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Versatile McLeod on cloud nine

“It’s crazy, it’s incredible; the people that are here and the contributions they’ve made, and to win an award like that is just insane.”

That was the reaction of New Zealand under-19 cricket international Emma McLeod after winning the Supreme Award at the Wairarapa Times-Age Sports Awards on Thursday and becoming the first youth category winner to win the major trophy.

McLeod, who was 16 at the time, signalled her arrival on the international scene at the inaugural Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa, smashing a rapid-fire 59 in New Zealand’s vital win over Rwanda. The team went on to make the semifinals, where they were beaten by eventual champions India.

McLeod was picked after an outstanding national under-19 tournament where she became the first Central Districts player to score a century with an unbeaten 100 not out. She finished as the tournament’s top batter with 322 runs, with an average of 131.

Her form led to a debut for the Central Hinds in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield against the Canterbury Magicians. Displaying maturity beyond her years, McLeod scored 53 and was part of a record fifth-wicket partnership of 141 with captain Jess Watkin [92].

Cricket isn’t the only string in McLeod’s bow, with hockey her chosen sport over the winter months. She played for the St Matthew’s Collegiate First XI who won the Manawatu Intercity Secondary School Premier Championship. She was an integral member of the Dalefield team that finished third in the Wellington women’s premier championship.

McLeod knows that, eventually, she will probably need to choose between the two sports and admits that cricket is probably her preferred option.

“It’s leaning towards cricket at the moment, isn’t it?” she said.

“I definitely want to give a good shot at the under-18s hockey New Zealand squad, and I think that would be really exciting and something to work towards, and we’ve got a tournament coming up these school holiday. But cricket and the way it’s taking off is incredible, and I’m just excited for the next season.

“It’s tracking for more cricket, and I have started training again. I’ll just give it my best shot, especially at the end of the year. St Matt’s have got the nationals that we just qualified for, and then after this year, hopefully, I’ll go down to Canterbury to do a bit of study and cricket and see where that takes me and a bit of hockey as well.

“It’s all up in the air at the moment. I just want to keep working hard and see where that takes me.”

The next Under-19 Women’s World Cup, scheduled for Malaysia and Thailand, is a definite target for McLeod, who thrived in the intense pressure of international sport.

“Going to South Africa and coming back, all I wanted to do was go back again to that environment and get back solely cricket-focused, sport-focused, and not having to worry about studies. It’s all fun, and I’m looking at trying to get into some of those teams.”

Although much of her success has come from her natural talent and desire to achieve, McLeod singled out former representative rugby player and cricketer Doug Bracewell as an inspiration.

“Dougie has been amazing. The contribution he makes to all sports, he’s still kicking about, still running after people, and he’s willing to help out anyone who calls for him, and he just loves being involved.

“He’s never asked for a single penny from us, and I’ve taken up so much of his time. I could be texting him at 9pm and ask, ‘Can we have a session tomorrow’, and he’ll be up bright and early, and we’d meet up.”

In the end, though, the immensely talented McLeod said her desire comes from wanting to prove herself against her opponents every time she takes the field.

“I just love the challenge, and I just love trying to get better and better after every game,” she said.

“Sometimes I can be quite hard on myself, as my mum would say, but I just give it my all and leave it all out on the field, and there’s nothing worse than thinking, what if I did that or I did this?”

Emma McLeod – Supreme Award winner – and a name Wairarapa and New Zealand sports fans will hear much more of in the future.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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