In case you missed it, 2015 was an outstanding year for women’s sport in Australia and leading the charge was the Australian Women’s Cricket Team, the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars.
Following a successful trip to the United Kingdom to win the Women’s Ashes (the first Australian team of either gender to do so since 2001) and become the number one team in the world in ALL forms of the game, the players returned home to the prospect of a new, busier summer schedule.
The inaugural Women’s Big Bash League – an initiative of Cricket Australia in continuing to increase the profile of the development pathway for women’s cricket – broke new ground in women’s sport with new broadcast deals and extensive news coverage.
It has been a resounding success, culminating in last weekend’s fairy-tale win for the Sydney Thunder franchise in both the Men’s and Women’s competitions. The viewing public watched the leading female cricketers from Australian and around the globe play in numbers not seen at domestic women’s cricket matches before, with young girls and boys alike queuing to get a photo or autograph from their new heroes.
But with just a day to catch their breaths after that gripping final, the key players from the WBBL rolled out in their national kit – domestic rivalries being replaced by national pride and mateship – when the Southern Stars took on India for the first in a three game T20 series on what, for both teams, was their nation’s special day.
While the Southern Stars stumbled in that Australia Day contest, 2016 will continue to bring an increased profile to the women’s side of our national game with a huge step-up in the volume of games being played. With five matches (including a three-match One Day International Series) still to play against India, plus series in the next 12 months against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa PLUS a World T20 Championship in March where they’ll be targeting their fourth consecutive title, this is a team going places – in many senses of the word.
With the experience of captain Meg Lanning, dual-international and newly crowned 2016 Belinda Clark Award winner Ellyse Perry, vice-captain Alex Blackwell and Alyssa Healy (niece of champion Australian keeper Ian), joined by rising stars Jess Jonassen and Grace Harris, and the fresh faces of Holly Ferling, Beth Mooney and Naomi Stalenberg (plus the talent of 17 year old Laura Cheatle just waiting in the wings), even if these names are all unfamiliar to you – as they will still be for a large number of Australians – this is a side you need to keep an eye on.
Cricket, like any sport, is a moveable feast in terms of form and performance and we, as fans, place a great weight on our champions – and there is no doubt these sportswomen represent the new era of champions in the Australian sporting psyche.
With the sharpened focus on women’s sport in Australia, this outstanding team is continuing to lead the way for fans to realise the breadth of sporting talent this country has – of any gender.
Keen to watch the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars in action? The T20 series between against India continues today (MCG) and Sunday (SCG) with both matches preceding the men’s at the same venue. Matches can be viewed LIVE on GEM from 2.30pm AEDT, via live stream on cricket.com.au or on ABC Grandstand.