Hands on: Legends mentor Molineux for next chapter | Melbourne Renegades - BBL
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Hands on: Legends mentor Molineux for next chapter

18 September 2021

Sophie Molineux has called on two of the most influential figures in the history of Australian women's cricket to help her prepare for her greatest challenges to date.

Since the 23-year-old Australia allrounder was unveiled as the Melbourne Renegades' new captain in June, she has been working closely with Australia legend Belinda Clark to refine exactly how she will approach her first opportunity at leadership of an elite senior team.

And as she aims to break back into the Australian XI, Molineux has also reconnected with John Harmer, the former national coach who oversaw Clark's champion side.

Clark and Harmer are credited with reinventing the women's game through a golden era for the green and gold in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period that saw Australia win the 1997 ODI World Cup and 17 one-dayers in a row (then a world record).

For someone looking to take their game to another level, there is no better combination of cricketing minds to tap into.

"Belinda's one of the best leaders going around," Molineux told cricket.com.au from Brisbane last week.

"Just to be able to build a relationship and connection with Belinda has been really cool and something I'm very, very appreciative of, that's for sure."

Clark became an influential figure at Cricket Australia after her retirement before leaving the organisation last year to launch her new project, The Leadership Playground.

Unsurprisingly, she has remained connected with the sport; together with CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association, The Leadership Playground has launched a new pilot program for future female leaders in Australian cricket.

And alongside that program, Clark has also been privately mentoring Molineux, whose responsibilities as skipper will begin in a little over a month when Weber WBBL|07 begins.

"The really cool part of it was before we got going, Belinda spoke to (Renegades coach) Simon Helmot and Jarrad Loughman, our head coach back in Victoria, to get some feedback (about me)," Molineux said.

"Then Belinda and I caught up and reflected on that feedback.

"It's got me thinking about different things going into the season. There's so many different parts to captaincy I never really thought about. I'm learning a lot.

"BC is really big on different ways of communicating and we've been going through different situations and role-playing different scenarios that could play out. And that's really valuable.

"She's given me some different tools to sit back and reflect on how each team (I'm part of) is run, and the leaders involved and how they do things."

Molineux captained Victoria's Under-18s before breaking into the Australian team aged 20 in 2018, but she has not led a side since.

But she's been inspired by playing under the likes of Australia skipper Meg Lanning, former White Ferns captain Amy Satterthwaite and former Renegades leader Jess Duffin.

"I'm just trying to pull ideas from everywhere, blend them together and put a bit of my touch to it as well," she said.

"They're all really different. And that's probably the best part about it.

"Each leader I've played under, they're all unique and the best part of all of them is they're true to themselves and hopefully I can take a leaf out of their books.

"I suppose when it comes down to it, I want to be true to myself and true to my values and hopefully that comes through and is well received by the girls at the Renegades."

Molineux knows leadership is more than just bowling rotations and fielding placements, and right now that is truer than ever given the challenges of COVID-19 scheduling changes, quarantine requirements and life inside bubbles.

"I've been putting work into the technical side of it but that's almost considered the easier side now days, especially with COVID," she said.

"We're lucky at the Renegades; we've built a culture over the last few years and that's been to make everyone feel comfortable.

"We're putting together a list now and it's looking really cool. We're just keen to get out there and hope not too many girls have to go through a quarantine ... and after that just get out there and play together."

Alongside her leadership work with Clark, Molineux has also searching for ways to take her batting and left-arm spin to another level.

Australia's six-month gap between tours granted her a long-awaited chance to reconnect with Harmer, one of the greatest influences over her journey to international cricket.

Harmer had spotted Molineux's potential when the allrounder was a 13-year-old playing against the boys in Bairnsdale in country Victoria. After being introduced to her family, he was engaged as her private coach and played a key role in her development over the years that followed.

"He played a really a massive part in everything (for me)," Molineux said of Harmer.

"He's always watching and it was just nice to chat to him about cricket.

"We did a little bit of training, we were planning on doing more but couldn't do that with the lockdowns and everything.

"But it was nice to just send a few videos to each other and even just the odd text and phone call over the last little bit."

The long pre-season also offered Molineux a chance to spend quality time with friends and family at home in Bairnsdale between lockdowns, and to simply have a net with one of the other greatest influences on her career.

"To be able to get home and have hits with Dad has been really nice as well, just to be able to get back to the simple stuff," Molineux said.

"It's something I've haven't had the opportunity to do the last three or four years.

"Not being able to get home for that extended period of time (last year) really made me reassess a little bit. So for this off-season and pre-season any chance I got, I was on the road getting home and spending time with family and friends back in Bairnsdale."

Molineux now hopes to get a chance to put that work to the test against India.

She was consigned to running drinks through Australia's tour of New Zealand earlier this year; not dropped for form so much as simply squeezed out due to the sheer talent on offer in the world's best team.

With fellow left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen – the world's top ODI bowler – unavailable due to injury, a spot has opened for a spinner in the XI, and it may just be the break Molineux needs.

"I went away from (the New Zealand tour) thinking and knowing what I needed to do just to be able to reset and hopefully attack this year in a way that might put me in a position to get picked," Molineux said.

"But it's a really strong team, strong squad and to be honest I'm just excited to catch some sun and whatever happens from there I will try and take on."