We are now past the halfway point of WBBL|05 and most things have gone to plan. The Sydney Sixers are sitting in third position with six wins and four losses.
A few nights ago, as I was walking towards the SCG for the last Sixers BBL match for the season, several people asked how I was feeling about the “last Sixers game”. I was confused, as I still had quite a few Sixers games to watch.
It then occurred to me that these people had forgotten the winners of the 2016-17 WBBL title.
Contemplating questions about the game of cricket keep me awake at night. What makes the BBL overpower the WBBL competition to the point the women are simply forgotten, even when the Sydney Sixers are number one on the 2017-18 WBBL table?
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Growing up, I spent endless weekends watching my brother dressed all in white, running after a ball, and then a few hours later, hitting that same ball and running in a straight line. How strange. How fascinating.
When we had a spare Sunday, the TV would be on – men would be dressed all in white, interacting with this red ball in the very same way I had watched my brother doing.
In Year 3, I had to choose a sport to play during terms one and four at school. Before I knew it, my girlfriends and I were chasing that same red ball in the summer season.
I never questioned if it was strange that, unlike the players on both my brother’s team and on the TV, we were female. It never occurred to me there may be segregation due to gender.
By Year 7 I had played 12 terms of IGSSA cricket and a season of NSW CAS cricket, and come across some of the most driven sportswomen I have ever met.
In Year 8, my parents asked me what sport I wanted to play in term one. Of course I replied, “cricket”. Much to my surprise and disappointment, however, cricket was no longer an option at school, due to the lack of interest and the fact that there were not enough playing fields to carry out a girls’ school season.
Not enough playing fields?!
I thought back on how many hours I had spent over the past ten-plus years, travelling around Sydney to watch my brother play, and was plagued with frustration and disbelief.
As a result, I decided to join the newly formed girls’ team at my brother’s club. However, while 11 or so gung-ho players showed up at the first training session, the coach didn’t.
This was the first time I understood that men’s cricket was more highly regarded and taken more seriously than women’s.
Watching the Sixers WBBL team, in Brisbane in January 2017, was an amazing experience. A team featuring the youngest ever cricketer – male of female – to represent Australia, and others who matched her capacity played an absolute cracker of a game.
Brisbane at this time of year is stinking hot and the WBBL games are played around midday, in the direct sun and heat. However, not one complaint was heard and the Sydney girls powered through to victory.
Yet there is a huge difference in crowd numbers between the BBL and WBBL. The BBL attracts crowds of at least 20,000 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, while the silence from an absent crowd at the WBBL shocks me every time.
Regardless, the women continue to play a game of cricket filled with emotion and support for each other – all the while acting as an inspiration for our future cricketers.
As I observe the Sixers women put their absolute all into every game played, I cannot fathom why a crowd of 20,000 is not present to share such emotion, support and influence.
Things have to change.
We need to focus on the strengths of players within the WBBL, instead of making a comparison between them and the men. We should grow a support network within the competition, rather than just within a single team.
No one ever said a man couldn’t dominate in a game of netball, or draw a crowd of thousands who want to watch him dance. So why do we question a woman’s place in a sport they love?