Australian cricket must continue pushing the boundaries to ensure the continued evolution of the women’s game, NSW Breakers coach Dom Thornely says, pinpointing the domestic game as an area with potential for significant growth.
One year on from the T20 World Cup final, where 86,174 people watched Australia claim their fifth title at the MCG, the domestic 50-over competition is in full swing, despite the challenges posed by border closures and schedule changes.
Twenty out of the 29 Women’s National Cricket League matches have been completed, but it has been the quality of the competition that has stood out to Thornely, whose Breakers sit third on the table with two matches remaining.
“The big question I have now (after the World Cup final) is what is the next step in our evolution?” Thornely told cricket.com.au.
“The next stage forward is probably around (domestic) scheduling and then reflecting that with professional contracting and professional facilities.”
Currently, Australian’s female domestic players are semi-professional, and play far less cricket than their male counterparts, due to the fact they do not play multi-day cricket, with the WNCL and Rebel WBBL the two formats played by state cricketers.
Each WNCL team plays eight matches per season (plus a potential final), while each WBBL side plays 14 regular season games. In total, a domestic player could play 22 days of cricket per summer (not counting finals), in contrast to male players, who could play at least 61.
Expanding the WNCL to a full home-and-away season is one step to address that imbalance, a change both CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association have confirmed is on their radar.
“It could be a full home-and-away … it would be wonderful to see them playing consistently through the whole cricket season from September through to March,” Thornely continued.
“I’d love to see a second XI competition eventually, or even some longer-format cricket, some two or three-day cricket, or some 40-over cricket.”
The investment made in Australia’s domestic set-up – no other country can claim their female domestic players are semi-professional – means competition for spots in the national squad is fierce, and there are players who potentially could have enjoyed a long international career in another country who will never don the green and gold.
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Ultimately, ensuring those players can play as much cricket as possible, under the best conditions possible, is crucial to honour both that investment, and the work they put into their cricket, Thornely believes.
“You reflect on what they have been able to achieve as athletes now … I look at SSSM data and everyone is getting fitter, everyone is working harder to be the athletes they want to be, so we want to reflect that with scheduling, venues, contracting,” he said.
“You want to create a platform for them to grow as well.
“They’re working really hard and it’s very competitive, for a national team you always want competition for spots … that’s a really healthy environment to be in and that’s where we currently sit.
“To be able to have a really healthy competitive WNCL and WBBL is absolutely critical for all of those players who are pushing hard.”
Another piece of the puzzle in Thornely’s eyes is the venues used. In previous seasons, WNCL matches would be played on a mixture of elite venues and community grounds.
Increasingly, the balance is shifting towards the vast majority of matches being played at the best possible facilities. This season, the scheduled venues are Blundstone Arena (Hobart), Junction Oval (Melbourne), North Sydney Oval (Sydney), Karen Rolton Oval (Adelaide), Allan Border Field (Brisbane), the WACA Ground (Perth) and Kingston Twin Ovals (Hobart).
“We’re really delighted to see the grounds we’re playing at this year for WNCL,” Thornely said.
“These are all world-class facilities and it just makes the product and the execution of the cricketer (better).
“(The other week) I witnessed Darcie Brown running in and bowling at 125 kph, a bouncer barrage at Ash Gardner … and it was really entertaining cricket that probably couldn’t be seen (at some other grounds) because the wicket had proper bounce.
“It’s a really positive move forward to put us on those grounds.”
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Thornely has even bigger goals in mind; revealing that an original version of the WNCL schedule had NSW set to host Victoria (ultimately Victoria ended up hosting NSW).
“Given the rivalry with Victoria and given the talent that would be on show, I thought, can we get this game at the SCG? Cricket NSW were confident we could have gotten there.”