Kara calls stumps on career
AT THE age of nine, Kara Sutherland decided she liked the look of cricket that she saw on television.
Dressed in her whites for her first game, playing with South Services at Junction Hill, she couldn't have dreamed the journey she was about to embark on.
"I'm pretty sure they were short,” she remembered. "I don't think I scored any runs and I definitely wouldn't have been able to bowl with a straight arm.”
"But I remember all the boys being really great and completely accepting me as part of the team.”
Last Sunday, Sutherland brought an end to a cricketing career at 27 years old that has seen her represent two states, play internationally and be at the forefront of what is now a burgeoning women's sport scene.
And in a result that even Bradman would be envious of, she scored one last hundred for her club side Valley in Brisbane to call stumps on her time on the field.
"Though I think if you couldn't score runs on that pitch you were in trouble,” she laughed.
Having told her teammates of her decision earlier in the week, she was out in the middle from the second ball, and finished on 102, walking off to the applause of her teammates and friends.
Sutherland played in her first girls team in Year 6 in PSA, then represented both her high school and NSW through her junior years.
In Year 12, she played second XI cricket and was awarded a development squad contract with the NSW Breakers.
Leaving school, she gained a contract with a Breakers team with many very familiar faces in it.
"There was Elyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Alex Blackwell, Lisa Sthalaker, it was a great time for our cricket,” she said.
"And it was such a competitive environment and I think that's what made the Breakers win 10 consecutive titles. There were always new kids coming through challenging for the spots. It was great.”
The jump into senior cricket was a tough one, and Sutherland said that the environment of training nearly every day was an eye-opener, and her first seasons a struggle alongside work.
"I think my first contract barely covered the health insurance that we had to have to play,” Sutherland said. "But I never looked at it as anything other than an amazing opportunity, we didn't know any different.”
After her time, Sutherland went overseas to play country cricket with Kent, in a setup far removed from her experience - "we might've trained once a month as a team”, and returned to a contract with Queensland.
However, there had long been rumours of a T20 competition for the women, and when it eventuated, Sutherland said she was keen to go back to Sydney and play with the Sixers where Lisa Sthalaker had come out of retirement.
"To switch over in to that franchise mode and have the double headers and the crowds coming, it was a massive leap forward for women's cricket, and it's only grown every year, so it was incredible.”
Sutherland moved back to Queensland and played with the Brisbane Heat, playing until the 2017/2018 season, when she made the decision to look for a long-term career after sport.
"I spent a gap year after school in a law firm, and decided it wasn't for me, but I wanted a career that was about helping people, so I applied to the police academy.”
Sutherland has now completed four months at the academy and has two until she begins her new careeer as a police officer and said it would be a little weird not to prepare for a new cricket season.
"I've dedicated 8 or 9 nine years of my life, and while it was an amazing experience, it was time for a change and a long term career,” she said.
Sutherland said she felt incredibly lucky to experience what she had. ”I've been amazing places and my life would've been completely different if I never chose to play that first game,” she said.
"The most exciting thing for me now, is that I remember driving one of my young teammates to an indoor game, and I asked her what she wanted to do.
”And she said, I want to play cricket, and that's the coolest thing. Ten years ago you couldn't have said that, and now she just can. It's a great feeling.”
While Sutherland said she still might play the occasional game of indoor, and fill in in some park cricket, she said one thing was crucial to her first career.
”I wouldn't have been able to do any of it without the incredible support of my parents. That's the biggest thing,” she said.