Steve O’Keefe set to retire from BBL – ‘I’ve had a lot of fun’


There will be no helicopter for Steve O’Keefe at the SCG on Friday, but his evening in the BBL Sydney derby could be a much more significant than David Warner’s hasty flight from his brother’s wedding.

There’s a chance that the game will be O’Keefe’s final outing at the SCG with this season very likely to be the last of his professional career. However, it may be worth just holding the farewells. Sydney Sixers are still in the running to host a final, and perhaps even the decider if they can get into the Qualifier and defeat Brisbane Heat on the Gold Coast.

Regardless, though, of exactly when, at some point in the next two weeks left-arm spinner O’Keefe will all but certainly hang up his boots. He’s talked of retirement regularly over the last few seasons, but this time he’s serious. He’s relocating to northern New South Wales and has no plans to continue playing cricket.

“It will be very hard to play on next year so this could be my last game at the SCG,” he said. “It’s not 100 per cent confirmed, and I’ll make sure the right people know that at the right time.

“I’ve had a great time playing it and now the expectation around your training and your body, committing to cricket 12 months of the year is probably something that’s a bit past me at the moment.

“I feel really fulfilled with what I’ve done career-wise and very, very happy. I’ve had a lot of fun this year and am certainly still enjoying it.”

O’Keefe is currently the third-highest wicket-taker for Sixers in the BBL with 94 at 23.40 and a miserly economy rate of 6.69. The wickets have not been plentiful this season, with just three in six games, but he has still only conceded 6.65 an over. He is confident in the future of the Sixers’ spin bowling with Todd Murphy and Joel Davies part of the current squad.

His T20 debut came in the state league, the precursor to the BBL, in 2009. He bowled one over in the game against Tasmania at Stadium Australia and batted at No. 9. One place above him the order was a certain S. Smith. Briefly he was a T20 opener and hit 48 off 46 balls when Sixers won the inaugural BBL title with victory over Perth Scorchers in early 2012.

“There’s been plenty of highs on the field…playing for Australia is something that will stand out,” he said. “Unfortunately for me, my lowlights were all off the field, but certainly brought a lot of growth and development. For the Sixers, going back-to-back [titles] was amazing and also when we went to South Africa for the Champions League, that was a lot of fun.”

His axing from the New South Wales state list in early 2020 hit him hard, particularly as it came after a solid Sheffield Shield campaign, but he was able to find a new lease of life in the BBL.

“I was bitter and twisted for a couple of years,” he said. “Certainly took its toll…certainly takes you aback, especially in an association you’ve been playing cricket for 20 years. The cold-hearted nature of how it happens can be quite a shock. Certainly don’t want to play the woe-is-me card, think everyone goes through it in certain aspects of their life no matter what you do.

“I’ve just been privileged and fortunate enough that I’ve been able to extend my career in cricket. A lot of players years ago wouldn’t have had that opportunity to continue. This place [Sixers] has reinvigorated a love for the game which thought I didn’t have a couple of years ago and it’s been so much fun.”

O’Keefe has aspirations to work as a spin-bowling coach and may continue to dabble in commentary. “I’d like to help out, think spin bowling is somewhere I can help,” he said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”

For now, though, when the season is done, he will settle into his new home and take “long service leave” after 20 years in professional cricket.

“I’m just going to sit in front of the TV and become an armchair expert,” he joked. “I might open a Twitter page and see how much trouble I can get into doing that.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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