TAKING THE GAME UP A NOTCH SEASON SCHEDULE PLAYING THE FIELD
Women’s cricket was the big winner in last year’s pay deal, but there’s still much work to be done. Brittany Carter identifies four key issues.
Women’s cricket has made huge strides, but there’s work to be done. Brittany Carter identifies four key issues.
Former Australian player Sarah Elliott faced plenty of challenges juggling three pregnancies during her career. Scoring her maiden ton while breastfeeding in the breaks, she says flexibility and a female understanding at selection level helped ease the pressure.
“It’s just the stress of always being agitated and thinking a step ahead. The nature of the game is such that more girls are going to want to start families now that money is involved and it’s an actual career.”
Julie Savage was at the helm as Australian chair of selectors when Elliott fell pregnant with her first child. She kept her on contract while the coaching staff modified training.
“It’s all about learning,” Elliott says. “The first one I played out the season and then became pregnant, so I trained with the Australian squad right through. The foresight to keep me on contract was really good of
Having faced her own issues in club cricket during and postpregnancy, Savage says the grey area surrounding reproduction and sport is still a difficult space for employers to navigate.
Netball recently introduced a policy that offers players a baby-sitter for match and training commitments. Savage agrees such initiatives may keep stars in the game.
“It’s not like an injury, but in terms of time out of the game it sort of is,” she says. “Selection will still be determined by merit once they come back, but they need support through that period. These are going to be real decisions as our players move into their late 20s, early 30s.”
There are currently six women in coaching roles at state, Big Bash, pathway or national levels. One of them, NSW Breakers and Sydney Thunder head coach Joanne Broadbent, began her journey while representing Australia. Starting at grade level, she moved to school teams before she got a call-up to the elite domestic scene and the U23 Australian squad.
“When they actually achieve their goals, you feel like you’ve contributed,” she said. “The excitement of players who’ve never been able to execute an on-drive and play it in a game after you’ve thrown a thousand balls at them is so special.”
Broadbent believes female coaches add diversity to cricket in that they “think a little bit differently to men” but says the best results come from collaboration between the sexes. And for more women to come up the ranks, the sport needs to get better at showcasing female coaches.
“We’ve got to tell the story better. It’s an awareness thing. We need to have a presence and let people know that women can do these roles well.
“The AFL do it nicely. There’s times where you can see behind-the-scenes with coaches and their back story. I don’t think I’ve ever told my story well enough.”
Adelaide Strikers general manager Bronwyn Klei worked in commercial radio for 22 years before her hardcore commercial skills drove her to the business of elite sport. When she first applied for the role, Adelaide Oval’s Western Grandstand had just been built and CA was about to launch the
The league and sport has grown enormously since then, but women still struggle to make their way to boardrooms. For this reason, Klei is a big supporter of quotas – the wheels of progress are simply turning too slowly in sports administration.
“There are many studies that show diversity is good for business,” she says. “It can make you money. Unless you’ve got diversity on your board, how do you make the best decisions for your teams and for your fans?”
The Big Bash targets families and Klei believes this is key when it comes to sales. “Mothers are buying tickets and memberships and signing their kids up to cricket. If sports could take a step back and look at these ecosystems,
they’d have a different view.”
When it comes to encouraging more women to put their hands up for administration, she suggests grassroots ensure their clubs are attractive to women: “We’ve got to filter down as well as filter up.”
A high-performance manager ensures the background elements of a team work efficiently and cooperatively. The WACA’s Morag Closer was the only woman working in this space up until her resignation in September.
In the position three years after spending 15 with the AIS, Closer was hired after the WACA realised there was a gap when it came to supporting their women’s state and Big Bash teams. With the WBBL’s inaugural season and the female game in a rapid period of growth, the state body wanted to be on the front foot when it came to assigning dedicated resources to both genders.
“We’re recognising that there are skilled women out there that can bring just as much to the table and there’s a real willingness and openness to engage more in that space,” Closer says. “As a woman, you’re able to bring a level of understanding of what it’s like to be a female athlete and the challenges associated with being semi-professional, transitioning to professional.”
She also believes gender balance is healthy for any elite sporting team. “It’s equally important to have male advocates for female cricket, because that’s where we have a chance to influence and shift mindsets.”
YOU’RE ABLE TO BRING A LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A FEMALE ATHLETE AND THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH BEING SEMIPROFESSIONAL, TRANSITIONING TO PROFESSIONAL.
Sarah Elliott aced tests both in cricket and as mother to son Sam, helped along with timely support from the selectors.
Ellyse Perry, and the new fans she can bring to the game, are an example of the diversity that cricket can achieve.
Joanne Broadbent says female cricket coaches have a good story to tell, and need to tell it better.