Felicity Smith chats cricket, uniforms, lockdown training and more with Chloe Rafferty and also delves into finding belonging in sport and pay equality in cricket.
Chloe Rafferty is currently in a situation familiar to most of us—under lockdown. A medium-fast, right arm bowler for the Hurricanes and the ACT Meteors, and a self-titled extrovert, Rafferty is rolling with the lockdown punches but she’s eager to get back out on the pitch. I caught her just after she and her housemates had come back from a run.
“We sort of do everything together at the moment, just trying to keep each other active and fit. One of my housemates is a PT, so we have a gym in our garage… So we haven’t gone bonkers yet, but I am keen to play cricket, that’s for sure.”
Although she’s not getting out to the field right now, a makeshift game of all-star kitchen cricket could be in the cards as her housemates are also her teammates— wicket-keeper and batter Erica Kershaw and pace bowler/all-rounder Nicola Handcock.
Rafferty has encountered a similar type of ‘training limbo’ before. After landing her first cricket contract when she was 17, training has basically been her life since. However, last year she lost both her WBBL Melbourne Stars and WNCL Victoria contracts.
During her hiatus, Rafferty kept on training without a team, but was still surrounded by family encouragement. Especially supportive was her twin sister Paris, also a talented cricketer.
“I used to drag her along to training because I needed someone to serve the balls, or catch the balls that I bowl, so she’s been awesome.”
This six months off forced her to do some serious thinking around her sporting career.
“When cricket sort of went away, I was like… Is this supposed to happen? Or am I supposed to keep fighting for something else? Am I wasting my time in this sport?”
She almost swapped over to AFLW but ended up picking up a Meteors contract.
“I sort of thought, well let’s give AFLW a go. I was going to jump on that bandwagon and do preseason with the Western Bulldogs, that was all planned and then my manager said a bowler had gone down for ACT and they needed a new one.”
Although cricket won out, AFLW is still on the cards for the future. Rafferty comes from a sport orientated family and is used to switching between codes. If there’s one overall theme I can take from our chat, it’s that she’s always willing to ‘have a crack’, but there’s one sport she never played: netball.
“As silly as it sounds, the only reason I didn’t touch it was because I didn’t want to wear a skirt or a dress while playing sports. I was a tomboy kid—if I could play basketball in shorts, and hockey in shorts, and cricket in pants, then I’m not wearing a skirt [for netball].”
Rafferty’s opinion isn’t silly, and it’s also not uncommon. A recent study conducted by Victoria University found that 61% of girls surveyed preferred not to wear skirts during sport.
As well as being a professional cricketer, Rafferty is also studying a Bachelor of Education, specialising in primary teaching. She has a certificate in teaching assistance and is currently working at a primary school.
‘’We were actually doing some cricket things in the classroom, the teacher just sort of brought me in and was like, well you can take care of this.”
Her time in the classroom means Rafferty also gets a firsthand experience of the students’ attitudes towards sports. She’s passionate about getting kids involved in sport and is seeing a positive shift when it comes to getting girls into the game.
I mean, imagine how cool it would be to go home and see your teacher on TV playing professional cricket.
“Now younger ones can see a pathway, and we’re on the telly, that’s quite big for them, and it’s like ‘well if they can do it, I can do it’. I feel grateful that we’ve come this far, you can definitely see the development.”
Paying to play?
Although Rafferty is focused on cricket, she’s always had it in her mind that she needed a backup plan.
“I know that the majority of our players also have full-time jobs outside of cricket. We have a lot of physios and business [majors] and teachers. So we’re all constantly working, either if it’s training or another employment…But thankfully, the pay is slowly increasing which is nice to see.”
Before the 1998/99 summer, the Australian women’s cricket team had to pay their own way to go on tours—imagine getting a bill after months on the road representing your country. This changed when they partnered with Commonwealth Bank and their uniforms and tour necessities were subsidised.
In 2017, Cricket Australia (CA) increased the salaries of women cricketers by 125%. In 2019 they committed to pay equality in the T20 World Cup by promising to ‘top up’ any prize money won by the women’s team so that it equalled the men’s team. And just recently, CA has restructured their contracting system for women’s international, and state cricket players that increases player retainers and tour payments. CA chief executive James Sutherland says the performances of the female players justify this pay rise but acknowledges that the rates still aren’t equal.
Money buys time, and having time gives players the flexibility to focus more on their game. Training while working or studying puts women in sport at a disadvantage. They have less time available to them to relax, recuperate, and work on their techniques if they also need to keep up with the demands of a full time job. If organisations are waiting for the players’ performances to justify the pay rise, they may be waiting indefinitely—as women players continue to not be able to dedicate as much time (physically or fiscally) to training. If they’re wanting them to play like the men’s team, they need to pay them like the men’s team.
Rafferty sums it up pretty well.
“We’re actually heading somewhere rather than not, it’s good but it takes its time… But yeah, you definitely have to try and figure out a way to get some money coming in because you’re screwed if you just rely on cricket pay each month.”
“I’d want it to achieve the equality that it’s trying to get…to be able to be a professional full-time athlete and play cricket comfortably and not have that extra load we have to have just get by.”
Home away from home
“There’s a quote I heard from someone years ago, and I’ve carried it with me to this day: men have to play well to fit in, women have to fit in to play well.”
Rafferty explains to me that this stuck with her because it states so simply the connection and community of the team dynamics she’s encountered while playing cricket.
When she found out her Victoria contract wasn’t getting renewed, she says her first reaction was sadness about leaving her teammates.
“I was like, ‘oh my god I’m not going to be able to train with that bunch of people anymore’, that was the bit that hit me. Because I used to see them every day… They’re all my second family.”
Rafferty hails from the Essendon Maribyrnong Park Ladies Cricket Club or EMP, so moving to the Hurricanes wasn’t too difficult because she was met with familiar faces in EMP alumni such as Molly Strano, Emily Smith, and Natalie Schilov.
“Yeah, we’re all Bomber girls and we’re one big family. So to be able to come back to the Hurricanes and see them all down there in Tassie will be good fun.”
Rafferty has high hopes for the sport in the coming years as she sees it continue to move towards a place of professionalism and equality.
“They’re already doing the right things behind the scenes to get there because it’s already growing. The community and grassroots [participation] are increasing percentage-wise, and the female game participation is through the roof.”