This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
Who said anything about an off season?
Sport never sleeps and while the NRL and AFL grand finals may have been last weekend, the cricket season is well and truly upon us with the WNCL starting today. The New South Wales Breakers host the Queensland Fire, the South Australian Scorpions up against the Western Fury and the ACT Meteors playing the Victorian Spirit.
But this isn’t even the biggest news in cricket this week.
There have been plenty of milestones worth celebrating in cricket over the last two years. The start of the Women’s Big Bash League. The change of name for the Southern Stars to the Australian Women’s Cricket Team. The New South Wales Breakers becoming the first women’s domestic team to be completely professional.
The success of our Australian Women’s Cricket Team on the world stage. Significant pay increases for our female cricketers.
This weekend, we can add another moment to that long list, when Claire Polosak becomes the first female umpire to officiate in a first-class men’s match, when she stands on pitch for the men’s List A domestic match between New South Wales and the Cricket Australia XI in Sydney.
Claire’s achievement has been celebrated throughout sporting circles this week and deservedly so.
But Claire is already a talented and exceptional umpire, even before being given the opportunity to umpire a first-class men’s match.
Claire has travelled to Thailand for the ICC Women’s World T-20 Qualifiers and was given the opportunity to umpire the final. Then, just three weeks before the ICC Women’s World T-20, she got the call from the ICC to let her know that she would be heading to India for the Tournament. With only three weeks to organise her visa, it was tight, but Claire got there.
I’ve heard Claire speak about her time in India and one of her highlights is always that people in India love their cricket. They don’t care who is playing – whether it be men, women or children, they just like to cheer for good cricket. An interesting insight from a woman who I’m calling a trailblazer for women in cricket.
Claire has also been a third umpire for the domestic one-day cup.
This opportunity on Sunday just adds to what is already a long list of achievements for the 29 year old.
Interestingly, Claire has never played cricket before. Claire grew up in Goulburn during a time where there was no girl’s cricket. Claire had no desire to play with the boys, despite coming from a family which loved cricket and where summer was all about the Sydney Test. I wonder whether Claire’s path would have been different if she had the same opportunities young women have to play cricket today.
When Claire was 16 a friend of hers handed her a pamphlet, knowing that Claire liked cricket. It was a pamphlet for an umpiring course.
Claire always reflects on the important role her dad had on her path to becoming an umpire. On five separate occasions Claire’s dad drove her to Sydney and the SCG so she could complete her umpire’s course.
We all know what happened next. Claire passed her course and continued to practice by reading the laws, watching cricket and watching other umpires. Slowly she has managed to work her way up the ranks.
When asked to think about life without cricket, Claire says that she doesn’t know what she would do if it wasn’t in her life.
Women with the talent, drive and commitment that Claire has are always welcome in sport and I’m so pleased to see her role in cricket continue to grow.
I wish Claire all the best of luck for Sunday, but know that she won’t need it. Claire has done it all before and I know that once she gets out onto the pitch on Sunday it will all be familiar to her.
It may not be too long before we see more than one woman on the pitch umpiring a first-class men’s match.
Last night, the 2017-2018 WNBL season began with the Dandenong Rangers going down to the Melbourne Boomers 76-61.
At one point, basketball was the leader when it came to women in sport in Australia. Somewhere along the way, the sport lost its way. However, this season coverage of the WNBL returns to Fox Sports which should help make sure that more people take an interest in the sport.
If you are from Sydney and looking for a team to follow, might I suggest the Sydney University Flames?
The Sydney Uni Flames are currently the reigning champions, having won their first title in the 2016-2017 season.
The Flames are coached by Cheryl Chambers and have some serious talent in their squad including Asia Tylor, Carly Boad and Katie-Rae Ebzery.
Unfortunately for the Flames, they have lost one of their best players before the season has even started with Tahlia Tupaea suffering a foot problem.
Despite other threats in the competition like the Townsville Fire and the Melbourne Boomers, I’m still expecting the Flames to feature at the business end of the season.
Earlier this week Mal Meninga named his Kangaroos squad for the Rugby League World Cup which begins at the end of this month. Either today or early next week I’m looking forward to heading Jillaroos coach Brad Donald name his squad too. Brad has a couple of difficult decisions to make, so I don’t envy him, but it certainly reflects the growing levels of talent we have in the women’s game.