Steve O’Keefe has promised himself not to be lured back for another final BBL season, with the veteran Sydney Sixers spinner officially announcing his retirement.
O’Keefe was the star of the Sixers’ crucial win over arch-rivals the Thunder on Friday night, claiming 3-13 from four overs to book a finals spot.
The 39-year-old remains one of the best spinners in the BBL, but has toyed with retirement for a number of seasons before being convinced to play on.
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But he is adamant that won’t happen this year.
The former Test spinner is booked to move to Lennox Head on the NSW north coast in April, in a move that will see him shift away from all training bases.
O’Keefe was the player of the match against the Thunder. Credit: Getty Images
Fellow Sixers have joked they will be able to convince O’Keefe to play on next year, but the fingerspinner has put a line through any possibility.
“This is it. This is the last year,” O’Keefe said.
“I spoke to the guys at the start of the game that this would be it. It was my worst-kept secret.
“I think most people have figured out that there wasn’t much chance unless I could borrow David Warner’s helicopter.
“It’s done, It’s just nice to feel really fulfilled. I’ve had a great night and if we don’t win a game from here, personally, I feel really fulfilled in cricket.”
O’Keefe played his first game for NSW more than 18 years ago in 2005, and made his international debut in a T20 for Australia against Pakistan in 2010.
He played nine Tests for Australia, and, famously, claimed 12 wickets for the match in Pune in February 2017.
Even on Friday night he was able to snaffle the key wickets of Warner, Alex Hales and Cameron Bancroft for the Sixers in their 19-run win.
But O’Keefe said there was no chance returns like that would have him reconsidering his future and playing past his 40th birthday.
“My time is well and truly up,” he said.
“The little things are the hardest. The training, the stuff in between and preparing. I just lost a lot of enthusiasm.
“I find myself drifting off in team meetings and you start looking at training schedules. It’s becoming a bit pointless if you’re not connected.
“We’ve got a great bunch of young kids around. Any player when they finish up they want to feel like the club’s in a great space.
“With (spinner) Joel Davies, they’ve also got Todd Murphy. There is a spot open for another spinner. Jack Edwards is really coming on.
“This club’s really got sustainable success written all over it for the next little bit.”
Fresh off arriving at the ground by helicopter from his brother’s wedding, Warner won his personal battle with long-time Test teammate Steve Smith but still tasted defeat in front of 41,027 fans on Friday night.
Warner arrives on the SCG by helicopter. Credit: AAP
Chasing 152 for victory, the retired Test opener hit 37 from 39 balls on a slow SCG wicket but had no support as the Thunder were all out for 132 in the final over.
The result officially ends the Thunder’s slim finals hopes, and locks the Sixers in for another post-season appearance.
A win in Perth on Tuesday night will allow the Sixers to finish runner-up on the ladder and earn a second chance, otherwise a home elimination final awaits.
The Sixers win came despite Smith being caught on the first ball of the game, in his final appearance for the club this summer.
A century-maker in the same fixture last year, Smith hooked a short Daniel Sams ball straight to Nathan McAndrew at deep-backward square.
In Smith’s absence, his young lookalike Josh Philippe took charge of the Sixers’ innings with a well-timed 47 from 35 balls.
Philippe scooped Sams for four late in the first over and played well square of the wicket.
Jordan Silk struck 35 to help the Sixers to 7-151, as the Thunder’s spinners dominated and Tanveer Sangha took 2-22 from his four overs.
In reply, the Thunder looked on track early when Warner and Alex Hales took 44 runs from the opening four-over powerplay.
Warner pulled Sean Abbott for a six and drove Jack Edwards for another as he went aerial early, to be 15 from six balls at one stage.
But when Hales was bowled by O’Keefe for 28, the air went out of the Thunder’s innings.