Sarah Aley (R) celebrates with teammate Alyssa Healy during a T20 match. © Getty Images

New South Wales (NSW) Breakers captain and Australian star Alyssa Healy has thanked teammate Sarah Aley who announced her retirement on Friday (May 1), following a remarkable 16-season Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) career. Aley, 35, remains uncertain whether she will continue to play alongside Healy for the Sydney Sixers next season.

“You epitomise what it means to be a Breaker, you never give up,” said Healy about her friend. “Your passion, your commitment and your hard work to not only your own individual game, but to every single person that’s played for the Breakers throughout your career, is something that you should be incredibly proud of. Thank you very much for what you’ve done for me, thank you very much for what you’ve done for the Breakers and I hope the next chapter of your life is just as successful as what this one has been.”

The right-arm seamer has featured in 123 WNCL matches through her career, third-most for NSW – behind greats Alex Blackwell (139) and Lisa Sthalekar (145) – including 12 of the 20 titles won by the team.

She made her debut for Australia at the age of 33 against Pakistan in England during the 2017 Women’s World Cup and has also featured in a couple of T20Is during the Ashes series on home soil the same year.

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“I know the time is right to step aside and let the younger players take over and be the future of the NSW Breakers,” said Aley. “I’d like to thank everyone within Cricket NSW from players to coaches to support and administrative staff. There are a lot of people within Cricket NSW that have played a significant part in my career.”

“My family, my mum and dad, my three brothers have played a huge part in who I am and what I have achieved. My brothers were the ones that probably instilled the competitive beast that lies within me because of our backyard battles. My friends as well. I have some pretty understanding friends and family when I said I can’t do this or I’m going to be away for cricket,” she added.

Aley made her debut for NSW in 2004 and has taken 97 WNCL wickets at an average of 27.15, putting her fifth on the list of the leading WNCL wicket-takers for NSW. She was also a part of the squads when they completed the WNCL and T20 double in 2013-14 and 2014-15, and claimed 48 wickets at an average of 15.83 in 59 inter-state T20 matches for the Breakers.

Aley also thanked Sthalekar and NSW Breakers head selector Kerry Marshall who played an influential role in her magnificent career.

“Lisa Sthalekar has probably been one of the biggest influences on my career, and probably prolonged my career as well, because she didn’t bowl me for the first five years when she was captain and I was in the team,” Aley quipped jokingly.

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“She was just looking after me. That aside she has played a very significant part in my career in terms of the support that she gave me, somebody I really looked up to and learned a lot from. Kerry Marshall was my first coach for Under-19s and also the first coach for the Breakers. She’s played a massive role in my career and I can’t thank her enough.”

Known as ‘Mittsy’ among her peers, Aley has also played for Warwickshire in the 2007 English County season. Since the formation of the Women Big Bash League in 2015-16, Aley has played 73 matches for the Sydney Sixers, claiming 83 wickets at 17.42, the second-most among the list of all-time highest wicket-takers.  She also captained her state on at least three occasions.

Her final match of a truly illustrious career came at North Sydney Oval in the WNCL final loss to Western Australia in February. “I probably never even thought I’d get past the Illawarra Catholic Club U-16s with the boys,” Aley said with a smile.

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“I loved cricket and there were people around me, not just my family, but people within the school’s system that saw I had a bit of talent and prompted me to try out for the All-Girls NSW Combined Catholic Colleges and I guess the rest happened from there.

“I’d always watched NSW play cricket, and it was NSW men playing cricket not the NSW women, I didn’t even know there was an NSW women’s team. To then find out it was a possibility was something that was pretty special,” Aley said.

Aley’s leadership on and off the field is a lasting legacy that will never fade. During her illustrious career, she gave back enormously, coaching many players in the Cricket NSW pathway whom she would later go on and play with, sharing championship success.

“When I played my 100th game for NSW, every single member of that team apart from myself and Rachael Haynes, I had coached at some point in my career,” Aley said with a smile. “It’s pretty special to see somebody like Ash Gardner that came through the NSW pathways and was picked for NSW, to see how she’s grown and developed and then get to play alongside her.”