For years Jess Duffin has been known for smashing boundaries and taking intercept marks at the highest levels of Australian sport.
- Duffin gave birth to Georgie last year
- She chose not to play in the 2020/21 WBBL season so she and her husband could take care of their young child
- Duffin returned to the AFLW for the 2021 season
But in 2020 one of the country’s most successful cross-code athletes added a new role to her impressive resume: she became a mum.
The 32-year-old — who plays for the Melbourne Renegades in the WBBL and North Melbourne in the AFLW — stepped away from elite-level sport to watch her baby, Georgie, take her first steps, an experience she found much less stressful than watching her teammates in action.
“I’m not a very good watcher,” Duffin said about following the Renegades from her lounge room last season.
“I kind of went in and out of the room a little bit, but it was good to have Georgie there because she was a good distraction.”
In light of the demands of life inside sporting hubs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Duffin and her husband, Chris, opted to stay home with Georgie last year.
But after successfully returning to the AFLW in 2021, Duffin will again swap a football for a cricket bat, this time with her daughter in the change rooms.
“I’m a little bit nervous. I don’t think anyone coming back wouldn’t be a little bit nervous about it,” said Duffin, who is preparing for the Renegades’ opening WBBL match against the Hurricanes in Hobart this Saturday.
Making matters more challenging is the fact Duffin, Chris and Georgie have just finished two weeks of hotel quarantine in Hobart, where all teams have landed for the start of the season.
“It’s been interesting. Luckily my husband was down here with me for the first two weeks, so I was able to get out and train, and unfortunately for him he was stuck in the hotel,” Duffin said.
“Georgie is 15 months old now, so she’s a bit of a handful, but to come together and have his support there … made the two weeks go that little bit quicker.”
Duffin’s teammates happy to help out
With Chris now back in Melbourne to resume his duties as a teacher, the Renegades have thrown their arms around Duffin.
“I’m sure as the tournament goes on all the girls are going to become like 14 or 15 nannies, so I think we’re looking forward to having everyone around us,” Duffin said.
Professional nannies will be also be on hand in Hobart, as well as in the hubs in Perth, Adelaide and Mackay when the teams travel interstate later the season.
“I can’t have her at the ground the whole time, just purely because she’ll get bored,” Duffin said.
“So they’ll look after her in the hotel. We coordinated it through a nanny agency, which has been very helpful so far.”
Duffin said after Georgie’s birth in June last year there were unexpected physical challenges in her return to the top level of her sports.
“You just don’t realise what your body actually goes through,” she said.
“A lot of it was to do with core (strength) and balance … and mentally as well. I’m a mum too now, so it’s trying to switch on and off from being a mum to then being the athlete.”
Duffin — a former Renegades captain — will bring her wealth of experience back to the cricket pitch, as the Renegades try to climb the ladder after finishing second last in the 2020/21 WBBL season.
When Duffin last played for the Renegades she earned player of the season honours with the team after accumulating 544 runs at an average of 68 across 13 innings.
The right-handed, top-order batter has also made well over 100 appearances for Australia across all formats.
WBBL07 starts on Thursday, with the Sydney Sixers take on the Melbourne Starts in Hobart.