Cricket NSW: Is the Central Coast the news home of women’s cricket?

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Photo Credit: Cricket NSW

The Central Coast is leading the way with women & girls’ teams in every club

Cricket NSW is celebrating Women and Girls Week from November 20-26, and the state’s Central Coast has more reason to feel joyous than just for a week. It was eight years in the making, but Cricket NSW’s (CNSW) and Central Coast Cricket Association’s (CCCA) bid to have female only teams in every club at all community-based levels of the game has finally been a success.

Central Coast is fast turning out to be NSW’s female cricket hub. This year, during Women & Girls Week, Cricket NSW will celebrate stories of success for seven days, bringing forth extraordinary stories of ordinary women and girls who have thrived on and off the cricket field because of their love of the sport.

The stories will feature a volunteer on the Far North Coast who gathered 250 girls to come in and try cricket, an umpire who juggles a legal career and motherhood and loves being on the cricket field too, a girls’ competition in Hornsby and Hills Districts where the players combine cricket with perfecting their moves with dance, and a female coaches’ collective in Newcastle that has infused fresh blood into cricket in the region.

Also in the offing are workshops to upskill women who would like to be involved in cricket. On November 18, former Australian women’s captain Alex Blackwell will be part of a forum at Cricket Central and answer questions from members of WiCKETS, a specialised group of women cricket administrators, volunteers and specialists. On November 22, Cricket Central will host the Careers in the Sports Industry Forum, where cricket’s current female staff will speak to women who are interested in a career in sport. On November 26, during the Weber WBBL match at SCG, 100 girl cricketers from clubs funded by the Growing Cricket for Girls Fund will walk a lap of honour around the field.

Meanwhile, on the Central Coast, all 10 clubs on the Central Coast have multiple junior and senior female teams from last year, and this year, there are 26 teams that are playing senior women’s cricket alone, and another 17 female junior teams. There are women’s teams at every level of the game, three grade levels in senior women’s cricket and all stages in girls’ club cricket. No other region in NSW has been able to bring together women’s and girls’ teams on every level.

David Winiata, Cricket NSW’s current Cricket Manager of the Central Coast region, built on what he inherited five years ago to bring the project to fruition, and CNSW and CCCA have grown the women’s cricket story over by over in the region. About eight years ago, the groundwork was set by building women’s senior teams in the region. Five years ago, when there were four senior women’s teams. There was a women’s competition in existence, but participation in that was a mixed bag.

Three seasons ago, during the 2018-19 summer, the CCCA, with support from CNSW, took the strategic decision to make it mandatory for all female cricketers in the region to play in female only teams. This wasn’t without its challenges.

For one, there was the question of getting all the clubs to have girls’ teams up and running, especially in Stage 1 and Stage 2 cricket. The association and CNSW worked with the clubs that this was the best way to grow female cricket in the region, and little by little, all 10 clubs bought into the idea.    

The second challenge was the perception among the region’s more talented and promising female players that they would play more competitive cricket only if they played in mixed teams and that girls’ only teams would bring their level of game down a few notches. However, CCCA and CNSW had clear pathways and phases in their plans to grow the game for girls. The first year, they phased out mixed teams in the Stage 1, U12 stages. The next season, they phased out U14, because the girls who moved to that stage were already playing all-girls’ matches.

By last season, the Central Coast had implemented the entire female pathway as they had set out to do. They filled the gap of Stage 2 girls’ only teams, and in the senior level, they had three grade teams. The mothers of young female cricketers started coming out to play in Grade 3 teams, women who had either fallen out of playing cricket or had never played cricket before.

It wasn’t just about women and girls playing cricket. CNSW and CCCA made sure that the facilities and the conditions that the women and girls played under were conducive to great cricket being played.

Firstly, women’s cricket didn’t have to compromise for men’s cricket in the region. Women’s and girls’ cricket is played on Saturdays, just as men’s cricket is played. A set of rules was developed to make team building easier. Most competitions had 8- or 9-a-side teams, all matches were T20, and the rules stipulated that everyone would bat and bowl at every match.

 Women’s Grade 1 matches are played on three turf grounds while Grades 2 and 3 matches are played on other synthetic grounds across the Central Coast, including the picturesque Terrigal Haven Cricket Ground surrounded by the ocean on three sides. All grounds have female-friendly infrastructure.

The result is that women are getting more and more involved in the region’s cricketing landscape. Players often drive in from Maitland and Tamworth to play in grade matches these days. Some clubs, such as Lisarow Ourimbah CC and Northern Power CC, have seen more women joining in to become members of cricket committees, become volunteers, and take on social media responsibilities for the clubs, thus ensuring female cricket grows in leaps and bounds in the region.

Martin Gleeson, General Manager, Community Cricket Experience, Cricket NSW, said: “The Central Coast is leading the way in how we want women’s and girls’ cricket to shape up and has created a roadmap for how it can be done.

Australian women’s cricket is one of the best in the world and will only go from strength to strength if we nurture our female players’ talents and capabilities right from the start. This is a testament to our efforts to create environments conducive to fostering female cricket at all levels,” said Gleeson.

“We had to get the momentum going, but we knew that if we built it, they would come,” said Winiata. And they did.

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