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"Finding oneself through an Australian bush cricket competition: the feeling of home"
Cricket Sport

“Finding oneself through an Australian bush cricket competition: the feeling of home”

Camilla Doolin stands at the crease of one of Goondiwindi’s top cricket fields, tapping her bat as she waits for the bowler. Suddenly, a subtle but biting taunt can be heard from the wicket.

The voice is one she knows from her town, sounding familiar. In the community, however, niceties are cast aside for the field. There is no room for mercy.

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“According to Doolin, while at the post office, Fiona acts as the wicketkeeper and taunts you from behind. When you go to post your parcel, you have to confront her and say, ‘you got me out, you bloody cow’.”

It is uncommon for Doolin to be taken out of play. As an all-rounder, she is usually called in to hit some big shots when her favorite cricket team is trying to catch up.

Similar to other sisters with brothers, she was introduced to the game in their backyard from her two siblings. Her passion for cricket flourished during her years in school, but once she graduated, she stopped playing the sport.

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She says, “I stopped attending school 25 years ago and haven’t played since then.”

In the past, a mother of three received an invitation to join the Yetman Yabettes, a newly formed team that would participate in a women’s competition in the Goondiwindi district, located 350km from Brisbane on the border of Queensland and New South Wales.

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“I was fully absorbed in changing diapers and had the thought: ‘There’s no possible way I can juggle playing cricket and caring for three children,’ but then I realized, ‘This is just ridiculous,'” Doolin stated. “But then, I had another thought, ‘Why not?’ I have a passion for playing cricket and it’s a great opportunity for me to have some time outside of the house.”

Doolin, a farmer, is the leader of the Yabettes team, which is one of the four teams participating in the Megan L White Cup. This event is currently in its fourth year.

‘Cricket is so male-dominated’

In 2020, Eliza Jackson initiated the competition with her friends Hannah and Scott Baker. Jackson had been watching her husband play in the summer heat, until a game opportunity arose.

After four years, she stated, “We made the decision to make it a more frequent event and introduce a women’s division.”

The first time on the pitch, the mother of two girls and many other women signed up with no previous cricket experience, as only three teams were involved initially.

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According to Jackson, it was not a problem since everyone is very supportive. It is heartwarming to witness players on opposing teams assisting the batter with their positioning.

There are currently 45 women participating in the competition, and most teams have a waiting list of players eager to join the game.

The Yabettes’ home field is located in the CBD of Yetman, a small town approximately 70km away from Goondiwindi. It is a meticulously maintained field situated in the heart of the town. During her younger years, Tammy Galluci would join the boys in donning protective gear every weekend.

“The sport of cricket in this area has primarily been dominated by males, so I think it’s fantastic that a girls’ team is starting up,” says Gallucci. “When I was approached to join, it felt like the perfect fit and a place I could call home.”

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During the cricket season, matches typically last for 20 overs on Saturday mornings. While children consume watermelon and become overheated on the sidelines, causing disruptions, there may also be instances of a lost child venturing onto the field in search of their mother.

During a two-hour period, players can set aside their family obligations and concentrate on improving their batting, bowling, or simply being fully immersed in the sport.

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A woman in cricket pads bends down to hold a toddler

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“Women are getting out from behind the kitchen sink and bringing three kids and they are all just playing together beside the oval, and we are doing something for ourselves for once,” Doolin says. “We all want to achieve something, by showing the kids that mum can have a crack. And the improvement over the last few years is just unbelievable.”

The presence of women has not always been a part of the quintessentially Australian experience of bush cricket.

In the past five years, there has been a 34% increase in the number of women participating in cricket in rural and regional areas, according to James Quarmby, Cricket Australia’s head of participation. Currently, 481 women are playing in official competitions.

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Quarmby says that they are investigating options for casual or flexible cricket that are different from traditional tournaments. These opportunities are designed to make cricket more available to everyone and are expected to help expand the sport in both regional and urban areas.

Megan Ellis has been participating in the Yelarbon Yellowbetties competition since its inception and still experiences fear when it comes to handling the ball. However, when she steps up to bowl, her delivery has the same effect on the opposing batter: it’s intimidating.

She expresses that bowling is a comfortable activity.

Playing the game also fosters a sense of competition and has given rise to its own community.

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Ellis explains that she has had the opportunity to meet many women through this sport who she may not have otherwise crossed paths with.

On Saturday, the Yabettes and Yagaburne Yagabirds faced off in the championship match at Riddles Oval in Goondiwindi, with the Yabettes emerging as the winners. On the sidelines, young girls enthusiastically supported their mothers. The upcoming generation of cricketers is already prepared to take the field.

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    Lauren Marer is a journalist who is not employed full-time and works independently. She is located in Warialda, New South Wales.

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Source: theguardian.com