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Mikaela Greig - Mastering the Art Chaos



by Margot Butcher -Republished from Outright #56


They say if you want something done, give it to a busy person — and they don’t come much busier than Mikaela Greig. 2023/24 was Greig’s 11th summer for the Central Hinds and ended with a New Zealand A debut, captaincy, a career best, awards, and a White Ferns call-up. The most remarkable part is that she never saw any of it coming — and at one point, didn’t think she’d even be playing this past season. Find out what changed her mind.

 

Let’s start with that moment in March when you got the tap on the shoulder from the White Ferns. How did that unfold?

 

Mikaela Greig: “It came as a complete shock. We were playing a New Zealand A T20 against England A that day in Queenstown, and Liz Green found me after the game and asked if we could have a chat. I think there’d been some prior announcement that players would be called into the White Ferns for one game to cover for Sophie Devine and Melie Kerr’s delayed arrival from the WPL, but I was so oblivious to the idea that I might be one of them that the penny didn’t drop until we were hafway through the conversation.

 

“Liz said she didn’t know whether I’d be playing or not, but I just assumed I would be running the drinks. I couldn’t tell the rest of the A’s so then I had to secretly pack up my cricket gear and wheel it out of the changing room without everyone seeing! Next morning I drove to Dunedin, and during the trip I got the call from Ben Sawyer to tell me I’d be playing. I wasn’t expecting to hear that, either. It turns out I’m not very onto it with picking up signals!”

 

It must have been hectic?

 

“The most crazy, whirlwind 24 hours of my life. But, probably quite a good way for it to happen for me because there was not a lot of time to think about it. I got to the team hotel at 2pm, had headshots, had a team scouting meeting, went out for dinner with Hannah [Rowe] — and then it was game day and there I was on the field with the White Ferns. I hadn’t even trained with the team! Woke up the following day and they were already gone, off to their next game in Nelson.”

 

You’d already played the top England side once because New Zealand A played them in a warm-up match. Did that help?

 

“Well, I’d been quite shocked just to have been invited to play the North v South games a couple of weeks before that to be honest, so getting to play for New Zealand A was quite unreal. In 12 years, I’d never played any level higher than Hinds — I’d never even been to a camp before that was anything higher than a Hinds camp.

 

“So this was next level. And then the White Ferns as well, so three levels up at once! But the way it happened so quickly kind of helped. Joining any new team is quite a big thing, let alone three new teams, so by the time the White Ferns happened, in my head it was just the same process of fitting into another new team. It was all a really cool experience.”

 

With the New Zealand A series being a new thing for everyone, what were the expectations?

 

“We knew we could play good cricket, but I don’t think you’d have expected us to dominate England A the way we did in the one-dayers [winning the Series 2-1, after having lost the T20s]. We’d gone in knowing they were all professional, while half of us were juggling our jobs and lives and having to look after work at the hotel before the game and that sort of thing.

 

“But the way we all pulled together as a team — that is something I’ll never forget. For me, these teammates had been the ‘enemy’ — the people I’d played against my whole career, and now suddenly we were 100 per cent behind each other. We got beaten in the second one-day game so it was all on the line at one-all, but we were all completely committed to each other, pumped, and did something really special together to go out and win that series. So the connections and relationships that we made off the field, as well as the really cool things we did on the field, are what I’ll remember.”

 

You came in as captain for the decider, and got your best one-day score of 84 — batting at four in a 133-run win. Quite a day?

 

“Normally I’m a very good sleeper, but the night before that game, I did not sleep well. I didn’t think I was feeling that nervous about it, but it must have been in my subconscious that I’d never captained the Hinds. And, it’s only in the last few years that I’ve batted in the top/middle order. Prior to that, I was batting seven or eight for the Hinds, without much faith in myself that I could be a genuine number four batter. So I had to work through quite a bit of residual early career trauma!

 

“But this season had been different. In the Hinds, we’d talked a lot about being the one to stand up to do the job. Do you want to be that person winning it for the team, or leave it to someone else? So I was saying to myself, ‘Right, come on, I’m taking this game on myself’ — that mentality clicked in during that game.

 

“And I felt awful to begin with, in that innings. I actually felt the worst I’ve ever felt. We all know I like hitting boundaries, and it took me a long time to hit one. I faced a lot of balls for only five boundaries, and two of those were off consecutive balls. So, I did not feel good that day. Proving I had the ability to get through that, and that you don’t always have to feel real good to get a job done, that was a big ‘win’ moment for me.”

 

Let’s detour away from cricket here and talk about what you’re doing off-field. You mentioned earlier the need to juggle work with cricket. What does that look like for you?

 

“I started a new full-time job last year as an Extension Manager for Beef + Lamb New Zealand. That means I put on about 60 events a year to upskill and educate the 4,000 farmers in my region, which extends from Wellington to New Plymouth, across the Desert Road and down. The events support farmers with ideas to take home and implement on their farm to hopefully make them more profitable, as well as providing a chance to connect with other people like themselves.

 

“Before this, I did almost three years teaching at Awatapu College in Palmerston North. That was after doing my teaching qualification and working as Director of Sport at Waiopehu College in Levin, where I’d been to school myself.”

 

And, you’re a farmer yourself?

 

“Yeah, we’ve got a bit going on! Bradman [Greig’s fiancé] and I bought a farm near Shannon. We’ve got 1,400 ewes, so in spring we’ll have close to 2,000 lambs; and we’ve got 100 head of cattle, and six dogs. Buying a farm, obviously you’re in a lot of debt when you start out. We both have to have an off-farm income to make it work. Bradman works as a shearer, and for me it’s a lot of planning and juggling and heading off to events every week. Sometimes I can organise to work from home and be there to help get cattle or sheep on the truck or whatever on a big day.

 

“We try to keep the farm low maintenance, purely so that we can work outside the farm to keep it going, but there is pressure. And it’s tough, financially and mentally. There are some early mornings and late nights, and some awful weather at times, to get everything done. Being picked for cricket teams or trips just adds extra carnage!

 

“To be honest, if it hadn’t been for Bradman saying, ‘Nah, you’ve got to keep going’, I probably wouldn’t have played this past season because the easier thing to do, with time and money and all those sorts of considerations, was not to play. He’s been such a great support. He busts a gut to make sure that I can keep doing this as long as I want to.

 

“We have a great crew supporting us without whom we wouldn’t be able to do this. I’m also really fortunate that Judy [Clement] is from a farm, so Judy’s been a helpful sounding board for me at the CPA, like an aunt that I can call who understands.”

 

You came out of this season as the Hinds’ Hallyburton Player of the Year and Player’s Player, so you must be a pretty good juggler?

 

“I think in a weird way, training less has worked for me. When I was younger, I poured my life into cricket as much as I possibly could and probably overdid it. I had really high expectations of myself, but I didn’t know how to deal with the peaks and troughs and disappointments of cricket very well. Now, if I have an opportunity for just an hour to go and train — I find I use that hour really well. Really focus on what I am doing, then draw a line under it.”

 

What was behind the Hinds’ big turnaround this season - making the Dream11 Super Smash Final for the first time in years?

 

“There were a lot of changes in our mindset. A big one was having the ability to have tough conversations: that ability to take on critical feedback, for the betterment of the team. We needed to replicate what we were always doing in training, when we were on the field. We’d been guilty of not doing that. So it was realising what we individually needed to do, and how to take those ‘blocks’ away. Myself included. I had to look at what had been going on in my head, and was that self-talk helping me or hindering me. Often when I was going out to bat, the things that had been going through my head weren’t helping me at all.

 

“I used to find ways to make myself feel better when I didn’t go well, especially when I was out batting. ‘Oh, I had a bad training week’. ‘Oh, it was raining this week’— all those excuses that actually don’t make you a better cricketer. So mentally, this season was like the flick of a switch. I was thinking, ‘This could be my last season so I don’t wan’t to have any excuses. No excuses. If it’s raining, get out there and do your running session’. Now I’m trusting my own game, backing myself to play my best cricket instead of going into a shell. Because that shell will just stop you from playing your best cricket.”

 

And all this while you still had no inkling of what could be just around the corner, in the form of national teams and opportunities?

 

“Yeah, I was 28 and I’d got to stage of my career where I never thought I was going to get any higher honours, and I was OK with that. I had so many other things going on that it wasn’t a major driver for me, anymore. I just wanted to focus on playing well for the Hinds, for us to do really well as a team. So the whirlwind that happened after that was a nice surprise, an added bonus, in a summer I’d already enjoyed a lot.”

 

What’s the future look like now?

 

“We’ve locked in a wedding date for March next year — that was me trying to work around one Hannah Rowe, trying to find a window that hopefully has neither Domestic nor international cricket clashing with it. We’ve booked a cool little venue between Levin and Shannon that used to be my nanna’s family farm growing up, and Bradman also learnt to shear there. They don’t do weddings there anymore, but made an exception for us which is really nice. Cricket-wise, in my head, I think nothing’s changed for me. I still want to just play really well for the Hinds, play with enjoyment, and play our best brand of cricket.”

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