History was made on Saturday when Jessica Hourigan walked out onto the field for East Sunbury’s Gisborne and District Cricket Association McIntyre Cup match against Diggers Rest Bulla.
The 17-year-old, who has played with the Thunder since she was 10, became the first female to be part of the club’s top side.
GDCA president Rob McIntyre said he believed she was also the first female in the competition to be selected in the top grade.
Speaking before the match, Hourigan said she was honoured to be the first girl to have the opportunity.
The Thunder, in their first season in the top division, sits sixth with two rounds remaining.
“I’m nervous but excited,” Hourigan said.
“I was meant to captain the thirds this week, but they were short in the ones and dad [Mark Hourigan] was playing up, so they decided that I would play ones too.
“I was a bit shocked, I don’t think I would play ones.”
She described the chance to share the moment with her dad as special. The pair have played several games together in the lower grades, but Hourigan said this is “even better.”
Mark, a former coach at the club, has been playing in the lower grades in recent seasons.
“I think it’s something that he wanted, to play in the first XI with his daughter,” she said.
“He is really keen for it.”
Hourigan said she expected stepping up into the top grade would be a challenge, but at the same time a lot of fun.
It would be a chance to test her skills at a higher level, where she expected the ball to be hit harder and the catches harder to take.
“I’ve spent most of the season in the twos this season, after captaining the thirds last season,” she said.
“They pushed me up to the twos to help them out a bit and I love it up there.
“The change of quality from the thirds, where there are a lot of little kids and their dads… It’s more competitive and I’m a competitive type of person, I love it.”
Hourigan, who has previously played premier cricket second XI, has focused on playing with the Thunder the past couple of seasons to be closer to home as her brother Brody battled cancer.
Brody died late last year.
Hourigan said she would consider playing at Carlton next season or staying with East Sunbury, depending on what pans out with university.
Whether she steps up to the next level, the Thunder will also be close to her heart.
“You get used to being around the boys, it’s good form, I’m not going to lie.
“I love it.”
The day was made even more special, when Hourigan was thrown the ball when Thunder opening bowler Shubham Kapadia got injured.
She would finish up with the figures 1-27 off 4.4 overs, bowling Rory Peters.
The Thunder had a big win to rise to fifth and all but secure their spot in the top division for next season.