An injury allowed Georgia Plimmer an unexpected entry to the Cricket World Cup, and the 18-year-old took every opportunity to soak up life with the White Ferns. She speaks to Merryn Anderson about what she learned, saying the best is yet to come.
It was the call Georgia Plimmer wasn’t expecting.
Even though she knew she was cover for the White Ferns in the event someone was injured before the Cricket World Cup, it still came as a shock when New Zealand coach Bob Carter phoned her, just as she was getting ready to settle in for the evening.
Barely 18, she’d just had a tough training session with the Wellington Blaze, preparing for the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield final. “I actually missed the first call because I was in the shower,” Plimmer laughs.
Plimmer came in for Lauren Down, the White Ferns batter fracturing her thumb taking a catch in the last of the warm-up games against India. She left the pitch in tears, knowing the injury would rule her out of the World Cup.
The White Ferns have never been afraid of showcasing their young talent on the world stage – Melie Kerr making her debut weeks after turning 16, with Fran Jonas the same age when she first played for New Zealand last year. A handful of the current team are still at the top of their game in their mid-30s.
So while Plimmer was the only one of the 15-strong squad who didn’t play a match for the White Ferns this World Cup, she could have 20 more years in the team yet, and could even be around for another home World Cup down the line.
Katey Martin made her international debut in 2003, three months before Plimmer was born, and the wicketkeeper has stamped her mark on the White Ferns for close to two decades.
There’s no doubt Plimmer took so much from the World Cup experience, spending quality time training with world class players and learning from some of the best cricketers in the game.
The first people she told about her selection were her parents, a struggle for an almost-speechless Plimmer as she tried to get her head around the news. She then called fellow Blaze young guns Xara Jetly and Tash Codyre.
“We’ve always talked about what our plans are for the future and how we see ourselves going in cricket. So for that to happen so quickly for me, I think they were quite excited as well,” Plimmer says.
From L-R, close friends Georgia Plimmer, Xara Jetly and Tash Codyre of the Wellington Blaze.
Graduating high school at the end of 2021, Plimmer started studying towards a bachelor of science and geography at Victoria University of Wellington this year, dropping down to two papers this trimester when she got the White Ferns call-up. Even at a young age, Plimmer knows finding the balance between cricket and study and keeping herself grounded is important.
Plimmer opened the batting for the Blaze every game in their successful Super Smash campaign, teaming up with Sophie Devine in the latter half of the season following the White Ferns’ captain’s return from Australia. The team went unbeaten all season and hoisted the trophy in the final, thanks to a 92-run knock from Devine.
Not only a star with the bat, Plimmer was also outstanding in the field, finishing the season with the second-most catches (only behind Suzie Bates with her trademark falling-to-the-ground catches).
Going into the World Cup knowing game time was possible but unlikely, with Devine and Bates the established opening duo, Plimmer took it as a chance to make the most of being part of the White Ferns squad. “I knew that mostly it would be trying to soak up as much as possible,” she says.
Standing arm-in-arm with the team for the national anthem at the first game in Tauranga was a surreal moment for the teenager.
“That was the moment it really hit me that I was at a home World Cup, playing in the squad for my country and being surrounded by the team I’d been watching on TV for a few years,” she says.
Getting to grow closer with the team, go out for coffee and spend time with established international players has been very special for Plimmer.
“I’m quite a shy, nervous girl but they’ve all been so amazing welcoming me in,” she says.
“A lot of those players in the squad have a lot of knowledge and have been in the squad for quite a while. So being able to hear what they think I should be getting better at and what things I can do to be a better cricketer has been really influential for me in my career.”
Some of those bonding experiences include watching the Married at First Sight reality show and playing board games with the team. And no points for guessing who the most competitive at games is – captain Devine getting the call out from Plimmer. “She’s competitive in everything she does,” she says.
On game day, Plimmer and the other subs for the day helped with warm-ups and then settled on the sideline for the match.
When the White Ferns are batting, each player has a teammate on the sideline who has their drinks and anything else they might need ready. If they’re fielding, the subs go out in pairs, bringing out the drinks and any communication from the coaches to the team.
“That especially happened in the closer games,” says Plimmer.
Along with the practical side of being a sub, there’s also some emotional support required from outside the boundary rope. “Just trying to have some great energy and give them a bit of a boost when we come on,” she says.
Plimmer and 17-year-old Jonas were the two designated subs for the thriller against England, the White Ferns having to play their other two subs when Devine and Lea Tahuhu pulled up injured.
“When I watch cricket, I’m not usually much of a talker or anything, but we were commentating on every ball,” says Plimmer.
“Our emotions were going up and down with every ball. And every wicket we’d be screaming. I couldn’t imagine what it would have felt like out on the field but it was definitely very stressful sitting down and watching it.”
She’s also had to learn to deal with the disappointment of missing out on the semifinals, after some heartbreakingly-close losses left the White Ferns one win short of the final four.
“It is quite hard when you’re losing them with such short margins and being able to be in the fight at all times. I guess it makes the loss even harder when you’re so close to getting over the line,” says Plimmer.
But the way the team and their senior players have held their heads high during the campaign has been one of the things that stands out for Plimmer.
“It’s been about having to pick themselves up and make sure everyone around them is okay and always getting ready for that next game because there’s something on the line pretty much every game. Being able to get up and play again and disregard what happened, or learn from what happened and get on with it, has been crazy to see,” she says.
“I think that’s just the best way to go about playing sport – being able to move on or learn from the mistakes and just keep looking to the next game.”
As the 2022 season draws to a close, it’s just the beginning for Plimmer.
“Even being selected for the squad, knowing I am on the right track to becoming a White Fern and knowing I can get there, has really helped me,” she says.
“Being able to get to know a few of the girls as well and being able to see how hard they work and how much knowledge they have and how they go about the game, I think that’s just really influenced me to get right into it and really have purposeful trainings in the off-season.
“And working hard to really make my mark on what I want to do in the future – which is definitely be a White Fern.”