By Russell Bennett
For a trailblazing group of female senior cricketers at Longwarry, next season won’t be about wins and losses. First and foremost, it’ll be about not being excluded.
Some of the Crows’ newest crop have occasionally felt like second class citizens in the cricketing world, simply because of their gender.
But now, thanks to their new home at the nest, that’s no longer the case.
Last week at the Downtowner in Warragul, Longwarry held a launch for its all-female side, which will next season take to the field in its own right against the men, as a precursor campaign for what they hope will ultimately be a standalone female competition in the Warragul & District Cricket Association.
Players from around the WDCA have come together for the groundbreaking initiative, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the association.
It was the players, themselves, who approached the Longwarry Cricket Club with a view to forming a new team – which could participate in either Division 4 or 5 of the WDCA from 2020/21.
Tynong North’s Erin Maxwell already has years of playing experience under her belt, including for representative outfit the Gippsland Pride, and for Victorian Premier club Dandenong, and she’ll lead the new Crows group.
“There have been girls sides playing in the district for a number of years now but we’ve been the loners in different clubs, having one girl here and another there, so I thought it’d be nice to have us all in the one spot, in the same side, to eventually lead into a female competition in the years to come,” she told the Gazette.
“We’re really supportive of one another and we’ll have a really strong team, whether we do well in the competition or not.
“Longwarry has always been very respectful of female cricketers, even if they haven’t had many in their club. This is a new, fresh start for all of us.”
Grace Lewis is another key member of the new Crows group, and she can’t wait to step out in her new colours alongside Maxwell, who she also plays alongside at both Dandenong, and the Pride.
“Playing for the Pride was just an amazing experience for me – the trust between everyone was great, and it should be the same at Longwarry,” she said.
Part of Erin’s inspiration to create a new pathway for local girls into senior cricket in the WDCA stemmed from her experience captaining and coaching the Warragul & District Country Week side, which was the only Gippsland team that needed to be topped up from players outside its own competition.
At the launch of the new Crows side in Warragul, Narelle Maxwell – Erin’s mum – proudly told the room about Christine Comley, the first woman to play in the senior WDCA competition nearly 35 years ago.
“What’s kind of a little sad though is that it’s taken 35 years to get to a point where we can actually have a whole women’s team, so I’m really excited about this for the girls,” Narelle said.
“I know the girls are thrilled about joining Longwarry, so I want to say a big thank you to the Crows – not just the committee, but the whole club, because it takes courage to do something different. You might not think it’s that big a deal, but for our girls it is massive.”
Longwarry Cricket Club president Geoff Rumble also spoke of his own excitement – at having the female cricketers don the famous ‘baggy Crow’ cap for the first time.
“Welcome to the girls – this is your night, and what an exciting night it is,” he said.
“We couldn’t be more stoked to look at what’s lying ahead for the club, with the girls’ team coming on board.
“We took this to the club and there wasn’t one person who had anything negative to say about the idea. I was really encouraged by that – everyone thought ‘let’s do it, what have we got to lose?’
“To be pioneers of women’s cricket in the Warragul & District Cricket Association, I think, is just an honour for Longwarry and I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve been hanging around the club for just on 38 years now. At one point we only had a C Grade and one junior side, and the club was really struggling, but I really want to say the past couple of years with Noel (Pullen) and the committee we’ve got at the moment, the club’s gone from having quite a big debt to having quite a bit of money in the bank.
“The people we’ve got in the committee at the moment, and around the club, are great people and their hearts are with the club and they’re passionate about the place, and that’s made them go out and attract sponsors down and promote the club, and that’s why it’s as successful as it is today and I think a reflection of them is the way they’ve opened themselves up to inviting the girls in.”
Erin also spoke about her formative years in the sport, and just why she’s so excited about her future in Crows colours.
“At one point I think I played nearly two seasons (alongside the boys) when I hardly got either a bat or a bowl,” she said.
“I don’t know why I kept playing, but I did. My goal was to be better than the boys.
“When I got up to the under-16s I started playing for the Gippsland Pride, which is all girls, and I absolutely fell in love with it, and I can’t believe I ever thought about not playing cricket.
“There was once a stage where I was rocking up to training sessions and games and the boys would prefer to play with 10 players than have me as the 11th.”
Now, Erin is set to lead out her own group in the WDCA and, together, they’ll make their own mark.
For more information on the Crows’ plans for female cricket, both senior women, and also juniors aged from 10 to 15-years-old are urged to call Narelle Maxwell on 0438 065 528, or email email@example.com