Having rolled the dice with an interstate move as an 18-year-old, pace bowler Kate Peterson has gone from strength to strength on the domestic scene, and now a maiden international tour awaits her
Kate with destiny: 'Extreme talent' eyes new horizons
Kate Peterson was barely 18 years old when confronted by a significant crossroad in her barely begun cricket career.
The budding pace bowler and high school javelin champion had already signed with Sydney Thunder in the WBBL having graduated from the club's development academy, but now she was being courted by several state teams that recognised her raw promise.
Even though Peterson played just one game for the Thunder in her maiden season of 2020-21 – in which she neither bowled nor batted – South Australia had offered her a two-year deal to relocate to Adelaide and join the Scorpions WNCL program.
It was not the first time she had to confront the prospect of leaving the tightly-knit family home in Sydney's west she shared with parents Kevin and Jane, as well as older sister Anna and younger sibling Jessica.
On the same day she completed her final HSC exam at William Clarke College in Kellyville in 2020, Peterson packed up and moved into the WBBL village that doubled as a COVID-19 bio-security hub at Sydney's Olympic Park, foregoing her high school formal and graduation celebrations in the process.
But Adelaide for two years represented an altogether different prospect than living with 250 other cricketers for 35 days during WBBL|06, given she had already begun the first year of a physiotherapy degree in Sydney and had neither family nor friends in SA.
Her one and only visit to the state came had come as part of NSW's team at an Under-15s national championships years earlier.
Then, on the day Peterson was due to fly to Adelaide to check out her potential new job and home, a counter-offer arrived in the form of a one-year deal with the powerhouse New South Wales Breakers that would enable her to remain with her family and her studies.
"I remember running inside to Mum, so excited and saying 'Mum, look – I don't have to move states, I can stay here'," Peterson told cricket.com.au at Adelaide Oval, where she is fine-tuning preparation for next month's Australia A tour to England.
"But I went to Adelaide anyway, and from the moment I got here I just loved it."
From the time Scorpions coach Luke Williams – who will also lead the Australia A squad on its UK tour that dovetails with Australia women's Ashes quest – met her at Adelaide Airport and took her for a guided tour of Karen Rolton and Adelaide Ovals, Peterson knew where her immediate future lay.
Not only did she meet her prospective teammates who Williams had cannily ensured were on site, she was taken to lunch at a North Adelaide café by Australia regulars and staunch South Australians Megan Schutt and Tahlia McGrath.
By the time she returned to Sydney to make her choice, another option had surfaced with the ACT Meteors dangling a contract offer that – while also ensuring the teen would need to leave home – allowed her to be 1,000km closer to friends and family.
However, first impressions lingered and Peterson decided South Australia was the entity with whom she would pursue her adolescent aspiration to forge a full-time career in cricket.
"I loved how committed they were, the effort they went to getting me down here and showing me around," Peterson says, having recently committed to another two years with the Scorpions.
"They seemed so genuine, so committed, the facilities were great and the opportunity to learn from people like 'Shooter' (Schutt), 'T-Mac' (McGrath) and 'Darce' (fellow pace bowler Darcie Brown) who have been so successful was something I couldn't pass up.
"The ACT Meteors was a two-year deal, and so I told Mum, 'oh maybe I should go there – it's the same length contract, and only a three-hour car trip away'.
"But I wouldn't change my decision for the world, I think it's been the best move for me, and Mum and Dad also probably knew that in their hearts.
"Although two weeks after I moved, the states were all locked down due to COVID and I didn't get home for seven months.
"It was tough, but it definitely made me grow up a bit."
Image Id: 360AF5DE750F4ECB9C2B1DF89C71DF5C Image Caption: Peterson after her five-wicket haul against Queensland in February // Getty
While the enforced isolation strengthened the bonds between Peterson and her new team – Williams reassured her SA would do all they could to reunite her with family should she need to, and she moved into a share house with teammates Josie Dooley and Sam Betts – it also signalled she meant business.
She happily admits she's taken every available opportunity to learn from Schutt given their similarities as right-arm swing bowlers, gleaning not only the variations employed by Australia's premier pacer but also when to execute them in game situations, and the fields needed to maximise their effect.
Peterson might be effusive in her praise for Schutt and the insights she's shared over the past two seasons with SA, but it's a two-way street.
"She's an extreme talent, but I knew she was going to be an incredible strength for our team based on the fact she moved here when she was 18," Schutt told cricket.com.au.
"She packed up her bags as a teenager, didn't know a single person in this side and moved to SA for opportunity, and that just speaks volumes for who she is, who she wants to be as a cricketer, and the fact she's willing to pick the brains of other players at that age is phenomenal.
"I know what I was like at 20, I thought I knew it all, just going along plotting my game, but she's here trying to learn every inch of the game and how to get better, and how to improve herself in all three aspects.
"She works hard in every area, she doesn't slack off."
The philosophy that underpins Peterson's drive, and a key factor in many of her choices to date, is 'never say never'.
It's why she won't rule out a return to javelin throwing at some point in coming years, mindful the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane present a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reach the pinnacle of sporting endeavour in her home country.
The now 20-year-old hasn't picked up a javelin since her move to Adelaide, and with cricket her sole sporting focus she doubts it would be viable to return to the event given the few spare hours she gets outside training, playing and physiotherapy study at Adelaide University.
But Peterson holds a personal best throw of 45.14m as a 15-year-old in 2018 (albeit with a 500g javelin used in under-age competitions) and finished just outside the national top 10 when competing for NSW at Under-20 championships in 2020 while still at school.
She has also been speaking with one of the Scorpions assistant coaches who is interested to see how closely her javelin throwing correlates to her bowling technique, so the auxiliary sport might yet feature in pre-season training once she returns from England.
"With the opportunities there are in cricket now and the amount of time that you put in, I don't know if there's time for both," Peterson says.
"Plus I don't think the body would be able to handle both of them, especially being a pace bowler.
"But with the Olympics coming to Brisbane, I think that would be pretty cool.
"And my motto is 'never say never' … you never know what can happen."
Image Id: AF4BAE2AFAFC404EAF7BC0ACF73C1CD6 Image Caption: Peterson (second from left) lined up for the Governor-General's XI last summer // Getty
Given the qualifying mark for women's javelin at next year's Paris Olympics is 64m, it would seem a distant dream but so too did playing alongside her cricket hero Ellyse Perry when growing up in Sydney.
Despite her ability in field events – she broke four individual records including javelin, shot put and discus at a single school sports day in 2017 – cricket was a predominant interest in the Peterson home, with Jane having represented Australia at indoor level and Kevin a regular grade player.
Both Kate's sisters also played during their teenage years – Anna (now 24) still does – and backyard 'Tests' were a regular feature of family get togethers over Christmas and New Year, with the battle between her parents being the most competitive.
It was when Kate progressed to NSW's pathways programs via Parramatta and was privy to the regimes of senior women's players, around the time the WBBL found its feet and its players found options previously only available to their male counterparts, that her ambition took shape.
"Having the opportunity to watch the 'big dogs' play and train, that's when I first thought 'wow, there's actually a career here for me'," she recalls.
"And as I've grown up, to see how that's developed further … the opportunities are endless now if you keep working hard."
After representing a Cricket Australia XI (alongside Phoebe Litchfield) at the national Under-18 titles in 2018-19 aged 16, Peterson was signed by Sydney Thunder while in Year 11 but did not play a game during her first season in green.
The following year she made her WBBL debut, albeit as a specialist fielder, and then played a further eight games in WBBL|07 where her one and only wicket was then India captain Harmanpreet Kaur who was playing for Melbourne Renegades.
But at season's end she was unsure whether a new Thunder contract would be forthcoming, so leapt at the chance to join her girlhood hero Perry at Sydney Sixers.
"I've learned so much from them, and had the best time," Peterson says of the Sixers, with whom she is expected to sign a further two-year deal.
"Just the chance to take the field with people you grew up idolising, learning from them and being in the same team as them, wearing the same colours, is so special."
Image Id: 81F34C49625F473A9502F976066B7926 Image Caption: Peterson has settled nicely at the Sixers // Getty
She cites fellow Australia A squad members Lauren Cheatle and Maitlan Brown as significant influences at the Sixers, but it was Perry who was pivotal in her breakthrough bowling spell after Brown succumbed to injury and Peterson was called upon to fill her role with the ball.
Having sent down a solitary over in her first seven outings with the Sixers, Peterson found herself in the sights of Perth Scorchers South Africa import Marizanne Kapp who clubbed her for consecutive sixes – including one the rueful bowler reckons cleared the hill at Junction Oval – as her four overs yielded 0-42.
As Schutt observes, the one deficiency in Peterson's armoury is self-confidence so the teenager was surprised and more than a little nervous when summoned by skipper Perry to bowl the eighth over of the Sixers' next match, with Brisbane Heat's big-hitting Grace Harris at the crease.
"I didn't even know if I'd get a bowl after my last performance," Peterson recalls.
"It (the Scorchers match) had been my first time bowling four overs in a game, so I guess you can't expect too much.
"But to get thrown the ball again … 'Pez' (Perry) was really good to calm the nerves, saying 'back your plans, back your processes', and it came off on the night."
With her older sister – who had just completed a cricket training session adjacent to North Sydney Oval – among the crowd, Peterson conceded just four runs from her first over, dismissed Harris and her set batting partner Georgia Voll in her next, and finished with 4-17.
It was Perry's encouragement, as well as Peterson's clear-headed capacity to enact her advice, that delivered the defining moment.
Yet it's not the bowling effort of which she remains most proud at this nascent stage of her career.
That came in even more cut-throat circumstances, in the final WNCL round of last summer when the Scorpions had to defeat Queensland Fire in both matches of their double-header in Adelaide to win through to the following week's grand final against Tasmania.
Taking the new-ball alongside 19-year-old Ella Wilson with SA defending 234, Peterson cut a swathe through Queensland's top-order including Voll and Mikayla Hinkley from consecutive deliveries to finish with 5-34 in her team's 94-run win.
Asked to identify the keys to her bowling when things are working well, Peterson sounds more like a 10-year international veteran than a 20-year-old who is about to embark on her first international campaign.
"It's probably swing, and just consistency with line and length," she says, identifying traits that should serve her well in England.
"I know when I get nervous they tend to spray a bit, so it's just keeping a really tight line.
"And going back on my variations as well, I know if they're coming out well and I've got a few different things working in my favour, then I can change it up consistently."
Where she won't have any previous experience to call upon is bowling with the UK-manufactured Dukes ball, which will be used in the three-day warm-up game Australia A play against England women's first XI as lead-in to the subsequent Ashes series.
Not only has Peterson encountered the Dukes ball just once previously – during a pre-tour training camp in Brisbane earlier this month – her only prior involvement in matches using a red ball came when she was playing Under-12s cricket in her local boy's competition.
But before she gets a chance to experience cricket outside Australia – her only international trip to date was the holiday in Hawaii with friends she undertook last month – she returns to Brisbane to take part in a practice game against an Australia team including her idol, Perry.
Since dashing out of a university class when national women's selector Shawn Flegler's name flashed on her phone last March ("I knew that was a call I had to take"), Peterson hasn't been able to stop thinking of what awaits in the northern summer.
"I'm really excited," she beams. "I've obviously never played overseas before, so I'm just looking forward to seeing how the conditions change, and looking forward to using the Dukes ball.
"We've got a fair few pace bowlers in the (Australia A) squad, so we can rotate through a fair bit.
"We haven't spoken about roles, but we play a practice game against the Aussie side at the Brisbane camp, so I guess we have a meeting before that and look at what our roles might be.
"We've got some really cool coaches coming away with us including Luke (Williams) from the Scorpions, so I'll be taking as much from any of them as I can, and see where I get to."
Schutt, who boasts vast experience in English conditions and will surely provide invaluable insights for bowling swing over there, believes it's only Peterson's lack of self-confidence – a trait not found in many 20-year-olds learning their trade – that could slow her fast-track.
"She needs to know how good a cricketer she is, and hopefully in Aussie A they can really pump up her tyres a bit because I think that's truly the only area she needs to work on," Schutt says.
"Her bowling will get even better with time.
"The challenge will be keeping her injury free with the higher workloads that come with Aussie A honours and everything else in between.
"But geez she works hard, and is a great asset in SA colours and hopefully Aussie colours some day soon."
From Peterson's perspective, the area she might need to redress – in addition to batting, which she admits has deteriorated since teenage days when she was considered a genuine allrounder – is an attitude change to become a stereotypical 'angry fast bowler'.
"There's probably only a couple out there in the women's game," she says, laughing.
"Kappy (Marizanne Kapp) is one maybe – she doesn't crack a smile out there, ever.
"I'm just the opposite. I'll probably need to develop it … but I'm too nice for that."
Australia A v England A 2023
Australia A squad: Maitlan Brown, Lauren Cheatle, Maddy Darke, Heather Graham, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Charli Knott, Kate Peterson, Courtney Sippel, Tayla Vlaeminck, Courtney Webb, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Tahlia Wilson
First T20: June 21 at Loughborough
Second T20: June 23 at Loughborough
Third T20: June 25 at Loughborough
First OD: June 28 at TBC
Second OD: June 30 at TBC
Third OD: July 2 at TBC