Courtesy of her parent’s spirit for adventure, Sydney Thunder’s Anika Learoyd learnt from a young age that there isn’t a classroom that matches life on the open road.
Learoyd, who was raised on a dairy farm on the NSW north coast that her father turned in to an unofficial sanctuary for native wildlife by replanting eucalyptus trees and other flora, enjoyed some of her childhood’s significant ‘firsts’ with postcard-like landscapes as her backdrop.
The now 19-year-old Learoyd went on her first trip into the heart of Australia’s sunburnt country just weeks after her birth; she learnt to crawl in the iron ore-rich red dust of northern Western Australia; a happy snap captured her - as a four-year-old - taking a big swing with her first cricket bat on Moreton Island off the Brisbane coast, and she recalls with an unmistakeable excitement the time when her family packed up their modified motor home to explore Cape York Peninsula for three months.
Now, in her second WBBL season, Learoyd said it was “special” to be exposed to untouched scenery - and adventures - that wouldn’t be out of place in a cinemascope movie.
“It was an interesting time of my life, and one I look back on quite fondly,” said Learoyd of catching barramundi, spotting crocodiles on the riverbanks, or simply gazing at the outback’s star-filled night skies.
“We’d go on amazing camping trips to anywhere and everywhere. We were always quite self-sufficient, rarely paying for a camping site. We’d find extravagant places in the middle of nowhere and stay there for the night.
“There was one particular instance when my sister, Nikki, fell in the campfire, and my father grabbed her and ran to the nearby creek. We were way out at the top of Cape York, and there could’ve been anything in that water – but I Dad just jumped in without any hesitation because he had to.”
Her opportunities to observe Australia’s diverse wildlife on the family property, and in their natural habitat, has motivated Learoyd to study a Bachelor of Animal Science with a major in Wildlife Management.
As she met wombats, kangaroos, and other native creatures at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary while the team was based in Hobart for the Tasmanian leg of the WBBL tournament, Learoyd said it troubled her to think iconic animals, including rock wallabies and koalas, are in danger of becoming instinct during her lifetime.
“There are quite a few in trouble,” she said. “I’ve done some assignments on specific species that are under threat from fox and feral cat predation, and what hurts the most is how preventable it all is.
“I’d like to see stronger rules and possibly harsher punishments around domestic cats being allowed outside during the night-time - and even, at times, during the day because bell or no bell it doesn’t make much of a difference.
“And they’re playing such a destructive role in the devastation of some of Australia’s greatest species.”
The reason the two Learoyd sisters could wander the ‘Wallaby Track’ for months at a time was because they were home-schooled by their mother. It was a process that gave the pair a broader education than simply memorising textbook facts about geography, history, or maths.
“You have to be motivated,” said Learoyd of learning outside of the traditional school system. “It was emphasised during my upbringing that motivation, independence, and accountability were big things in our lives.
“I felt like that set me up well for my career in cricket because while cricket is a team sport, it does rely on independent performances at times.
“Mum was always there to help, but she called it ‘facilitating’ rather than teaching. My sister Nikki and I were quite independent, and she’d give us the books and resources we needed.
“It was left to us to get the work done, although Mum would certainly step in if she felt as though we needed to do more.”
Sydney Thunder WBBL|07 Schedule (All AEDT Start Times)
Sun 7 Nov | v Brisbane Heat | 10:15am | Adelaide Oval | Seven/Foxtel/Kayo
Tues 9 Nov | v Adelaide Strikers | 6:00pm | Karen Rolton Oval | Foxtel/Kayo/cricket.com.au
Thurs 11 Nov | v Perth Scorchers | 1:25pm | Karen Rolton Oval | Foxtel/Kayo/cricket.com.au
Sun 14 Nov | v Sydney Sixers | 1:40pm | Great Barrier Reef Arena | Seven/Foxtel/Kayo
Wed 17 Nov | v Melbourne Renegades | 7:05pm | Great Barrier Reef Arena | Foxtel/Kayo/cricket.com.au
Fri 19 Nov | v Brisbane Heat | 7:05pm | Great Barrier Reef Arena | Foxtel/Kayo/cricket.com.au
Sat 20 Nov | v Hobart Hurricanes | 3:40pm | Great Barrier Reef Arena | Foxtel/Kayo/cricket.com.au