It’s a hot day in North Sydney. The bowler runs in to bowl and releases a fast-paced delivery, the batter steps in to defend the wicket, the ball glances the edge of the bat, the wicket keeper takes flight, hand outstretched and in an incredible display of skill manages to pluck the ball out of mid air. The batter is caught out. The wicket keeper is Alyssa Healy. And she’s a girl living her dream: playing cricket for Australia.
When Alyssa Healy started playing cricket it was still considered a game for boys.
“I started playing when I was seven,” says Alyssa, who jokingly refers to herself as “a bit of a tomboy”.
“We had just moved to Sydney and one of my friends at school asked if I wanted to come along and try this cricket thing down at the local club. It was called Kanga Cricket – now it’s Woolworths Cricket Blast. My friends didn’t follow through and I grew up playing as the only girl on the team.”
That’s the first barrier to girls playing cricket. Very often their friends don’t want to join in, and for many girls this can be an initial deterrent to taking the sport on. Thankfully now, junior team sports programs like Cricket Blast are filled with both girls and boys, from ages five to 10.
The official kids’ program of Cricket Australia, Woolworths Cricket Blast is a brand new program being delivered across more than 2000 centres around Australia. Kids of all abilities are taught how to bat, bowl and field, while making new friends.
And yes, they have All-Girls Cricket Blast teams too. It’s come a long way since Alyssa joined an all-boys team when she was younger.
“I grew up playing as the only girl. I played with all boys,” she tells Mamamia. “Nowadays there are lots of all-girls teams but when I was growing up it didn’t matter to me. The boys my age really accepted me.”
Coming from a cricket-playing family certainly went a long way to instilling a love for the game for Alyssa.
"My dad played for Queensland and my uncle played for Australia," she tells us. Yes, Ian Healy was a test wicket-keeper from the late 1980s until 1999. It seems that ferocious courage to pad up and face the ball runs in the genes!
"I loved the game of cricket at a young age," Alyssa recalls. "I didn’t think I was going to be at the level I am now. I had the cricket ball in a footy sock in the backyard I used to hit around. I used to go with Dad to his training and try to get a catch. I was an active kid."