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Interview – Amy Satterthwaite: You’re a person first and cricket comes second

Amy Satterthwaite, 2022
by Karunya Keshav 5 minute read

When Amy Satterthwaite played at the Hagley Oval in March 2022, she made a first-ball duck.

She did not know it then, but that World Cup match against Pakistan was the last time she would play for New Zealand. An illustrious career came to a premature halt a few months later.

A year later, her home ground had a happier farewell in store for her. This February, Hagley Oval was renamed the Amy Satterthwaite Oval for a weekend. And Amy Satterthwaite marked the honour with a century. The Oval bore witness as in her last ever home game, one of Christchurch’s finest added another couple of records to an already long list.

In front of friends and family, Satterthwaite became only the seventh woman to go past 10,000 List A runs and completed 150 wickets for Canterbury.

As a 13-year-old playing for St Alban’s Cricket Club, she took her first steps in cricket at this ground. The changeroom standing at one corner was “a pretty special place. You always had your seat that you sat in”. For nearly two decades, she sat in the same changeroom with her Canterbury and New Zealand teammates, enjoying a drink and good company after matches.

Since having Grace, her daughter with teammate Lea Tahuhu, a new tradition was born, where the little girl joined them for a debrief. In the last two years, they have all celebrated two T20 titles in the red and black of the Canterbury Magicians and centuries for Satterthwaite in both limited-overs formats.

This was Amy Satterthwaite’s stomping ground, with or without the name change: but the honour was fitting tribute to her career.

Last year, despite her strong numbers, New Zealand Cricket had left Satterthwaite out of the contracts list as they “looked to the future”, forcing her to announce her international retirement “with a degree of sadness”. This year, she decided to retire from all cricket, playing her final game on March 4.

A successful domestic season doesn’t erase the White Ferns disappointment, but, like that special day at the Amy Satterthwaite Oval, the last few weeks have ensured that Satterthwaite exits the game on a positive note. Her passion for the sport is undiminished; her legacy as a batter and a change-maker is stronger than ever.

“There’ll always be that little moment of – I don’t know if ‘what if’ is the right phrase – but you would have loved it to finish differently,” Satterthwaite said about the premature finish to her White Ferns career. “But it wasn’t to be. It was out of my control.

“I’ve gone through a grieving period the last eight to ten months. There’s been different moments along the way where I’ve had different emotions, a rollercoaster of emotions, and emotions being brought back up. Not going to the Commonwealth Games was pretty hard. And I had a moment of watching [the White Ferns] live at Hagley, and it was the first live game and I hadn’t thought anything of it until I turned up at the ground and it hit me. Another hard moment. I’ve had moments where it’s brought up that emotion and it’s been tough.

“Time helps that healing process. I feel really thankful that I’ve had this domestic season this year to enjoy. The team’s great to be around. Obviously we’ve had success which helps, but it’s been a very fun season to feel like I can go out on a positive note.”

The Canterbury Magicians have worked to make sure that Satterthwaite bows out on a high. “It’s been an ongoing joke for the season,” she tells Wisden.com. “It started out as ‘one more year’, that was the catchphrase they were all using. And then it’s turned into ‘three more years’, and the other day it was ‘four more years’! It’s nice to hear they want me to stick around. But I’ve been around for long enough and it’s time to hang up the boots.”

This season, Satterthwaite lifted the T20 Super Smash trophy and made it to the final of the one-day Hallyburton Johnstone Shield. In both, she finished second on the runs charts. A few months ago, she won the Women’s Big Bash League as assistant coach with Adelaide Strikers. So why quit when she’s playing so well?

“There’s part of you that thinks ‘I’ve still got it, I can keep playing’. And you do ask yourself ‘Is now the right time?’ But the flip side of it is that it’s a good time to go out when you are still performing,” she said. “I’d rather leave when things are going well and you feel positive about the game.”

Satterthwaite hasn’t thought of her legacy – she’d rather have a holiday first and then find a display for her playing caps on a wall at home. But when she does sit down to reflect, she won’t have far to look. Beyond her place as a New Zealand batting icon, beyond the record four ODI hundreds in a row and the record T20I figures of 6-17 is her contribution as a social icon who changed the rules for female athletes and women everywhere.

Satterthwaite and Tahuhu were among the first high-profile cricket couples to go public with their relationship. Satterthwaite, then captain of New Zealand, became the first international player to make use of a parental and pregnancy policy. After her maternity break, she came back to perform at the highest level. These decisions – regular life for many women but ground-breaking for a female cricketer – forced conversations about inclusivity, equality and social change, and forged a path for others to follow.

“The decisions weren’t in terms of trying to change the game. They were right for us as a family, but inadvertently it worked out that way,” says Satterthwaite, about carrying the burden of provoking change. “I’ve grown in that I was a reasonably private person but if I can help other people through sharing my story a little bit, that’s a positive thing.

“I hope that through what I’ve done over the years and just be myself, be comfortable and confident about that and articulate that, I hope that’s helped people along the way.”

At Canterbury, Satterthwaite had her teammate Kate Ebrahim for company in navigating pregnancy, postpartum challenges, and balancing sports and motherhood. Since then, more players have approached her for advice. After all, there’s a unique perspective one gets from making runs in the afternoon and changing nappies at night.

“I’ve had the odd person reach out and ask advice,” she says. “Whether that’s coming back to play or balancing having a child while playing. That’s the cool thing about it – there are more people now who are having children and continuing to play. I hope that through myself and Lea doing it, people are seeing it’s possible and they can continue to do both. I saw through my career so many people stop playing 26 to 30 because they went to have a family. That was the right time for them. But it was a real shame to lose them to the game.”

As she moves to coaching, more young girls are likely to benefit from her equanimity.

“They talk about trying not to identify as a cricketer. You’re a person first and cricket comes second,” Satterthwaite reflects. “Early in my career, I held on to being a cricketer too much. As I was able to acknowledge or be myself, I probably enjoyed my cricket more and performed better. That itself was a journey in my career.”

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