Allison McGrath has taken the first steps towards her ultimate goal of one day playing for Australia by securing a Women's National Cricket League contract with the ACT Meteors.
The Belmont 18-year-old told the Newcastle Herald this week she was "overwhelmed" to have picked up the 12-month contract.
Newcastle's Samantha Bates and Corrine Hall and Singleton's Maisy Gibson are all in Tasmania's WNCL squad and Coffs Harbour's Anika Learoyd, who has played junior and senior cricket in Newcastle, has been signed by the NSW Breakers.
"It's amazing," McGrath said. "I have so many mixed emotions about getting the phone call from [Meteors coach] Jono Dean about a possible contract. Then a few days later they said, 'We'd love to have you on our team. When can you move to Canberra?'."
The fast bowling all-rounder has been in Canberra for a month and can already feel the benefit of training in a semi-professional environment.
"My biggest goal to now has been to get the contract," the right-arm quick said. "Now it's just the experience. It's been amazing so far. I've only been here for a month and the girls are just amazing to be around, so supportive.
"I'm hoping to at least play one game this season. If not, just to be there is awesome."
McGrath's last summer was plagued by a hip flexor injury and an enforced break during lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis has been timely.
"I was lucky to even play at nationals last year," the ACT-NSW Country under-18 representative said. "I was seeing a physio three times a week trying to get myself right. I didn't really have a good nationals. I didn't really have a positive mindset because I had my injuries on my mind the whole time.
"Then I get a phone call to be in Canberra by June 30 to start pre-season on July the first. Life just changes. It's just amazing how you go from playing under 18s to playing against women internationals."
McGrath's first taste of cricket came in primary school at an active after schools session and she was hooked. She went on to be part of a Newcastle City all-girls team which played their way through the junior boys' divisions of Newcastle cricket. McGrath progressed to men's grade cricket in the Newcastle District Cricket Association and to Sydney women's first grade with Northern Districts.
For now, McGrath plans to seize her opportunity with her sights set on also securing a Women's Big Bash League contract this summer or next and eventually pulling on an Australian jersey.
"That would be my ultimate goal, to get to that level," she said. "I like to just take small steps and set small goals at a time but, potentially, one day for sure."
While unable to play in the first Newcastle women's T20 league last summer due to injury McGrath said she was thrilled to see a women's competition finally building in Newcastle.
"The facilities and the coaching and the level of talent has changed massively since when I started," McGrath said. "There were no other girls coming from underneath. Then all of a sudden, all of these young girls just loved cricket and it's been awesome to see, especially in Newcastle. I think they had five teams in an under 13s girls' competition last year."
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