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.

ABC Cricket - - CONTENTS - BRIT­TANY CARTER @_BRITTANYCARTER

Women’s cricket has made huge strides, but there’s work to be done. Brit­tany Carter iden­ti­fies four key is­sues.

PREG­NANCY

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

Cricket Aus­tralia.”

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.”

COACH­ING

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.”

BOARD­ROOM

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

Big Bash.

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.”

HIGH PER­FOR­MANCE

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.

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