'Bit of a nightmare': Why BBL star could be set to call it quits

Stephen O'Keefe, pictured here celebrating a wicket with Sydney Sixers teammates.
Stephen O'Keefe celebrates a wicket with Sydney Sixers teammates. (Photo by Kelly Defina - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Stephen O'Keefe is not sure whether this will be his final week as a professional cricketer.

But the Sydney Sixers spinner knows one thing for sure - he will not go through another season like this one.

O'Keefe rates the 2021/22 BBL campaign a "one out of 10" experience – all because of the off-field "cages" the players have been forced into to keep the competition ticking over.

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Not only are BBL teams kept in a bubble; they're in a bubble within a bubble.

The Sixers' playing group has been split into threes, meaning you can only move around with your designated partners outside of training and playing times.

Every ride to the airport must be in your group of three, any get togethers at the team hotel are restricted to your three and even the simple task of going to a café for a take-away coffee can only be done with, you guessed it, your two assigned pals.

For a gregarious personality like O'Keefe, it's been like keeping a kelpie in a granny flat.

"If you told me at the start of the season it was going to be like this, I might not have done it," he told Yahoo Sport Australia prior to the Sixers' elimination final against Adelaide Strikers at the SCG on Wednesday night.

"This past month we've basically been locked in a room.

"You've got to wear masks everywhere, you can't hang around the sheds after a game, can't mingle with the opposition.

"This is the best time of the year to see your family and friends and we can’t do that and we can’t even hang out with your mates when you'e with your mates.

"This past month we've basically been locked in a room. It's been a one out of 10 in regard to fun…a bit of a nightmare."

Steve O'Keefe, pictured here celebrating the wicket of Josh Inglis during the Sixers' clash with the Scorchers.
Steve O'Keefe celebrates the wicket of Josh Inglis during the Sixers' clash with the Scorchers. (Photo by Robert Cianflone - CA/Getty Images)

Steve O'Keefe set to make decision on cricket future

That's why the 37-year-old has asked for some time to unpack the events of this summer before he makes a decision on whether to play on – or not – in 2022/23.

The Sixers will grant the former Test bowler all the time he needs, unlike his unceremonious dumping from the first-class scene in 2020 when NSW officials blindsided him by opting not to offer him a contract.

"The short answer is I'm leaning more towards not playing next year than playing," O'Keefe admitted.

"I've just said I want to make that decision as late as possible…October-November.

"If I make that decision now based around emotion, it might be the wrong one.

"I've been really grateful the (NSW) association has been transparent and shown me so much respect.

Stephen O'Keefe, pictured here after winning player of the match against the Sydney Thunder.
Stephen O'Keefe poses with the certificate for winning player of the match against the Sydney Thunder. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

"I don’t want a hoo-ha, I don’t want a send-off. I just want a transparent discussion and that's what I've got and I feel at ease with that.

"I could finish this tournament and say 'that's it, I've had enough' and I will share that moment with my teammates.

"I don’t want the attention to be about me playing my last game."

The end may be as soon as Wednesday night, with the below-strength Sixers stretched to make a third-consecutive final in what is O'Keefe's 11th-straight season of BBL.

If he does bow out, it will be as a major contributor.

The veteran's 15 wickets at an economy rate of just below seven an over places him right up there among the competition's elite.

As to what he is looking forward to the most once the campaign ends, SOK was typically SOK.

"You know what? The thing I'm looking forward to is going home and having a nice feed and a beer at a pub," he smiled.

"The little things are the big things. That's the thing you fully appreciate when you get to my stage."

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