home Cricket, Historical, Interview History makers: Anne Gordon, that 76 tour and why the history of women’s cricket matters

History makers: Anne Gordon, that 76 tour and why the history of women’s cricket matters

A few weeks ago, Siren spoke with Anne Gordon, the former captain of the Australian women’s cricket team. In the lead up to the T20 World Cup grand final, we shared some of that interview with you. But Anne had plenty more stories to share, so please enjoy this part two of History makers: Anne Gordon, that 76 tour and the why the history of women’s cricket matters.

Anne Gordon speaks at Lords after the historic 1976 match. Image: Anne Gordon.

It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon when we meet Anne Gordon. She’s standing on the footpath at the front of her house, chatting with a neighbour, when we arrive. You wouldn’t know the unassuming woman before us is cricket royalty. Anne Gordon played in one of the most significant women’s cricket matches in the history of the game: the first women’s match to be played at Lords.

‘We had no knowledge about Lords at all,’ Anne said, explaining that the Australian team of 1976 had gone to Jamaica prior to the tour in England to play a series of practice matches. ‘We arrived in Heathrow early in the morning from [Jamaica], and they said you’re going to Lords and we didn’t even know what they were talking about.’

Anne Gordon’s cricket origin story is mirrored in many women who have played professional sport. It started at school and with the encouragement of the sports mistress.

‘We played a form of vigoro. It was two paddles and a rubber ball, a bit like hit and run. And I showed a lot of promise in that,’ Anne said.

‘We arrived in Heathrow early in the morning from [Jamaica], and they said you’re going to Lords and we didn’t even know what they were talking about.’

‘Little did I know that the teacher who was acting sports mistress was a player with YWCA and played women’s cricket in Melbourne.’

You could say the rest was history. But there’s so much more to the story.

The 1976 Australian team. Image: Anne Gordon.

So much more to the story

Anne began travelling from her home in Moe to play cricket in Melbourne on weekends.

‘I would stay with my grandparents at the weekend,’ she said.

‘I’d be staying down in Cheltenham and all our matches would be Clifton Hill or Sunshine. All on the other side of town, which meant we’d have to go dressed in our uniforms, take our gear on public transport, use two trams and a train or buses. And then after the match we’d have to get home so we wouldn’t get home to about 8 or 8:30 at night. It was, well it was interesting. We saw a lot of Melbourne by public transport.’

From there, Anne was selected for the junior Victorian team and played in Adelaide and Deniliquin.

‘I was sort of being grounded for probably state appearances but I didn’t know that at the time,’ Anne said.

‘Then in 1962, I received a letter asking if I was available, that I’d been selected for the Victorian team to go to Perth. I had to pay my six pounds or whatever it was, for my uniform. The only thing I received from the Victorian association was the big wide V that went onto the pocket of the blazer.’

‘I was sort of being grounded for probably state appearances but I didn’t know that at the time,’

Anne recalls having to pay for her own travel too, a second-class fare from Melbourne to Perth.

‘[It] meant sitting up all night in the train from Melbourne to Adelaide, changing trains from Adelaide to catch the Express across the Nullabor and we had to then spend two days traveling across the Nullabor, stop at Kalgoorlie, change trains and then back on to Perth. So, it was quite a long trek there and back. And then to have to play cricket. It was quite an experience.’

The Australia selectors were picking the team to go to England in 1963. Anne wasn’t selected for the team and so she returned to Melbourne and to her local club.

The Australian team at Lords in 1976. Image: Anne Gordon.

A return to club cricket

‘I was just a pleb at that time and playing under Jean Perkins who was the sports mistress at Methodist Ladies College. And she was really, I think, grooming me to take over captaincy of South Hawthorn, the team that I played for and we played down at Fairview Park at Hawthorn.

The South Hawthorn team shared facilities with the Hawthorn team and Anne says both clubs turned out a lot of great Australian players.

‘You wouldn’t even know, you’d pass them in the street, you wouldn’t know that they were much respected players.’

‘You just look up at them in awe thinking about what they had achieved.’

She reels off names like Joyce Bath and Marion Goring, Gladys Phillips and Eleanor McKenzie.

‘You just look up at them in awe thinking about what they had achieved.’

‘It used to be quite a fun as a pleb. It was quite fun to watch them because if things got rather boring, Eleanor or Glady would say well see that post up there, if you can hit up there and hit a six off that, and they’d have a betting competition as to who could do it. Quite often the score used to escalate. And the opposition would have no hope of getting the score because they were just trying to outdo each other.’

Anne would soon be named the captain of the South Hawthorn team. And despite having broken her arm, she would be a last-minute call up for the 1973 Australian team that played in the first ever cricket World Cup. But it would be three years later, when captain of the Australian team in 1976, that Anne would play in the first game of women’s cricket to be played at Lords.

Image os the 1976 Australian women's cricket team in England. They wear their official uniform, including a white skirt and shirt with a dark jacket and they pose with a clydesdale. Siren Sport. Anne Gordon.
The 1976 Australian team met plenty of interesting characters. Image: Anne Gordon.

A honour to play

‘It was an honour for us to be playing. You know, I can’t get over that fact, the first women to play at Lords. The MCC had given us the match because Middlesex, their team that usually plays there, had not made the semi-finals, first time for ages. And of course, these fixtures are not built in that year, they’re made two years before.

‘So, when it was obvious that Middlesex weren’t going to make the final and they knew that it was also the Women’s Cricket Association’s Golden Jubilee year, they offered them the date and the ground for that match. That’s when it was decided that Australia would play England there in that one day match. And it was a huge honour.’

‘We can leave a match at six o’clock to go to a hotel down in Brighton and not get there till midnight.’

Of course, the build-up to the game was far from straightforward. Anne recalls how the team criss-crossed England, playing matches all around the country.

‘We travelled from Yorkshire to Swansea across England from Swansea, to Brighton to Kent, back into middle England and it’s a lot of traveling in a coach.’

‘We can leave a match at six o’clock to go to a hotel down in Brighton and not get there till midnight.’

Image is of newspaper clippings from the 1976 tour when Australia played England at Lords. Included is the photo taken in the Australia dressing room. Siren Sport. Anne Gordon.
The unauthorised image of the Australian team that went around the world. Image: Anne Gordon.

That photo

The most confronting moments of the 1976 tour, however, was the day before the Lords game.

‘Prior to the match [at Lords] we had a very nasty experience where a photographer managed to smuggle herself into the rooms. And we’re all in a state of undress where she takes this photo, huge big photo, that goes out worldwide. I couldn’t believe it. And here we were, you know, getting undressed and ‘women in the men’s room’, ‘the women have taken over the men’s room’. And, to us, we were so gobsmacked about that and upset about it… that this woman had come into the rooms and taken that photo that’s gone all around the world. We were sort of a bit wary, from there on in about what was coming next.’

While hardly ideal preparation for the final game against England, Anne recalls moments of levity.

‘The men, bless their souls. We were given the Australian dressing room which meant that it’s a men’s dressing room. And the first thing we were greeted with was we’ve put hessian up on the urinals. You don’t want to be looking at those.’

‘But a nice little touch. They had a table in front of the urinals and the hessian with a vase of red roses for us and they were quite good.’

‘It was a lot of pressure. And I think we felt it, that everyone was watching and it was a huge crowd there. We had lots of supporters there.’

There was something to laugh about after the match too, when the Australian women accidentally upended decades of tradition.

‘No one ever explained to us when it was our turn to bat, which way we came down the stairs. I’d forgotten to ask Rachel [Heyhoe Flint, captain of the English team] which way we were to come because there was speculation we were not to come through the Long Room. That was for the men only, the members were getting a bit sniffy about all that you see. And so, we didn’t know so we just came down because we were up on the first floor and you have two minutes to get onto the pitch so you have to come down a flight of stairs, another flight of stairs. Well the only place that we could see was through the Long Room. So, we walked through the Long Room and broke tradition there.’

‘It was a lot of pressure. And I think we felt it, that everyone was watching and it was a huge crowd there. We had lots of supporters there.’

‘It was really good, but it was quite a strain. It was really a strain.

‘We had to be just be careful in view of the distressing event the day before in the dressing room. We just had to be a bit more conscious of long range photography which took a bit of the naturalness out of us because we’d be sitting looking at a game and wondering how things were going with the photographers.

‘[It was a] huge honour, it was and I think the girls thought it was too. It’s something you don’t forget.’

Image is of newspaper clippings from the 1976 tour when Australia played England at Lords. Included is the photo taken in the Australia dressing room. Siren Sport. Anne Gordon.
Image: Anne Gordon.

A turning point that never came

Anne says the team felt like the 1976 game was a turning point for women’s cricket in Australia.

‘Well, in 1976, after the Lord’s match, we thought, right women’s cricket is now on the mat. And we were quite happy that at last women’s cricket had got some recognition. And now, everything should open. [We] came back to Australia and I couldn’t believe nothing was happening.’

‘Nothing, we couldn’t get sponsorship for anything. I shouldn’t say we couldn’t get it. But it was hard to get sponsorship because we weren’t known. And they want to be known. They’ll go for a known product and we weren’t a known product as far as they were concerned.’

‘[We] came back to Australia and I couldn’t believe nothing was happening.’

After retiring from playing not long after the 1976 tour, Anne moved to England where she became a selector. There, she helped to select the English squad for the 1993 World Cup. After returning to Australia 2013, Anne became involved in the Pioneers Victorian Women’s Cricket Association. The association has a long history. It originally formed in 1904 as the Victorian Women’s Cricket Association. It disbanded for the first world war. And when a second women’s cricket association took over post WWI, the original rebranded as the Pioneers, becoming a group for past players with a focus on preserving the history of the game.

For Anne, this history is important.

Image is of newspaper clippings from the 1976 tour when Australia played England at Lords. Siren Sport. Anne Gordon.
The 1976 match at Lords received plenty of press. Image: Anne Gordon.

Preserving the history of the game

‘It became obvious with the amalgamation of the men into the women’s association or the women’s into the men’s association, whichever way you want to look at it, that there was a lack of history regarding what’s happened with women’s cricket.’

‘I think you need to know your past and the people that went before you because they made sacrifices as well as we did.’

‘So, part of my job with the Pioneers is looking back and getting our history and making sure it is factual.’

‘I think you need to know your past and the people that went before you because they made sacrifices as well as we did.’

Today, Anne says she doesn’t envy the women now playing for Australia.

‘I think they’ve earned what they’ve got.’

‘I think it’s great… A lot of them, their future is more or less guaranteed as well not like we were that we’d have to give up jobs or lose pay and have to try and make up things when we came back.

‘There’s so many more chances going for them. And I just hope that they can, you know, keep winning, but… I’ve never been fond of the men’s philosophy that win at all costs. Win if you can, be gracious in defeat is probably something that the girls have always been. And I hope they continue in that respect and be good ambassadors for their state and their country.’


See part one of our chat with Anne Gordon here.

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