By NATALIA HAWK
The Southern Stars are currently ranked number one in the world.
Haven’t heard of them? I’m not surprised. They’re our women’s national cricket team, and yet they get very little coverage in Australian media – not nearly as much as the men’s cricket team is fortunate enough to get.
And that’s really sad, because just this week, the Southern Stars packed up their bags and flew over to the UK to take part in the Ashes battle against England. They’re the overwhelming favourites to win, they’re world champions, and they really need Australia’s support, as they have a serious chance of taking victory.
To give you a bit of a briefing: in the past, the Ashes have consisted of one test match, which is a four day game. But this year, it’s been changed to a multi-series format, involving a four-day test match, three one-day internationals, and three 20/20 matches.
All the different matches are worth points. The test match is worth six points, and all the other matches are worth two points each.
The winner of the Ashes will be the team that gains the most points over the series. At the moment, Australia does hold them. In fact – of the 18 Women’s Ashes Series played since 1934, Australia have won 7, while England have won 4. 7 series have been drawn.
Fifteen girls are going over to England as part of the squad. I chatted to two members of the cricket team: Jodie Fields and Meg Lanning. Jodie is the captain of both the Southern Stars and the Queensland fiver, and Meg is one of the star players for the Southern Stars. Here’s what they had to say about cricket, female sport and their attempt to balance uni and work and sport…
JODIE: I grew up in Toowoomba, which is about 2 hours west of Brisbane, and was lucky enough that my fathers and brothers were passionate about cricket and started playing in the backyard.
As there were no other girls involved at that time, I started playing for the Junior boys cricket and then when I was 16 years old I was lucky enough to start driving down to Brisbane and playing women’s cricket.
For most of the girls on the team, an average day involves fitness training, followed by going to work for the most of the day and then heading to Ashes skills cricket training after work.
And I suppose a lot of sporting females are in the same boat, where a lot of the athletes are training hard, working hard, and also combining other activities such as University studies and school. I did a Science degree and a couple of business short courses and I’m actually hoping to start my MBA in September.
But I think balancing uni or work and sport is a really good opportunity for girls to learn time management skills and motivation skills and it gives you something to focus on outside your sport. You know, obviously one day if female sports would be the same as men it would be a good opportunity, and something to look forward to.
Having female sport on television and broadcast to the wider population definitely helps. In the last few years we’ve seen girls getting out in the media a lot more, doing interviews, the games are being broadcast and all that does help.
I think the main thing is to make cricket more relevant to girls and boys not just boys. And I think the general female sporting population, we are all very supportive of each other’s sports.
So for example, when something does go well, earlier this year we were given some female contacts with cricket and other sports such as netball and soccer were supportive of that. And in return I hope we can generate some contracts as well.
For girls hoping to get into professional sports – I think the best advice is just enjoy the sports you do get to play at school.
There are so many different choices, and I think its just important to get involved and enjoy it as much as you can. You don’t really have to make a serious decision about the sport you’re playing until the end of school. Get in and enjoy it, have fun with your friends and give it 100%.
MEG: I started playing cricket in the backyard with my brothers and sisters, and then I played a lot of cricket at school as well, in primary school. In primary school it was mainly with the boys, and also through high school I played school cricket in the boys team from year 7 till year 12. I swapped over to women’s cricket after that.
I’m a full-time uni student as well, studying exercise and health science. So my day ares taken up with Uni and then we train during the night usually from about 6-8.30. I really like the balance that a degree brings, I don’t know that playing sport 24/7 would really suit me.
It’s good to be able to take your mind off off playing sport sometimes and go and do some study and think about other things, and then when you get to training you’re ready to go. And once I finish my degree I can go and get a job as well.
Perhaps in the future we will be able to be professional cricketers at the minute I think a lot of us enjoy doing different things as well.
I think more people need to be introduced to women’s sport, especially cricket. When people see the women’s games they actually like what they see, but never get the chance to do it. Its just about having a bit more awareness about when our games are on and a bit more advertising.