KFC BBL|12: ‘Spiritual’ warrior O’Keefe signs on for 12th season with Sixers
Stephen O’Keefe’s value to Sydney Sixers has been highlighted by a new deal which ties him to his 12th KFC Big Bash League season in magenta – and also by coach Greg Shipperd’s heartfelt description that he’s the Club’s ‘spiritual player’.
O’Keefe, aged 37, was also hailed by Shipperd for displaying a brand of resilience which encapsulates the best of his team’s fighting qualities.
“Stephen is a remarkable player in terms of the life of the franchise,” said Shipperd, who has guided Sydney Sixers to two titles.
“He’s been there for the whole journey - been through many ups, and some downs as well.
“But he’s still delivering at the highest level.
“Last season, he and Rashid Khan had daylight between them and the rest of the field in terms of spin bowling. We’re delighted to have him, and, deservedly, for Stephen’s sake, for him to have a chance to play at his best.
“He’s not only one of our ‘spiritual’ players on the field, but he’s also extremely popular with our fans. He’s like having another coach in our side and shaping the minds of our emerging spin bowlers.”
Shipperd suggested the Club’s brigade of young tweakers owe it to their development as frontline bowlers to absorb all they could from O’Keefe, who captured 35 wickets in nine Test matches for Australia.
“Anyone who has played cricket for so long has plenty of experience to share,” said Shipperd.
“Cricket is one of those games where failure is as big a part of it as success, so to manage that for as long as Stephen has is a real feather in his cap.
“At the end of the day he’s one of the strongest competitors I have seen in many a year, and we’re delighted to have him rolling out with us again.”
O’Keefe, who hinted during last summer’s COVID-impacted competition that he was considering retiring at the end of the 2021/22 season, said he felt fully rejuvenated after a break and that he’s keen to add to his tally of 91 matches and 80 wickets for the Sixers.
“The COVID bubble is behind us,” said O’Keefe, the Club’s third-highest all-time wicket taker.
“We have a great squad, and I have another opportunity to go out and express some skills.”
However, he added there was two other significant reasons that have tied him to the Sixers squad preparing for BBL|12.
“Greg [Shipperd] and Moises [Henriques] are two of the main reasons I want to go around again,” said O’Keefe.
“Greg is an excellent coach, and his record speaks for itself.
“However, he’s a true mentor. I’ve learnt a lot from Greg - not only from an on the field sense, but off it as well. So, to be able to play another season under him, and alongside Moises, was a real drawcard for me to go around again.”
As one of only a handful of players remaining from the BBL’s inaugural season in 2011-12, O’Keefe has witnessed the numerous changes which will make attending a Sixers match the coolest thing to do this summer.
“It has evolved,” he said of the game. “There’s a lot more planning that goes into the way a side wants to play.
There’s no doubt the skill level has increased– we’re seeing young kids come into the game boasting skills I could only have dreamt of at 18 or 19.
“And the way the community has embraced T20 cricket has been fascinating. It’s been very exciting to watch the growth of the game.”
O’Keefe, who took two four wicket hauls last summer, said he was slaving away in the nets to add a few surprises to his game.
“I’m working as hard as ever on my bowling because I want to be an important member of the team,” he said.
“We have some top-quality young spinners in our squad, and if you’re not doing well, it won’t take long for someone to take your spot.
“So, you need to bring ‘something’ each season. You have to be able to adapt, but it’s important to do the basics well, and to have a clear plan whenever you step onto the field.
“If you’re not improving your skill set – and mine’s bowling - it won’t take long before the competition’s batters cotton on and take advantage of that. You always have to be thinking, but something Greg Shipperd has said to me really resonates.
“He said ‘experience never gets old’ and what I’ve found is the more you play, the more you see. And, the more you put yourself into contests you might realise that [through experience] you’ve been in a particular situation before . . . and that helps.”
Tickets for this summer’s Sixers WBBL and BBL matches go on-sale to the public at 2pm, August 18 (AEST).
Sydney Sixers BBL|12 Fixtures (All AEDT Start Times)
Wed 14 Dec | Adelaide Strikers v Sydney Sixers | Adelaide Oval | 7:15pm
Sat 17 Dec | Perth Scorchers v Sydney Sixers | Optus Stadium | 7:05pm
Thu 22 Dec | Sydney Sixers v Hobart Hurricanes | SCG | 7:15pm
Mon 26 Dec | Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Stars | SCG | 6:05pm
Wed 28 Dec | Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades | SCG | 7:15pm
Fri 30 Dec | Melbourne Renegades v Melbourne Sixers | GMHBA Stadium | 6:30pm
Sun 1 Jan | Brisbane Heat v Sydney Sixers | Gabba | 7:15pm
Wed 4 Jan | Sydney Sixers v Brisbane Heat | North Sydney Oval | 6:05pm
Fri 6 Jan | Melbourne Stars v Sydney Sixers | MCG | 6:30pm
Sun 8 Jan | Sydney Thunder v Sydney Sixers | Sydney Showground Stadium | 7:15pm
Sun 15 Jan | Sydney Sixers v Perth Scorchers | SCG | 7:15pm
Tue 17 Jan | Sydney Sixers v Adelaide Strikers | C.ex Coffs Int. Stadium | 7:15pm
Contracted for BBL|12: Sean Abbott, Jackson Bird, Ben Dwarshuis, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Hayden Kerr, Nathan Lyon, Stephen O'Keefe, Jordan Silk