home Cricket, Interview, T20 World Cup, WBBL Beth Mooney on cricket in COVID-19 and beyond

Beth Mooney on cricket in COVID-19 and beyond

It’s been a difficult time for Cricket Australia. 

June 16 saw the governing body part ways with CEO Kevin Roberts, the next day Cricket Australia Chairman Earl Eddings announced a suite of operational changes in response to COVID-19 to ensure financial savings and the long-term sustainability of the game.

The plan also saw the reduction of 40 roles.

“It’s [a] really sad and disappointing time for us as a team, and a broader community at Cricket Australia” Australian opener Beth Mooney reflects.

“You never want to see humans suffer and go through troubling times for themselves and their family. And you know, no organisation, no sport, no city or country has been untouched, so I guess it’s just really unfortunate when it happens to people who are part of your life and part of your organisation. It’s just a bit sad that it’s come to this point, and hopefully it never happens again.”

Mooney details the communications that Cricket Australia has had with their national women’s team and the challenges that lie ahead.

“We’ve had a few meetings as a group, we’re across the fact that there’s going to be cuts made to programs, and we know that there needs to be a bit more of an efficient way to run elite programs around the country for high performance. As players we’re certainly looking forward to making sure we can do whatever we can to help facilitate that change and make sure that we’re still the number one team in the world, and are good role models for kids coming through. 

“So, as a playing group, we’re across what we need to do, and we’re more than happy to help where we can and make sure it’s a smooth process that we go through when adjusting to the changes.”

While there was some initial fear for women’s cricket post-COVID, particularly around losing the exciting momentum created by the T20 World Cup win at the MCG in March, the announcement last week included commitments to not only the women’s national team, but also development and pathways

Some key takeaways from the plan include:

  • Ensuring the elite men’s and women’s teams are appropriately and prudently resourced, including a commitment to support mental health and wellbeing.
  • Continuing the Marsh Sheffield Shield, WNCL and Marsh One-Day Cup in their current formats for the FY20-21 season and maintaining the current number of games for the rebel WBBL and KFC BBL.
  • Retaining the U19s male and female representative teams as an important part of the pathway for emerging talent, while pausing male U15s and U17s and female U15s representative teams for FY21;

For Mooney, it’s validation that what she, her Australian teammates, and women’s crickets as a collective have achieved in the last few years. 

“I think we’ve come a long way in the last sort of eighteen months to two years regarding female high performance—whether it’s domestically or internationally—and it’d be a real shame to see huge cuts made to the progress we’ve made. 

“We’re pretty lucky in that we’ve got to a space where it’s deemed, I guess, appropriate that we carry on with the amount of cricket that we’re playing and, and make sure we’re providing lots of opportunity to players coming through domestically, setting a platform for players around the country to be elite and become part of the best team in the world.”

Australia are indeed the best team in the world. They are currently ranked number one in the world, as well as now number one in the country as the team that has most won over the public. 

New research conducted by firm True North Research with a survey of 4832 sports fans determined which teams produce the greatest levels of pride, trust, enjoyment, respect and bond.

The recent T20 World Cup winners topped the list, followed by four more national women’s teams, the Matildas, the Australian women’s rugby 7s team and the Diamonds.

“Yeah, it was pretty exciting. I found out via social media myself!” Mooney exclaims.

“I thought it was a pretty cool title to have against our name, where we want to always inspire the next generation and inspire young boys and girls to pick up a bat and a ball and be part of the sport that we love. So to know that we’ve sort of touched the hearts and the minds of the Australian public, and done it in a way that is professional and respectful, and that it brings people joy to watch [us], is really exciting and hopefully it’s just a start of a dynasty that we can create.

“We want to make sure we keep people involved in the game as much as possible. And if that means signing every autograph that’s there and engaging with the fans. That’s just an added thing for us. It’s not something we sit down and talk about or you know, manipulate to make us feel good. I think we just thoroughly enjoy making sure everyone gets what they came for and can keep coming back as well.”

When you consider the indicators from True North’s research – pride, trust, enjoyment, respect and bond, it’s not hard to see these qualities in the Australian Women’s Cricket Team, as well as within Mooney herself.

“I guess the second that we stop doing that, you know, signing the autographs and engaging with fans, we’ll quickly lose that trust. It takes a long time to build up, but not much to break down. So for us, it’s about making sure we’re doing everything respectfully, in a professional way and being genuine role models for the people that come and watch us, whether it’s young boys with their dad or young families or even older people who are so used to watching men, it’s great that it gets them on board supporting the women’s cricket train.

“We want to make sure we’re supporting every kind of fan and they keep coming back to us as well.”

And if the record-breaking crowd that watched Australia win the T20 World Cup is any indicator of fan connectedness, they’ll surely keep coming back when the world allows them to.

RELATED: The T20 Women’s World Cup Final a Successful Roar for Women’s Sport

Mooney still can’t process the magnitude of that very special day for sport.

“I actually think something like that will take years to sink in. As athletes and as humans, we are always moving on to what’s next. And obviously the COVID situation meant that we sort of got home and we’re not really sure what’s next. There’s been a state of limbo. 

“Obviously, we’ve got a series against New Zealand at the end of the year and the One Day World Cup after that. So, as humans, we pretty quickly move on. It’s probably not until a long time after the moment do you realise the impact that it had on you and on the people around you. So I’d say it might take a little while, but I think for that everyone that was either there involved, as an organiser, as a coach, as an athlete, as a spectator, as a fan, I think it’ll be one of those moments where people talk about, ‘were you there?’, ‘were you there to see the Australian team when they first walk out in front of the record crowd at the MCG?’. 

“It will be a moment that’s talked about for years to come and it’s pretty special to have been a part of that and contributed to the success of that.”

Mooney not only contributed to the success, she was named Player of the Tournament. She set a new record for most runs scored by a single player in a women’s T20 World Cup, breaking Meg Lanning’s previous record from 2014 with her 259 runs at 64.75 across six innings. This included an unbeaten 78 from 54 deliveries in the final, showing calm and strength under pressure on the world’s biggest stage, as well as her 81 not out against Bangladesh and hitting 60 against New Zealand.

Though, if you look back at her interviews after the win, she’s often described as ‘flying under the radar’. A intriguing quality for someone attributed to these fierce statistics.

“I much prefer to fly under the radar in my job, sort of [go] unnoticed a little bit. I guess like you said, it’s going to be a little bit harder now since that World Cup to do that! I’m not really the type of personality to be front and centre of anything. I like to contribute to every team I play for and have an impact on and off the field. 

But you know those awards, they’re nice but, the success that we have as a group and the impact that we have as a group is far more important to me than the number next to my name at the end of the day or an award at the end of the tournament, so whilst it’s nice, hopefully I can keep flying under the radar a little bit, and hiding a bit in the media storm! But it’s all good if I can’t!”

Humility is also something attributed to Mooney, someone who never takes for granted the opportunities she’s had, but she’s not someone that downplays her own achievements and determination to do the work.

“It’s definitely not something I feel like I have to do, but I think I’m pretty fortunate to have done the things I have, but I am certainly not someone that thinks I’ve done it all on my own. I guess the thing for me [is that] it’s been a long-winded journey and it hasn’t been just me that’s allowed myself to get there. 

“But at the same time, you know, even during the World Cup final, I was saying to a few of the girls like, ‘what am I?’, ‘what are we?’, ‘what are we doing out here?’! 

“Like Molly Strano, we have grown up playing cricket against each other and playing on the same team and we’re both country girls who just love playing cricket because we enjoyed the challenge. And I just said to her when I was out there fielding and she was running drinks, ‘what the hell are we doing here? We’re just country girls, like little plebs from the country and we’re out on the MCG!’. 

“So I don’t know if it’s a thing I do on purpose. I think it’s just yeah, it’s still a bit surreal to me that I’ve had the opportunity to do things I have and be part of the teams I have and achieved success like I have. So it’s still a bit ‘pinch yourself’! 

“It’s probably another thing that will take me until the end of my career to work out that I had the capacity to do that and be alright at it.”

Looking forward to the future of women’s cricket and what might be possible beyond the tournaments at the end of the year, Mooney is keen for more test cricket to become a staple of the women’s calendar.

“There’s always [the] financial or the revenue driven side of things that act as a barrier, but we always get asked [as a playing group] about any innovative ideas that we have to see what we could come up with. We really enjoy the Ashes multi-format series that we play, and I sort of wonder if potentially, we could play that against other countries.  

“So that could be one way that we get more Test matches in, we play that multi-format series against the top three or four countries around the world like New Zealand, India and South Africa. In turn, that would get more tests in a sort of biannual year, and obviously more countries around the world playing test match cricket in the female space.” 

A fan of test cricket, this is something Mooney is passionate about. 

“I think as a nineties baby growing up in the era of not much women’s cricket on TV. I grew up watching it and loved it, I love the battle of it, the skill it takes, the mental capacity it takes. Obviously I’d love to play more of it, I think it’s the ultimate test of not only an athlete but as a cricketer and it really brings out the best in people. So to pit yourself against the best and see if you’re up for it is definitely something I’d love to do more of and as a team we’d love to do more of so hopefully, in the next ten years, that’s the goal.”

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