Jess Jonassen: 'I never have been, or never will be, somebody that enjoys telling people what to do'

The allrounder on the challenge of taking over the Brisbane Heat captaincy at a time of transition

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Australia allrounder Jess Jonassen is determined to ensure that captaincy does not change her as a player or a person as she prepares to guide Brisbane Heat's attempt to secure a hat-trick of WBBL titles.
Jonassen has replaced Kirby Short, who announced her retirement after last season, at the helm of the Heat and will be in charge of a team that has lost its leading batter in Beth Mooney and one of its leading bowlers in Sammy-Jo Johnson, who have switched to the Perth Scorchers and Sydney Thunder respectively.
"It's something that's very exciting," Jonassen told ESPNcricinfo of the challenge ahead. "I think it provides some really great opportunities."
Jonassen does not have a wealth of captaincy experience to fall back on - "a few underage sides, a while ago now, and a bit with my club in Brisbane," she said - but hopes to be the sort of leader who can encourage others to feel empowered to make decisions while also inspiring by her own performances.
"I want to try and make sure that l'm still me," she said. "I've got big shoes to fill with Kirby and her leadership style, we are going to be slightly different. It's been nice to be able to have a few centre-wicket scenarios back home to start getting that captaincy brain working. I'm someone that likes to get the bowlers to be in charge of what they want and I just try and help facilitate that, use my experience with the amount of games that I've played to be able to help initiate conversations. I never have been, or never will be, somebody that enjoys telling people what to do, I'd rather be with them and show them the way."
She has spoken with Short and knows the former captain is always on the end of the phone if needed, but both are conscious that this is now Jonassen's team on the field.
"I've had some conversations with her and we've got a pretty good friendship so she's always going to be there if needed," Jonassen said. "It's nice to have resources such as her so readily available, but she's also very mindful about wanting me to be able to do things my way. I need to learn to trust my own instincts, trust my gut and live and die by that."
As a captain who is also a key bowler with her left-arm spin, when and how to use herself will be something Jonassen will need to get used to. "If the game is on the line sometimes I might go with myself, while other times it might be that I want to test somebody else in that situation, particularly early on in the tournament. You want to give them the confidence that if that situation came about in another game later in the tournament that they have that belief to execute. It's backing my own judgement and if I think I'm the best match-up I'll go with that."
Although Johnson has moved to the Thunder, the Heat retain the core of a strong bowling attack with Delissa Kimmince, Amelia Kerr, Georgia Prestwidge, Jonassen herself and the new signing of South Africa allrounder Nadine de Klerk.
At the outset of the tournament, the bigger challenge would appear to be replacing the runs of Mooney. Last season she scored 743 at 74.30, more than 300 ahead of next-best Jonassen. Having not made a big-name batting signing to fill the gap, it will likely need a team effort to make up for those lost runs. Jonassen is excited at the off-season work put in by flamboyant allrounder Grace Harris, who has two WBBL hundreds to her name - including one off 42 balls - and will be the type of experienced player required to lift for this campaign.
"She's put in some significant work over the pre-season and it's developed her game really nicely," Jonassen said. "Everybody knows that she's got the power and she can clear any size boundary, but a lot of work that she's been doing is around the cricket smarts and being able to bat big periods of time. We know she can score at a 150-160 strike-rate but being able to start consistently and get 50-plus scores, and big match winning not-outs, is something that she's really worked very hard on.
"We've seen a lot of evidence of that growth and the improvement in Queensland in centre-wicket scenarios or club cricket. She's really developed into a smart, powerful batter which is extremely dangerous. I think she's started to thrive on having that greater responsibility put on her shoulders from run-scoring perspective."
Jonassen is also looking forward to the chance of being higher up a batting order again given the riches Australia have usually sees her with little chance to impress in either T20Is or ODIs, while Kerr could be in line for greater responsibility. Jonassen also picked out 17-year-old Georgia Voll as a potential star. "She's a bit of a teenage sensation, a bit of a Grace Harris 2.0."
Jonassen is aware of the strange circumstances in which this year's WBBL is taking place with all the teams based in a village at the Sydney Olympic Park. While there is a degree of freedom inside that set-up it will still be a different experience for the players, especially those outside of the international squad who were not part of the bubble against New Zealand.
"I think it's probably an ideal opportunity for the likes of myself and Delissa [Kimmince] and a few of our international girls to share our experiences of what it's been like to be away from home for significant periods of time and things that we've found have been helpful," she said. "We've got girls in our team that have had to put in for leave for the next little while, but they are really fortunate that they have some good and understanding employers.
"Then Charlie Knott will be doing her year 12 exams, so there's definitely a lot of support in and around it. The priority is always going to be players' wellbeing and mental health but also balancing that with whatever the training or playing requirements. To me it's always about the person first and making sure they are okay and they have everything that they need to be able to perform to them."
And so what of the prospect of achieving the rare feat of a hat-trick of titles? "There's always going to be talk around it, that's something that we know and we're not going to hide from, but it's also something that we're not reading too much into," Jonassen said. "We just hope at the end of it that we've played the cricket that we wanted to and as consistently as we'd like and that then means that we're standing on that stage holding the trophy up for a third time."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo