a love of the game and devote time to specific areas she hopes will help realise a dream of playing for Australia. That has included recruiting personal trainer Marc Hingston.
"I asked myself what do I really want to get out of this time," Bates said. "Agility was one thing. With cricket, you actually need a lot of agility in the field. Given that Marc worked with a lot of soccer players, I though he'd be perfect for that.
"I also wanted to work on a lot of specific exercises that worked both my glute muscles and my core muscles. As a spinner you need that as well. It's been really good."
The Tigers are set to start training on June 15 for the 2020-21 Women's National Cricket League. Bates, who will need to self-isolate for two weeks once back in Tasmania, made the move south last season to improve her game after a decade with ACT.
"I'm very clear on what I want to achieve with this season, where I think if everything was just normal, I wouldn't have really had that time to really reflect on what I wanted to get, not just our of cricket, but out of life," Bates said. "That was one really good aspect."
The only time she has bowled since last season has been on her own in the nets and to her eight-year-old nephew in the backyard.
"The backyard is where it all started for me and my brother, who would join in as well," she said. "In a way you were falling in love with the game all over again. You understood why you played the game. For nine months of the year I'm just on the go all of the time, so it was a lot of clarity around what I still want to do."
Bates, who toured India with Australia A in 2018, made the move to Tasmania to work with specialist bowling coach Daniel Marsh.
"He showed me so much more of my game that I don't think I would have been able to learn from someone else, so that was good," Bates said.
"I obviously didn't get to play for Australia this year and that's alright, but I definitely improved my game, so it was definitely a good decision for me."
Right before the country was plunged into lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, Bates was one of the 86,174-strong crowd who turned out at the MCG in March to watch Australia win the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Final.
"It was a really surreal moment because I never thought that was ever going to happen for the women's game in my lifetime," she said.
"It gave me a little bit of hunger to say, 'I want to be out there, really knowing what it feels like'."