By Nick Creely
“It’s massive to see what has happened for women in sport, and over a small window of time when you think about it.”
For newly-appointed Narre South Cricket Club women’s competition coordinator Gina Smith, the growth of female cricket has been nothing short of remarkable.
But she always wants to do more to help grow the game, bring more women into the sport and open up the opportunities that they can ultimately present.
Narre South, one of the rising powerhouses of the Dandenong District Cricket Association (DDCA), will be fielding its first ever senior women’s team in the Cricket Victoria Women’s Community Competition this season as the club continues to be a major driver of female cricket in the south-east region, fielding two sides in last season’s DDCA Junior Girls competition, one of which won the grand final after going through undefeated.
And it has appointed Gina to the vitally important role of putting together the club’s women’s program, with the season hopefully only a matter of months away.
Since becoming involved in the region’s cricket a number of years ago, Gina’s impact has been substantial – she has helped coordinate other clubs’ girls programs, including Silverton’s, and has been a major voice in bringing more females into cricket.
She said that over that time, the growth of the game in the south-east has been an incredible achievement – with the DDCA first introducing its Juniors Girls Competition in 2018/19 to great success.
“Narre South has been a bit of a home for me for some years – I started there about five, six years ago as a casual employee for Cricket Victoria, and the next thing we know we were trialing a girls program in the area,” she said.
“We attempted, in that time, to get a girls competition going, but it ended up being a glorified cricket clinic if you like.
“But even in that clinic we were able to get a rep team together, (and) still able to play a stars T20 inaugural cup, so we were able to do things you probably shouldn’t be able to do, just because people were excited to see girls play in the area.
“The following year after that we tried again, and I had moved into a full-time position with Cricket Vic, and there was no competition for the girls again to play in, there was only a competition in the West Gippy league.
“So a couple of clubs here put teams in the West Gippy competition, and the same girls playing are still playing now, and now they’re doing amazing stuff.
“We’ve been able to get a competition in the DDCA now (and) being involved in that comp the last couple of years has been amazing.”
With preparations well and truly underway for the Lions’ senior women’s side – a club she praised for its work in promoting women’s cricket – Gina said that there has never been a better time to get involved and try something new.
“We’ve only had a DDCA girls competition for two years, and Narre South have been involved since the very beginning – they’ve been the home for the Cricket Victoria girls clinic,” she said.
“I’ve taken people to Cricket Blast equivalent all the way up, so to watch these now women who were there, and to have this pathway, that’s what is exciting.
“One, for somewhere where these women can play, and two, for what it says about starting again post-Covid.
“That’s a massive thing this year, and part of the reason why I wanted to be involved – the world’s been tipped upside down, women and everybody have a lot more time, and now is the time to try something new.
“Now is the time to focus on yourself a little bit – this has come at a time in which a lot of people have had time to reflect, and think about what they can change post-Covid.
“It could be fitness, or they want the physical activity, but for me, it’s a wellbeing – this is no longer a boys club, this is somewhere where we can all be involved and have plenty of opportunities.
“We’re changing mindsets, and giving people a place to be a little bit different – times are changing, and it’s going to change again, post-Covid is a new beginning.”
The competition – which has many different grades depending on geographical location – has also seen local clubs Officer and Parkfield enter teams in recent years, and is played with Twenty20s and one-day matches on Sundays across the season.
Despite some uncertainty surrounding just when the season will get started due to Covid-19 in metropolitan Melbourne, Gina said there has already been significant interest in the Narre South side.
“I know a bit about the competition, and I’ve spoken to many young women through CV who I’ve met and have been part of that competition,” she said.
“Firstly, it’s about recruitment, finding a team, and we’ve already got a good list of players – but everything is sitting on Covid right now, let’s hope this all kicks off, and hope the season goes ahead.”
Narre South president Nathan Tracy said the club is absolutely delighted to welcome Gina on board to lead the club’s women’s cricket program as it gears up for the season.
“We are so happy to have Gina on board to lead such an important program for us,” he said.
“She adds a lot of enthusiasm around the program and we are super excited about the season starting, hopefully.”
For more information on how to get involved in the Narre South women’s side, contact Gina Smith on 0420 391 803 or firstname.lastname@example.org