It’s fair to say Josie Dooley has packed a lot into her 19 years.
The Melbourne Renegades’ new wicketkeeper is a friend and former teammate of tennis star Ash Barty, who won the French Open in 2019 and is now No. 1 in the World Tennis Association rankings.
Dooley and Barty shared the same tennis coach during their junior years before Barty herself coached Dooley during her hiatus from the game.
“I grew up knowing Ash from our time at the West Brisbane Tennis Centre,” Dooley said.
“When she had her time off she actually coached me for a bit and we ended up playing in the Ipswich Open together.
“We won the Ipswich Open so I can say now that I won the Ipswich Open with her and then that year I opened the batting with her in the first grade final for Wests.
“I always say that was the tournament that kick-started her!”
So from a burgeoning tennis career that saw her consider attending college in America to an Australia A tour of England earlier this year, Dooley has certainly got plenty of stories to share from her first two decades on earth.
According to Dooley, though, it has been a move to Melbourne that has really allowed her game to flourish.
A fine debut season with her native Brisbane Heat culminated in a role in the Heat’s WBBL|04 title winning effort against the Sydney Sixers earlier this year.
But the chance to take the gloves full time was too good to pass up, meaning Dooley sought a move to the Renegades and a permanent spot behind the stumps. It’s an opportunity she was unlikely to have received back in Queensland, where Beth Mooney is well established with both bat and gloves.
“I thought it was a good move at the time and still think it is,” Dooley reflects.
“I’m really enjoying it.
“It’s also good to be around a completely new group of girls and support staff. I’m a quiet person when I don’t know people, I’m a bit shy, but once I get to know everyone and feel comfortable, then I come out and be a bit of a pest.
“Watching from afar last year, I loved the way the Renegades went about their cricket. I think it’s very aggressive and they compete really hard.
“From the outside, it looked like a really fun group to be a part of, which it is. I also knew a lot of the girls through underage, Australia A and NPS, like Maitlan Brown, Georgia Wareham and Molly Strano. I really enjoyed playing with them and that really drew me here.”
Dooley’s journey to the Renegades began to grow legs five years ago, when, as a mid-teenager, she was set on emulating Barty and becoming a professional tennis player.
It was only when her mother stepped in and encouraged her to “stick in there for one more year” that she chose to continue with her cricket, and as such began to forge her sporting future.
“Tennis was my be-all and end-all. I played seven days a week, pretty full on,” she explains.
“I travelled Australia playing tennis tournaments and everything, and I was going to give up cricket until my Mum said ‘stick in there for one more year’ in the under-15s and that’s when the Queensland under-18 wicket keeper moved to Melbourne so the state side needed a back-up and I came into the squad as a train-on when I was 15.”
It’s a move she hasn’t regretted.
“I didn’t really know there was a pathway. There wasn’t WBBL or anything, it was just state cricket, and I didn’t really see that as a career path or anything like that. Not having it on TV as a young kid means you don’t really know it’s there.
“I love being in a team. In tennis, it’s an individual sport so it’s quite tough mentally, and getting up and about. I love being in a team sport so I think that’s what drove me into wanting to be a cricketer.”
In the first half of the Renegades’ WBBL|05 campaign, Dooley has certainly shown her wares, batting predominantly at No. 7 and calmly navigating her way through a series of tricky situations late in the innings.
She was not dismissed in any of the team’s first three games, guiding her side to victory on two occasions, headlined by a calm 17 not out against the Scorchers at the CitiPower Centre.
Her form with the bat has been so impressive that she was elevated up the order to come in at No. 4 during the run chase against the Hurricanes last weekend. While she made only eight runs, she helped soak up five overs and worked with captain Jess Duffin to build the recovery, adding 41 runs together in quick time.
Calm and unfazed, Dooley describes herself as a ‘busy’ batter who likes to work the ball around the field and build partnerships.
“With spin I like to sweep and lap a bit, and with pace I like to use my feet and come at the ball. I like to be aggressive and busy at the same time.
“I think I can come in and rotate the strike later in the innings to get Jess Duffin on strike or another big hitter, and then when I’m set and going I hit into weird areas.
“I am a boundary hitter but not your typical hit and bash balls down the ground – that’s not me. I’m more into hitting into different areas and manipulating the field. I’m not very strong compared to the other girls so I have to rely on other aspects of the game.”
When speaking with Dooley, one thing that’s noticeable from the get-go is her focus on others – her teammates, her family, those she lives with.
We’ve already heard how strong the lure of playing with a group that shares a common goal was for her when choosing to play cricket, and it’s no surprise that her former teammate Barty was again an inspiration in setting her on her path.
“I think Ash needed a team sport. She was in tennis from a really young age and didn’t really have that support around her. Coming to Queensland and playing with the Heat for a year, she met a great group of girls and that really got her mind back on the job.
“Her professionalism, with the way she goes about training sessions, is unbelievable, and so is the way she carries herself and how humble she is on and off the court.
“I love the way how she always says ‘we’ in all her media – when she refers to herself, she says ‘we’, as in her team. In everything she says it’s ‘we had a great game today’.
“It’s an individual sport but she’s saying ‘we’. It’s all about everyone in her crew and not just her, even though she plays an individual sport. She’s incredible.”
With an attitude like that, Dooley shapes as a key player in setting the tone for the Renegades’ future WBBL success.