Sport columnist SIMON ANDERSON catches up with busy Canberra Meteors batter Katie Mack.
WITH the T20 World Cup safe in the hands of Australia, and the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) coming to a close, we are already well into the “Summer of Cricket” despite still being in spring.
If you think cricket seems to be starting earlier every year, you are spot on. The summer game is a year-round prospect nowadays with our local players heading abroad to play in numerous competitions across the globe.
ACT Meteors batter Katie Mack knows this life all too well. Mack spoke to “CityNews” from Adelaide where she has been playing with the Strikers in the WBBL – the latest stop in a long stint away from Canberra.
“I’ve been on the road for five months, so life as a professional athlete isn’t easy at the moment with border closures,” said Mack, who travelled to the UK to join the Birmingham Phoenix for the inaugural season of The Hundred before coming back to Australia and heading straight into WBBL camp.
While the time away from friends and family is difficult, Mack says it has been worth it.
“Living on the road and out of a suitcase for that long has been tough, but I wouldn’t change anything,” she said.
“It has been the best experience of my cricket career – being able to go over to England – I would do it again for even longer if I could, those are the sacrifices you make.”
It hasn’t always been this busy during the winter months for Katie, who started her career in NSW before making the move to Canberra to play with the Meteors.
The 28-year-old has seen the changing landscape of the game during her career, going from part-time worker and semi-professional cricketer, to playing the game she loves full time both here and overseas.
Weeks ago, Queensland Rugby League announced they would give equal match payments to men’s and women’s State of Origin representatives. Some critics said the move was premature, citing lower ratings and revenue than the men’s game.
It is a well-worn argument that has been heard for years in women’s sport, but cricket is a good example of how the investment can pay off.
“Professionalising the game has been huge for women’s cricket and I think the Big Bash has been a great way to show that,” said Mack.
“From year one, where par scores were around that 110-120 mark to now, where we are chasing down 160-170.
“The development in our game has shown what happens when you invest the money – sometimes you have to give a little bit to get a lot back.
“I think the footballers are at that point now where they are going to get a lot better if you invest and allow the girls to train as much as they want and can live a professional lifestyle.”
The women’s game has come along in leaps and bounds on and off the field since the inception of the WBBL in 2015.
Mack has noticed the shift, starting with the Melbourne Stars for the first four seasons of the competition before taking an opportunity with the Strikers in 2019.
“People are more interested and that comes from how much more exposure there is,” said Mack.
“We’re playing more games on TV, which is enabling people to watch more and that comes down to that investment.”
The exposure has certainly worked, with a new cohort of women across the country taking up the game in the seven years since the competition started.
That trend can be seen here in Canberra, where Cricket ACT has established two grades of women’s cricket this season. The 2021/22 Lynne O’Meara Cup will feature four teams in first grade, and eight teams in second grade.
It’s a pathway that wasn’t available for Mack during the early stages of her cricket journey, but one she’s glad to see for Canberra’s women.
“I’ve played men’s cricket for a long time, and this year my teammates and I will be playing in the women’s competition,” she said.
“We know how important it is to have a good foundation and cricket quality that girls can play that we can use to select for Meteors squads in the following years.
“It will be really good for the development of cricket in the ACT, and hopefully we will get a few people from other states to come and play to try and get a game with the Meteors.”
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