Rachel Priest during her time with New Zealand. Picture: ICC

Rachel Priest admits “she didn’t really have a choice” when she decided to retire from international cricket with New Zealand. But she's turned that initial setback into an opportunity across the ocean, where she is leading both on and off the field for Tasmania.

When asked about why decided she decided to retire from international cricket with New Zealand, wicketkeeper Rachel Priest admitted that “she didn’t really have a choice”.

She played in 87 ODI’s and 75 T20I’s during her 13 years with the White Ferns, scoring 2,567 runs and taking 165 dismissals as a keeper.

Her decorated international career includes a 157 run stand against Sri Lanka in 2015, the highest individual score by a wicketkeeper in a women’s ODI.

But she was not offered a 2020/2021 contract by New Zealand, despite being in its squad for the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup just a few months earlier.

“I didn’t really have a choice with the retirement because I wasn’t offered a new contract by New Zealand,” Priest told The Inner Sanctum.

“I think the roundabout with them for so many years of going back and forth, getting a contract, not getting a contract, I honestly just needed a break from that.

I just didn’t feel like I could go around that rollercoaster again. I obviously really enjoyed my time playing for New Zealand, but it was just time to have a little bit of a break from that.”

She was expecting to enjoy some time off, but Salliann Briggs, coach of the Tasmania Tigers and Hobart Hurricanes, came calling the next day.

It was ultimately the opportunity to continue playing cricket and the strength of Tasmania’s program that convinced Priest to take up Briggs’ offer.

“I was actually expecting to have a little bit of a relaxing time for a while, but Sal (Salliann Briggs) called me the next day and said she wanted me to come play over here,” she said.

“Even though I decided to retire from New Zealand cricket, I wasn’t completely ready to give away the game just yet and I still felt like I had stuff to offer.

“Getting this opportunity to come here was really amazing for me to push my career along a little bit further.

“It’s just such a great program that they (Tasmania) have here and throughout the whole of Australia, the programs they have in place for the domestic cricketers is second to none.

“So I didn’t really have to think too hard about coming to join a group like this.”

She was soon signed up by the Tasmania Tigers and Hobart Hurricanes, but the move went beyond the class she’d bring at the top of the order and behind the stumps.

Priest was identified and brought over because of her vast experience playing cricket all over the world, something Cricket Tasmania was hoping she could impart onto its younger players.

“I really enjoy that role, it’s nice to pass on some of my experiences where I can or help the younger players if they need it and just grow the culture of the team,” she said.

“It would be nice to be contributing a bit more with the bat, but hopefully those runs will come.

“But it was more than just runs when I came here, that’s what they (Cricket Tasmania) kind of wanted from me. I’m just happy to help out in any way I can.”

Making such a big move during a global pandemic might have scared off some, but Priest seized the chance with no other opportunities on the horizon. 

“Normally I’d be heading over to the UK to play their summer over there, at the time it was up in the air with coronavirus so I obviously wasn’t going to be able to do that,” she said.

“I guess with deciding to finish playing cricket for New Zealand, I guess I really did jump at the chance because I thought I was going to be stuck with not having any cricket in my life for a while.”

There was also the added bonus of getting to see her family who live in Queensland, something Priest is very grateful for.

“My family live in Australia, so I’ve been lucky enough to be able to get home once to see them and my Dad’s come down to see me,” she said.

“I know a lot of people haven’t been as lucky to keep their jobs or been able to see their families, so I feel really, really lucky.”

When talking about the impact she wants to have with the Tigers at this stage of her career, Priest again stated that it was about “more than just runs”, hoping to leave a legacy for the next generation. 

“I did a fair bit in my international career which was a lot of fun, but I think it’s about going into an environment and leaving it better than when you found it,” she said.

“It’s about helping grow a culture and team any way you can on or off the field.

“I think everyone wishes they could leave a legacy and I think there’s just a lot of history to be made with this Tassie team.

“It’s such a young environment, they’ve only had a team in the WNCL for such a short amount of time that everything we’re doing at the moment is kind of creating a little bit of history.”

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