A champion at two sports
Joseph Romanos talks to double international and former Tawa resident Sophie Devine about the Christchurch earthquake, landscape design and playing cricket at Lord’s.
Was it always sport with you?
Pretty much. I’d listen to my dad and my older brother talking sport over dinner. One of my earliest memories is kicking a rugby ball with my brother. The front yard in our house in Tawa had a cricket pitch. We’d roll it with a proper roller. What about schoolwork? It wasn’t my favourite thing, but I was OK at it. I’ve now got a BA majoring in sociology.
You seemed to play cricket against boys almost right from the start.
That’s true. I played with boys up to about the Wellington under-14 reps. They treated me well. I grew up playing against boys like Ricky Joseph, Michael Pollard and Joe Austin-Smellie and got to know them all. It added a bit of extra pressure. I had to prove myself, and they didn’t want a girl getting them out. It really helped my cricket, and I’d recommend it to any promising girl cricketer.
So playing with the boys wasn’t an issue?
Not with the boys, but some parents and coaches had a bit to say, about eligibility and so on. What about hockey? I began playing at Linden Park at primary school. I played with the boys in hockey, too, but not for as long. One of my early team-mates was Blair Hilton, who’s in the New Zealand team. Were there other sports, too? Pretty much anything – basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, squash. I was hopeless at swimming, though.
You were such an outstanding schoolgirl bowler. Was it difficult moving into senior rep cricket?
I learnt quickly I wasn’t going to be getting five-wicket bags every week. I learnt I had to be smarter about my cricket. Men have more strength, but the top women’s cricketers are smarter. They have to be. They think about things more.
Getting into the New Zealand cricket team at 17, were you well treated by the senior players?
Haidee Tiffen was the captain and she’s become one of my best cricket friends. Other senior players like Sara McGlashan and Nicky Browne made a real effort, took me under their wing. What about hockey? I made the Wellington team when I was 16. It’s been fine. You have to prove your- self on the park, and that’s how it should be.
I notice you’ve worn Canterbury colours quite a bit lately.
Our family moved to Christchurch a few years ago, with Dad’s job. I’ve played hockey and cricket for Canterbury. I liked playing hockey for them, but it felt strange playing cricket for Canterbury and I’m back playing for Wellington now. It feels more like home.
Were you in Christchurch during the earthquake?
Yes, the White Ferns were preparing for a match. We were in Cathedral Square at the time. Five of us were in a car and it started shaking. One of the girls in front turned round to tell the girls behind to stop playing. Then through the back window she saw what was happening to the cathedral. It was an incredible thing, the noise, the destruction, the people in shock.
That was a huge decision to give away cricket to try to make the Olym- pic hockey team last year.
I’d played cricket every summer for 15 years. I really missed it and I’d still go along and watch. I even turned out for my dad’s 3B team a couple of times.
It must have been tough to miss out on the Olympics.
It was. But I missed the tour before so I knew it was on the cards. Six or seven defenders were vying for three or four places. I couldn’t feel bitter, though. I knew how hard they’d worked and it was awesome to see them play so well in London. Are you still eyeing the Olympics? Very much. Rio in 2016. I want to play cricket and hockey if I can, but it would be great to be part of a big Games team, to be involved in things like the opening ceremony.
What are the best cricket grounds you’ve played on?
I’ve been lucky. We’ve played at Lord’s a couple of times. That was special to me, because I’m a real cricket geek. Also the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Adelaide Oval, the Basin, of course. Probably the best atmosphere was in the West Indies during the Twenty20 World Cup. That was awesome. And hockey? Playing in Argentina was really cool. Hockey’s a bit of a religion over there. Holland too – that was massive. Do you do much sightseeing? I try to, but you have to remember why you’re there. I try to not make it just hoteltraining-hotel-game. It’s good to see what a place has to offer. What do you do outside sport? I did a correspondence course in landscape design last year. That was hard, but it’s the path I want to go down. I like it because it’s outside, it’s results-related and it’s not sport. It’s good to have a bit of balance in your life.
Sophie Devine on the 2011 Christchurch earthquake: ‘‘It was an incredible thing, the noise, the destruction, the people in shock.’’