For a professional cricketer to describe a tour in which he didn’t play a single match as “one of the best” is quite clear that something a little unusual has happened.
Amanda-Jade Wellington is unlikely to feature in Australia’s XI as they bid for Commonwealth Games gold – indeed, she hasn’t played T20 cricket for Australia in over four years now – but she is adamant that her time in Birmingham has been one of, if not the best tour she’s been on.
Leg-spinner Wellington, a colorful character with a refreshing perspective on life and cricket as well as a penchant for collecting, spent his time in Birmingham soaking up all that Commonwealth Games life had to offer.
The 25-year-old, who burst onto the international cricket scene as a precociously talented teenager before spending four years away from the Australian set-up, returned to the field ahead of this year’s ODI World Cup, playing twice in the group stages of an ultimately successful tournament .
It was a recall earned on the back of hard work to improve her fitness and fielding as well as her bowling. And with that, she brought a newfound maturity and mindset, as well as a motto she continues to live by.
If I play, I play. If I don’t, I’ll always make memories.
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Wellington dined with Anna Meares, the track cycling legend who is now part of the Australian team management, spent time befriending middle-distance runner Peter Ball and befriended athletes from the tiny African nation of Lesotho.
But there’s one element of the Games that captures her imagination like no other: pin collecting.
The swapping and trading of pins has become something of a tradition at multi-sport events since they began to proliferate at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
In Birmingham, athletes received a set of pins unique to the country they represented, which they could then exchange with athletes from other nations.
For Wellington, a self-confessed “full-time Pokemon collector,” the attraction was obvious and immediate.
Wellington, laughingly admitting that she was a “stinger” to her fellow Australian teammates, immediately set out to acquire as many Australian team pins as possible to then use as trading currency to build up her pin collection from other nations.
With her collection now sitting at 52 pins out of a possible 72, it has been a remarkably successful and enjoyable endeavor for Wellington, but the South Australian is desperate to complete the set and has even recruited Mears to help her mission.
“I had dinner last night with Anna Mears and I was telling her about the pins and how I enjoyed the whole experience,” Wellington said on the Scoop Podcast.
“I was telling her I have somewhere between 40 and 50 needles, but I’m trying to get a lot, like I want the collection.
“So she said, ‘I can help you when I’m in the main village…’ And just this morning I got a text from Anna that said, ‘I got this pin from Jersey, you can put it on your list.’ “
There’s no doubt Wellington would be happy to play a role on the field as Australia chase a historic gold medal in tonight’s (2am AEST) clash with India.
But true to the team-first mentality that permeates the Australian squad, the 25-year-old Wellingtonian is anything but accepting of the situation and is excited to witness and be part of the success in Birmingham.
“I think a few years ago, if that was me, I probably would have thrown my toys out of the playpen and probably said, ‘Why don’t I play?'” Wellington said.
“I’d probably talk to my mum or my partner and be like, ‘I’m not going to play what’s this?’
“But now I think it’s just a game of cricket, you see. I know what (the selectors) are doing is best for the team and the girls are absolutely smashing it right now.
“It’s so great to see, especially someone like (her co-star) Alana King coming into the group and performing so well, I couldn’t be happier for her.
“Just being in this environment again makes me really happy.”
Wellington’s appreciation for the truly diverse, multi-sport event is palpable. At every opportunity, the South Australian walks the streets of Birmingham from the cricketers’ hotel base to the bustling bustle of the main sports village at the University of Birmingham, where she will strike up conversations with athletes, officials and volunteers alike.
“To be here is pretty amazing,” Wellington said.
“I did everything I could to experience this because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“I’ve met Peter Ball, Cody Simpson, Emma McKeon, so many people like it, it’s amazing.
“Even on our days off, I would go to the central village and just sit on the athletics track to watch people train.
“It’s unbelievable how people train. It’s so different to cricket and they’re so precise in what they do and it’s so fascinating to watch.”
With less than 20 pins left to collect, you’d give Wellington a fair chance of leaving Birmingham with the full complement of Commonwealth nations.
An even safer bet, Wellington will join his Southern Brave teammates ahead of The Hundred with some unique memories, an infectious desire to do more and looking to his next collection target.
Commonwealth Games 2022
Team Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachel Haynes (vc), Darcy Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashley Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Talia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Elise Perry, Megan Shutt, Annabelle Sutherland, Amanda- Jade Wellington
See all Commonwealth Games cricket teams here
Group A: Australia, India, Pakistan, Barbados
Group B: England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka
July 29: Australia beat India by three wickets
July 31: Australia beat Barbados by nine wickets
August 3: Australia beat Pakistan by 44 runs
Semi-finals: August 6
India beat England by four runs
Australia beat New Zealand by five wickets
Bronze Medal Match: England v New Zealand 7 August 10:00 local time (19:00 AEST)
Gold Medal Match: Australia vs India 7 August 5pm local time (2am 8 August AEST)
All matches are played at Edgbaston Stadium. Watch live or on demand via 7Plus