NSW bowler Emma Hughes has been awarded a $10,000 grant to relocate to Sydney, and is making the most of it, writes Mary Konstantopoulos.
In June this year it was announced that emerging NSW Breakers and Sydney Sixers fast bowler Emma Hughes, was the beneficiary of a $10,000 grant to help young, regional female cricketers transition from life in country areas to life in the city.
Hughes is from Dubbo and like many women of her generation, grew up playing cricket because her brother played.
“I started playing when I was eight years old, so I’ve been doing it for a while,” said Hughes.
“I thought I could beat my brother and play as well as he could, so I decided to give it a go.”
Because Hughes is from Dubbo, the pathway systems that exist in suburban Sydney were not as accessible for her. As a result, Hughes spent most of her formative cricketing years playing boy’s and men’s cricket.
Whenever there was an opportunity associated with women’s cricket, Hughes would take it, but this meant a lot of travelling. This required dedication not just from Hughes but from her family too.
“When I started playing in the NSW Academy for the Western Zone area, that was the first time I had ever played with other girls and I was 13 years old,” said Hughes.
“That came after a couple of years when I just played with boys and that was all I knew.
“What came next was a lot of travel back and forth to Sydney and a lot of travelling back and forth to Orange, which is where our Western Zone was based.”
Hughes continued to progress through the Cricket NSW pathway and regularly represented ACT/NSW Country at Under 15 and Under 18 National Championships levels. She was also part of the ACT/NSW Country squad that won the Under 18 50-over national title in 2017/18 defeating NSW Metro in the Final.
But that travel and the time away from her family was challenging. In part, the $10k grant, awarded by the Cricket NSW Foundation, recognises that but also aims to encourage Hughes to pursue her further education, with the goal of improving her wellbeing and long-term retention in the game whilst she lives away from home and her family.
Living away from home is a challenge that Hughes has already experienced. Hughes signed her first contract with the Sixers when she was a teenager, committing to the club ahead of WBBL05 through to WBBL07.
“My first season with the Sixers, they really looked after me and put me up in a hotel,” said Hughes.
“During that time, I was also doing my HSC so I was travelling back and forth, but the chance to stay in a hotel meant that I didn’t have to do a couple of the long drives.
“It meant that I could go to all the training sessions, be around my team and chill out and study really well.”
Hughes is overjoyed to have been awarded this grant but in her own words, it is also a tremendous relief. It now takes the pressure off for her and means that she is able to continue her studies in a more stable environment and continue to enjoy her cricket.
Like many elite female athletes, Hughes is juggling her sport and a career. This grant will give Hughes the chance to find a place in Sydney that reminds her of home, give her much needed stability and the opportunity to better balance her studies and her cricket.
“Personally, it’s going to be a massive help relieving the stresses of paying rent down here and also on my parents, thinking of my wellbeing. It gives me the option to find somewhere to live that suits me and how I grew up, rather than the first place I find,” said Hughes.
“This grant is a huge step, not just for women but also for people who come from the country.”
“It’s great to be recognised how hard we work and what we need to sacrifice to move to take up bigger opportunities.”
Whilst many are eagerly watching Hughes develop into an extremely talented cricketer, Hughes continues to shine off the field as well.
Hughes is currently doing an Exercise and Sports Science degree at Australian Catholic University in Strathfield but also wants to do a Masters of Radiology.
“I’m working pretty hard to try and get high distinctions and get all my course done quickly so I can get into my Masters and then find my dream job,” said Hughes.
So far, Hughes is well on track.
“I’m in my second year at the moment and I did my first semester full time,” said Hughes.
“I got two high distinctions and a distinction for my last three units.”