S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated 2-3 times a month.

Category: Sport

Want to be proud to be an Aussie cricket fan? Start watching the women.

After reading about the recent review into Australian cricket, I wanted to write a post about how short-sighted Cricket Australia has been in their follow-up statements, and how I think they can start to ‘fix’ the culture around the Australian men’s cricket team.

When CA make comments about changing the culture of cricket, they’re referring to the men’s team. The men have always been, and apparently still are, the centre of CA’s universe. And although the language says ‘we’, what they’re really referring to is the men.

They seem to forget that as an association, they actually encompass much more than just the elite Australian men in these statements, and really, they need look no further than our Australia women’s cricket team, the Southern Stars, for shining examples of what a cricket team should look like and play like.

While we seem to be unable to find a winning mix of players in the men’s team in all forms of the game, we have an abundance of talent in the women’s competition.

This is despite the fact that a majority of female players aren’t full-time professionals. Some of them are barely part-time semi-pros, but they’re toiling away for their clubs and state sides, hoping for a chance to get an Australian cap or a call-up for a WBBL team each summer.

The Aussie women are playing good, solid cricket, and are winning games and series overseas.

And not a scandal among them.

Imagine that.

What’s the difference?

Well, apart from the massive gap in pay, since the women have just recently been given enough funding for our top players to go full-time, there’s one massive difference I think the review has missed the mark on.

Our women’s players do a lot of work in their communities. They visit their old clubs (and play for them while they’re not on rep duties) and they visit schools and junior clubs to run training clinics. They stick around for hours after matches to sign autographs and talk to fans.

The majority of them also study part-time or hold down second jobs that they go back to in their off-season.

That’s another huge difference.

The women have an off-season.

Though some of our best players had a stint in the Kia Super League in England this year, most of our players came home or travelled for some much-needed time off away from the game.

How do I know? I follow a lot of them on social media and love seeing what they get up to in their downtime. (If you don’t already, you should seriously seek out some of the Aussie women’s cricketers and give them a follow – they’ll brighten up your social media timelines).

Off-seasons are few and far between for the men now, with overseas tours and stints in T20 leagues all around the world eating up more and more time. Off-seasons help with rest and recovery and provide time for players to ground themselves in other pursuits. It also helps with mental health, which is so important in elite sport.

So having said all of that, here are my top 3 things I think CA can do to improve the men’s team and make them more like the women’s team:

  1. Enforced off-seasons – CA already have the option to disallow players from playing in T20 leagues if they think it will interfere with their representative duties. I think CA (and player managers) can go further and require all players to have time off between tours and seasons. They should also look at how many games they’re trying to cram in each year and reduce them so that players are physically and mentally fit. I love my cricket but I’ve switched off from the men’s game because there are way too many games and series to try to keep up with now.
  2. Community work and charity work – Rather than just making players available for state and club duty each summer, they should be required to be available for much more charity and community work. This could be done during their off-season. Plugging things for sponsors is all well and good, but it’s the grassroots that matter most for a sustainable future in cricket, and CA could do well to get our top players to spend more time with those toiling away each week for the fun of it to keep them grounded. And finally,
  3. Semi-professionalism until players reach their mid-20s – Holding down other jobs and/or study early in their careers means players don’t get caught up in a cricket bubble so early. Steve Smith and many other young players who were pipped early for elite sides have suffered from this problem. When all you know is cricket, you don’t have any other context outside of sport for moral and ethical dilemmas, or for success and failure. Also, when you have a second career/job option to fall back on, it means the decision to train and play hard to reach the top levels of cricket is much more worth it.

So before you switch off from Australian cricket because you think the men aren’t redeemable (we disagree on that point if that’s what you think), start watching the women’s game. I will absolutely guarantee they’ll restore your faith in cricket in this country.

And if you have kids who love cricket, you need look no further for role models than our women’s cricketers.

They’ve played in obscurity for so long that it’s now their time to be elevated to our country’s favourite sporting team. (Along with the Matilda’s – but I’ll leave that for another post).

By the way, I reckon Meg Lanning’s got the best job in Australia.


Want to support the Aussie women’s cricket team? You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And look up your favourite players on your preferred social media platform. They’re fantastic value.

Why, as a Queenslander, I’m fine with NSW winning Origin this year

Queensland scarf at the ready for the final game of 2018

I’m not as disappointed as I probably should be that Queensland lost this year’s State of Origin series.

Why?

Because I played and coached sport for over 20 years myself. I understand the ebb and flow of team success. I know that just one retiring champion player can change the entire dynamic and mental fitness of a team.

Those players are irreplaceable.

We saw what happened to the Australian Test Cricket team when we had Gilchrest, Langer, Warne, McGrath, Hayden and Symonds all retire over the course of three years. Losing that sort of talent in such short order can rip the guts out of a team, especially if plans haven’t been put in place to bring in younger talent to replace them.

In the Queensland Origin side, we’ve been lucky enough to have several once-in-a-generation players in our team for nearly two decades. Players who can change the game in a second are rare, but we’ve been blessed by some of the greatest names in the game: Lockyer, Thurston, Smith, Inglis, Slater, Boyd, Cronk…

We’re sure as hell going to miss those retiring players not just because of their talent, but because they’re playmakers. They’ve always been the first ones picked. They’re the players coaches can build a team around.

But when I look at the players coming through for Queensland in Holmes, Munster, Hess, Kaufusi, McCullough, I see the next generation of a Queensland team that can build towards success.

And rather than trying to be the next Thurston or Smith, they get the chance to redefine the game in their own images. That’s the power of Origin.

I don’t like it when my team loses. But it’s always been bittersweet to win against a side that sometimes lacked competitiveness.

NSW seems to have finally discovered that the secret sauce to winning isn’t just great players with amazing talent, but team players who’ll do what’s needed to pick each other up and do their job. Games are won and lost on the workload of everyone, not just the one or two stars in a team.

I love that NSW are more competitive. It means Queensland need to work harder to get on top again. Origin can make a good player great, and I’m looking forward to seeing our younger players grow over the next few years in one of the toughest series on the sporting calendar.

And besides, some of the Queensland players coming through now haven’t really experienced the sort of losses the older players have gone through prior to their dominance from 2006 to 2017. Always winning can breed apathy, which is a hard mental block to get past. It won’t do Queensland any harm to have lost this series to a better NSW side.

Having said all of that though, I’d hate for us to be Blue-washed so for the last time in 2018, [Billy Moore voice] QUEENSLANDER!

‘Girls’ or ‘Women’? What’s the big deal??

On Friday night, I got to watch the inaugural Women’s State of Origin footy match on national TV. It was a historic moment, as it was the first time in the rebranded format after almost two decades of being played in relative obscurity as the Interstate Challenge.

And although the women aren’t yet fully professional (heck, they’re barely even semi-professional) and the Origin is contested over a single match instead of like the men’s three-game series, it was a joy to watch a women’s rugby league match on a Friday night in prime time.

NSW won the match which, as a maroon-blooded Queenslander I’m still raw about, but it was bigger than the women who actually played the game, so I’m prepared to overlook the result – for now.

It was about all the players and coaches and administrators who came before, setting the stage for a cracker match. It was about all the girls and boys in the crowd and watching on their TVs at home having new role models to look up to and to sign their jerseys and caps and footballs.

All-in-all, it was a great advertisement for rugby league, especially seeing the crowd swamp the field and the players after the game, getting up close to their new heroes, who seemed to be just so stoked and honoured to be there.

I say all this as a rugby league agnostic. I’m not a fan of any single team, and I pay attention to rugby league only during Origin, sometimes during Tests and World Cups, and if a Queensland team (including the Storm) makes the final 8. Other than that? I don’t go out of my way to watch it during the season.

But I also say this as a woman who played soccer for over two decades back in the 80s and 90s and into the 00s when we had to use the men’s hand-me-down jerseys every season and be thankful to get an hours training run before the youth and men’s teams took over the fields. We got to use the dressing sheds only when the men or youth weren’t playing, or when we made finals. Other than that, we changed in the toilets or on the sideline.

Back then, we had to be grateful to even be playing in our own competition. We never aspired to be more because we never knew we could.

Watching that game Friday night was less about the game itself, and more about seeing women elevated to the same stage as men. We’re not fully there yet, but we’re on our way.

The one single thing that grated on me just a bit was the use of the word ‘girls’ when commentators were talking about the players.

I know, I know, it’s such a small, seemingly insignificant thing in an otherwise amazingly magical moment in time. But it’s something that once you become aware of how often the word ‘girls’ is used in relation to adult women, it’s not something you can unhear.

So why does it annoy me?

As an author, I know how important word choice is. My editor asks me to ‘be specific’ when choosing words and conveying my ideas because the wrong word can totally change the meaning I’m trying to get across. Even unintentionally.

That’s why I think the connotation of the word ‘girl’ is important in the commentating context.

A girl is a female child – not an adult. Not someone with their own agency. Not someone who can make their own decisions yet. Not someone who is ready to go out into the world and make their own mark.

I know that’s not what was meant with its usage Friday night, but I really wanted to make a point about why it’s problematic, and how easy it is to fix.

When I made this comment on Twitter:

it was quickly pointed out to me that Ruan Sims, (the injured NSW player who did a great job on sideline commentary), as well as Karina Brown (QLD captain) and Maddie Studdon (NSW captain) all referred to their players as ‘girls’.

That was right, of course, but this is down to context.

For the record, I don’t think women should refer to other women as ‘girls’, and we shouldn’t refer to grown men as ‘boys’, but that’s just my opinion, and each to their own.

I do, however, think there are certain circumstances where calling women ‘girls’ and men ‘boys’ is acceptable. We see it all the time in team environments and amongst friends and family. Familiarity, and being part of the team is the key.

Karina Brown referred to the QLD team after the game as ‘my girls’, and that’s because she’s part of the group. Maddie Studdon did the same thing when referring to her team for the same reason.

But you wouldn’t have heard Karina refer to the NSW team as ‘girls’ because she’s not part of that team.

To make things a little clearer, because I know that explanation isn’t the best, consider when men use the word ‘boys’. Listen to any football coverage, and a player in a team will refer to his own teammates as ‘the boys’, but wouldn’t refer to opposition players as ‘boys’.

Used in this way, it’s a term of endearment and familiarity.

The word ‘girls’ as used by male commentators, (or just one, actually) as it was on Friday night,  is something else entirely.

However, I’m prepared to give that commentator the benefit of the doubt, because I really think the use of ‘girl’ when he was calling the game was more about not really knowing what he should call the players. That’s understandable with him not having had the opportunity to call women’s matches much (if at all).

I mean, every summer we hear male commentators fumbling over the word ‘batsman’ during the WBBL and women’s internationals when it’s simply just ‘batter’. Fieldsmen long ago became fielders, and bowlers, well, they’re still bowlers.

The only exception in cricket, of course, is 12th man and third man, which are fielding positions and it would be pretty silly to change them to 12th woman or third woman. Although I do recall a commentator asking the question as to whether he should be referring to those fielding positions with ‘woman’ instead of ‘man’. I distinctly remember the female commentator at the time assuring her colleague that ‘man’ was fine in that regard.

So what could the commentators have used instead of the word ‘girls’ on Friday night? ‘Women’, ‘team’ or ‘players’ would have been perfectly fine.

But in reality, they could’ve called on anything they would have used when calling a men’s game. There are plenty to choose from – ‘backs’, ‘forwards’, ‘pack’, ‘wingers’, ‘halves’, ‘centres’… You get the idea.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that language matters and having commentators, particularly male commentators, refer to women as ‘girls’ instead of ‘women’ or any other term they could have used, perpetuates the stereotype that the games aren’t as serious as the men’s competitions.

That’s definitely not the intention – I know that.

I guess the key is to just treat a football player, or a cricket player or a soccer player or [insert sport here] player, whether male or female, as a player. Use the same words when referring to women when commentating on a game as you would the men. They do, after all, play in the same positions and play under the same rules (mostly – I’m looking at you AFLW).

It’s not that hard really.

 

** NOTE: I’ve left the comments open on this one because if you’re reading this, I know you probably have an opinion on this subject, as I do. I’d love to hear it because I enjoy intelligent and reasoned debate. Be aware though, that if you play the player and not the ball, you’ll get a quick send-off and suspension. Cool? Cool. Drop your thoughts in the comments below. **

 

 

 

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