This post was first written for and published by Siren Sport.
In 2016 when a group of cricket executives spoke to the Australian Women’s Cricket team about their vision of filling the MCG for the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup Final on International Women’s Day 2020, it’s fair to say players like Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy were sceptical.
And for good reason.
Up until that point the largest crowd that our Aussie women had played in front of was about 5,000. To play at a packed-out MCG and potentially break the record for the highest ever attendance at a women’s sporting event seemed too far-fetched.
THE RECORD is a new two-part documentary series produced by Angela Pippos and Nicole Minchin which shares the story of what happened between that initial meeting and the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup Final on March 8.
It follows the story of the ten teams competing in the tournament and in particular, the story of the Aussie women in their quest to win a home World Cup and #filltheMCG.
As I watched the documentary, it took me back to what was one of the most exciting, heart-warming and inspirational two weeks of my life. Since then, that tournament has taken on added significance given how fortunate we all were to experience it. Less than a week after its conclusion, crowds were banned from live sporting events and the world, as we knew it, had changed forever.
It was special to relive the key moments of that tournament.
There were moments of pure joy throughout, including the inclusion of Thailand for their first ever Women’s World Cup and their obvious desire to learn as much as they could from each nation they played. The Thai women would bow to their opposition at the end of each match and presented each team they played with a gift.
There were moments of sadness. On the day of the semi-finals in Sydney, rain was forecast for the whole day and the rain remained steady through the day. The rain was so heavy and so constant that the game between England and India was rained out. This meant India progressed to the final because they finished at the top of their pool. England did not get the chance to contest that game and their hopes of a T20 World Cup final were dashed.
By way of miracle the rain paused just long enough for Australia to play South Africa, but not without plenty of nervous players, staff and fans checking the weather app constantly during the day, praying for the game to go ahead.
Then there were moments of hope. After Australia lost their first game against India, the hosts had tremendous pressure placed on them for the rest of the tournament. There were questions about the squad’s tactics, whether the squad could handle the pressure and fear that they would bow out of the tournament before the semi-finals. After a hard-fought win against Sri Lanka, the Australian women found their groove against Bangladesh and went on to win the remainder of their games, including the final on 8 March.
What is incredible about this documentary is that even though I know what is about to happen, I still felt nervous at different points.
Australian leg-spinner, Georgia Wareham felt the same.
“As we were watching it, we were wondering why we were so nervous even though we knew what was about to happen,’ said Wareham.
“To see it again through the documentary and experience the emotions of every single game brought back memories of how I was feeling at the time. Parts of the documentary reminded me of things that I had forgotten.
“The documentary does a great job in showing the audience how the team was feeling at the time and it really for you in the feels.”
For so many of us, I think the reason the documentary ‘got us in the feels’ was because it was about more than just cricket.
And it was about far more than the teams competing; it was for all the women who came before them that didn’t have the opportunity to play in front of record crowds, on the big stages or in front of the shining lights.
This all came together for the Final on International Women’s Day. This was a day that will always be remembered for the occasion rather than the cricket. I’ll never forget watching Katy Perry sing about female empowerment with a giant, pregnant belly surrounded by dancing cricket bats with pink lipstick. I’ll never forget the number of little boys and little girls I saw enjoying the day with their families or the guard of honour of women who had previously played for Australia, cheering on the current group of women who have done so much to progress the game across the world.
This was a night that set a new benchmark and ensured that the next generation of men and women will hear different messages about the power of women’s sport.
As a child growing up, a constant message I heard was that ‘no one cares about women’s sport’.
Even though Wareham is much younger than I am, she heard similar messages.
“I didn’t see too much women’s cricket on television when I was younger and starting to play,” said Wareham.
But this T20 World Cup set a new benchmark and showed us all what was possible.
“It puts a lot of hope out there for the younger generation,” said Wareham.
“It puts us in an exciting spot and gives us the chance to continue to build.”
My hope for the Australian Women’s cricket team is that this documentary will act like a time capsule for them. I know none of them will forget dancing on stage with Katy Perry with their ‘Champions’ medals around their necks, but it should also serve as a reminder of the impact they have had on the global sporting landscape. Little boys and little girls now grow up in a world where it is simply the norm that men and women can aspire to play cricket at the top level.
And Pippos and Minchin should be incredibly proud of what they have created. The importance and power of female storytelling should not be underestimated.
Nor should the power of what was achieved on March 8, 2020.
One of my favourite sayings is ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.
This is what I see now.