October 10, 2019 12:20:04
The joint agreement between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) — which was quietly being implemented behind the scenes and came into effect on July 1 — provides a comprehensive set of entitlements to both male and female players.
Provisions will be made to ensure children up to the age of four can join their parents on tour with a carer to ease the transition back to the playing field, and each international and domestic ground will now have a guaranteed safe space for breastfeeding.
Outlining the same set of guidelines for binary and same-sex couples, the fresh approach encourages athletes to start families when they are ready and provides the opportunity to extend their time in the game.
“Looking ahead to the future is something we do quite regularly,” Healy said.
“Down the track we’d obviously love to have kids and would love to be able to set ourselves up now so that once we do retire we can provide a really good life for those around us whether that be kids or family.”
“A lot of my friends from school are having babies or have got young kids at the moment … but the way the women‘s game is right now, it’s motivating me to potentially play a little bit longer than what I always dreamed of,” she said.
Healy, having been exposed firsthand to the challenges her previous peers endured trying to juggle children and cricket, said the current playing group and future generation of female cricketers were fortunate they would not have to do the same.
“Times have changed, and I remember touring back in the UK on my first Ashes trip overseas and Sarah Elliott at the time was breastfeeding in the changeroom at the lunch breaks of a Test match because she’d just had a baby,” she said.
“Fortunately her husband could tour with her at the time. But here I was, a really young naive cricketer sitting in the changeroom next to someone who was breastfeeding and caring for a child while she was making a 100 in a Test match.
“Being a female, especially in sport, is incredibly difficult, but when there are policies in place and organisations that want to look after you and support you, I think that’s really special.”
Having given birth just six weeks earlier, she made the choice to race back and be part of the squad, yet the logistics of an overseas trip with a newborn certainly made things difficult.
“Probably the bit that jumps out is the support afterwards,” she said.
“It takes out that stress of who’s going to pay for flights, accommodation, transport and logistics. I felt like I was always causing trouble, kind of like a squeaky wheel and that everyone was tippy-toeing around me.
Elliott has been one of the key stakeholders consulted throughout the process of putting the document together. She said although its development was part of the natural evolution of the game, its depth and consistency were crucial.
“It was triggered in lots of ways when the conversation started about whether we were actually employees or not.
“It took a lot of work to get it off the ground and there was a lot of depth and breadth involved in the amount of the people they spoke to … but the best thing about the policy is that for any player now, regardless of their ability or where their ranked in the team or which state or WBBL team they’re in … the consistency is going to be there.”
The flexibility surrounding a transition for pregnant athletes to a non-playing role (once it is deemed too unsafe to play) and the visible path for mothers to come back to the game was another important point for Elliott.
“With the second pregnancy, because I was pregnant early on in the middle of the preseason, I didn’t play that whole 12 months. I found that very difficult to try and work out what my role was in the team.
“When we sat down in the beginning the guiding principles were around best practice, keeping it gender neutral and aimed at keeping our athletes in the game and that’s where this is such a game changer.”
Having “cherry picked” the best components, Smith said the ACA and CA made sure they consulted past and current players with their ideas, before speaking with staff across the Australian cricket community to check they were all on the same page.
The other clear point of difference around the announcement is that it’s funded by the player payment pool, meaning every athlete with a state or national contract is contributing to professionalising the modern game.
“About six months ago we made a number of changes to the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) that was agreed to in 2017 and this policy was one of a suite of changes that were made,” Smith said.
“We were able to re-jig the player payment pool to ensure that funding for this was available as required.
“Like any organisation, you don’t know how often it is going to be used or when they’re going to take up the offer so there’s no way to budget in that respect, but that is our point of difference.”
October 10, 2019 12:04:31
Contact Brittany Carter