Cricket

One on One with: Jake Weatherald

Originally from Darwin, Jake Weatherald moved to Adelaide as a teenager to attend Prince Alfred College, spending his secondary schooling days “playing cricket, footy and chasing girls”.

Almost 10 years later, the dashing left-handed batsman is now a staple in the South Australia Redbacks and Adelaide Strikers sides, and he went One on One with Grady Hudd to talk about his rise through the Sheffield Shield and Big Bash League ranks.

PHOTO: SACA Media

Grady Hudd: Can you start by taking me back to your early years? How did you get into cricket?

Jake Weatherald: I started when I was in Darwin.

So, I was born in Darwin, then I started playing cricket when I was about eight because of another South Australian cricketer, Tom Andrews.

I was good mates with him at school, his dad was the coach of Darwin Cricket Club at the time so I just went along with him and we started playing juniors together, under 11s, and ever since then we just kept playing.

I played junior cricket at Darwin Cricket Club until I was about 14, and played my first A grade game when I was about 14.

Then, my parents sent me down to boarding school at Prince Alfred College when I had just turned 15, and I spent three years there.

I spent one year at the boarding house playing cricket there with the firsts, and then moved out of the boarding house and continued to play cricket with PAC Old Scholars’ A team when I finished school.

From there, I moved on to Sturt Cricket Club.

I played there until I was about 20, and then from there I moved to Adelaide Uni when I was 21 for more of a role as a keeper/batter.

I then got picked up and contracted by South Australia.

So, that’s my journey in terms of where I’ve come from.

GH: Doing your schooling at Prince Alfred College, was that a pretty good grounding for your cricket? What was the cricket program like there, and how did that help lay the foundations for your cricket?

JW: It was really good.

At the time we had a really strong side.

We had Kelvin Smith, myself, Tom Andrews – we had three guys who now play state cricket playing that one year.

We had a guy called Peter Williams who played a lot of cricket for Port Adelaide Cricket Club.

He was really, really big in my development there, he, sort of, got me in line.

I wasn’t the most serious cricketer going around in terms of what I wanted to do.

I wanted chase girls, play football, play cricket, I wanted to do everything under the sun, and he, sort of, said ‘if you want to play professional cricket you need to do this extra stuff’.

So, later on in my years (at PAC) I knuckled down and made sure I was doing the right things, and preparing well for games and actually making runs consistently, which I started doing at the back end of my school playing days.

Being from the Territory, everything is pretty low key up there, so coming down to South Australia and going to a private school like Prince Alfred College was a big difference, just in terms of education and stuff like that.

It changed very dramatically how seriously I took school – most of the time I didn’t rock up to class in Darwin.

Being in Adelaide, everyone actually went to class and took it seriously.

So, everything became a bit more serious, and if you wanted to be the best the pool was so much bigger in South Australia compared to what it was in Darwin, so everything was a lot more competitive.

Being at Prince Alfred College, and being amongst so many other good cricketers, it really made a big difference.

GH: So, did you start as a keeper-batsman when you moved to Sturt?

JW: I played my first C grade game when I was 16 as a keeper-batter and then I played A grade when I was 17, and I was a batter at that stage.

I kept a couple of games in A grade, but everyone said I needed to stick with my batting because I couldn’t catch them, so it worked out pretty well in the end.

I was always keen on being a keeper-batter, and that’s why I left Sturt to join Adelaide Uni because I wanted to keep and bat, and play a higher level of cricket.

I thought I could keep in the T20s and one-dayers and do a pretty good job, and wouldn’t have to keep in the four-day stuff.

That never came to fruition, but going to Uni was probably the best thing for me.

Cameron Borgas, who was a Sturt legend, I went across with him.

I worked really closely with him, he was a very close mentor of mine, so it worked really well.

PHOTO: SACA Media

GH: Your first-class debut for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield came in that same season, where you hit 58. What was that like for a young bloke coming into that team, and coming up against New South Wales?

JW: It was pretty nerve-racking to be honest.

New South Wales had been the benchmark in state cricket forever, they had so many Test cricketers (playing for them), so it was pretty big going up against them.

They had Doug Bollinger, blokes who you’d watched play Test cricket before (in the team), so as a 21-year-old I didn’t really know what to expect.

But at the same time, sometimes the easiest time to play is when (you’re young).

You’re, sort of, fearless at that stage, you’ve got nothing to lose.

I was like ‘well, if I don’t make it, I don’t make it, I might as well just go out and try and hit as many runs as I can and be as positive as I can’.

I got a few pull shots away and a few drives, and everything kind of came to fruition that day.

It was a good game, I probably should’ve made a hundred, but at the same time it worked out pretty well.

South Australia was going alright at that stage, so it was just a good time to play cricket.

I was young, and no one really cared about me so I just walked out to bat and swung as hard as I could, and everything, sort of, came off alright.

GH: Did you take that same attitude into the Shield final later that year against Victoria, where you hit 66 and 96 (in a seven-wicket loss)? Was it a case of mixed feelings given you performed well individually, but the team didn’t get the result?

JW: It was pretty hard; I came into the group quite late.

I wasn’t contracted or anything, I didn’t really know many of the boys either, and to be honest I’d only been in South Australia for five years so I didn’t really know what winning a Shield was about.

So, I just went out and batted, and enjoyed playing with the other guys.

There were so many good players playing in that game, especially for Victoria, so I was just enjoying batting and making runs.

I just took the same approach, I thought ‘I’ll go out there and try and score and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out; it’s not really my problem, I’m only a 21-year-old, so they can’t be relying on me’.

It was good fun to be a part of, but at the same time it’s just a missed opportunity now that you look back on it, knowing how hard it is to win Shields, and to win games of Shield cricket.

But at the same time, I was none the wiser at that stage.

PHOTO: SACA Media

GH: The following two seasons you really starting getting amongst the runs, hitting 141 in the One Day Cup against the CA XI in 2016/17, two centuries in the same comp the following year, and twin tons in the Shield match against WA. Which of those knocks are the most memorable? Do you have a favourite?

JW: Not really, to be honest.

In terms of the Shield stuff, I would probably say the WA game.

We were getting slaughtered in that game, we played terrible cricket.

So, to actually win a game for your team – I wasn’t obviously the only reason we won – but to be a big part of it, and make hundreds in both innings, which doesn’t happen very often, it was pretty cool to be a part of.

It’s something where you can look back and say ‘I actually played a massive part in a big win for South Australia’, and especially against WA.

We’d always had really good games there, but I’d stunk it up in Perth the last game I’d played there so I was pretty anxious as well.

Everyone was saying how good Perth is to bat, and I hadn’t made a run there yet and I’d batted three times.

I just needed to get back my form and at that time they had a pretty good attack as well too.

So, it was just good to go out and do something special.

You dream of it as a kid, doing something like that, so to go out and do it is something you can hold in the memory bank when you’re not going as well, knowing that you can do it.

GH: And was it a pretty good feeling being in the company of Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann, who was the last person to score hundreds in both innings of a Shield match?

JW: Yeah, exactly right.

I obviously know him quite well, so it’s pretty funny when you talk to him about it.

He obviously did it quite regularly in his career, so hopefully I can do something similar to him.

It’s pretty amazing that he did it so regularly, I felt like for me it would never happen again.

PHOTO: SACA Media

GH: You’ve also become a key fixture in the Adelaide Strikers’ Big Bash side over the past few seasons. What has that been like firstly coming into the squad, and then culminating in winning the final in BBL07 and hitting 115 in that match?

JW: It was pretty amazing to be honest.

I’d never really played much cricket T20 cricket.

Growing up, T20 cricket just started when I was going through my junior pathway.

If I’d got told to play a reverse sweep when I was younger, I would’ve been a much better cricketer.

But, no one ever taught me that, no one ever said that, so I was going into T20 cricket having only played four or five T20 games in terms of senior cricket, in terms of men’s cricket.

I was just thinking ‘this is amazing being out here’.

Obviously, there’s so many games and I was playing with so many good cricketers, I had Brad Hodge in my team and he was amazing to be around.

My first season was a bit of a whirlwind, I didn’t really bat that well, I batted well once; I thought it was a massive missed opportunity.

And then the next season I didn’t start off that well, and I was putting a lot of expectation on myself, but everyone else played so well.

We had Rashid Khan taking wickets, ‘Kez’ (Alex Carey) making runs all the time, Colin Ingram batting really well, Travvy (Head) when he came back was batting really well.

So, it sort of gave me a free ride for the first six games, and then once I felt comfortable I found a way of making runs consistently, and in T20 cricket once you get a bit of a roll on you can go from there.

Thankfully I could take over the reins when other people weren’t making runs, and contribute to the win.

At the end of the day, if it was solely relying on me batting-wise we wouldn’t have even got to the semis (in BBL07).

So, thankfully when we got there, I was able to deliver for my team and make some runs, but at the same time I didn’t really rock up until the last six or seven games, so it was good the rest of the team played so well.

GH: Now that the Shield season is done, what’s your plans for the off season? Are you looking to head over to England to play?

JW: I’m heading across to play club cricket over there, I’ll be over there in Sussex (playing for Cuckfield) for five months, which will be really enjoyable.

I’ve never played an English summer, so hopefully its nice and warm for me, but we’ll see.

It’ll be awesome because the World Cup and The Ashes will be on, and some of my close friends will be playing in the Aussie side, and watching them play in the World Cup will be amazing.

It will be good to be over there, learn new things and better your game, especially them using a Duke ball over there – it’ll be really good preparation for if they want to start using the Duke all year-round in Australia.

PHOTO: SACA Media

GH: You mentioned you’re looking forward to watching a few mates play in the World Cup. Is that a goal for yourself to one day represent Australian in potentially short form and long form cricket?

JW: Yeah definitely.

Playing for Australia is the ultimate goal.

You can talk about winning Shields, and stuff like that, but if you play for your country that’s the best thing on Earth.

That’s what domestic cricket is there for, to produce Australian cricketers.

It’s what we all strive for at the Redbacks, to play international cricket, and we’ve got four or five international cricketers at the moment, or who are around the mark, playing in the South Australian team.

I’d love to be one of those pushing for a World Cup spot in a couple years’ time, or if there’s a few injuries in the one-day squad at the moment, you just never know.

I feel comfortable with my short form game, but I’m still a little bit away with my red ball cricket.

I think I still have a lot of work to do there, and to get a lot more consistent and keep producing good seasons for South Australia in the red ball stuff.

But I’m sure that will come with more preparation and big off seasons, so we’ll see.

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Grady grew up in Bordertown in the state’s South East, around 10 minutes from the Victorian border, and is a Geelong Cats tragic and a lover of sports. Grady has worked in the journalism field for more than six years at a number of regional newspapers. He plays cricket for Trinity Old Scholars, and doesn’t mind teeing it up at some of the fantastic golf courses scattered across Adelaide and its surrounding regions.