In September this year, Melanie Reeves, a schoolteacher with the Centaur Primary School up in Banora Point, decided to hold a Girls Cricket Gala Day for primary school girls in the Tweed Heads area.
Reeves, who is also the girls’ cricket coordinator at Murwillumbah Panthers Cricket Club, contacted a few schools in the area to see if the girls were interested in coming in to try cricket and play for the club.
An unexpected 260 girls showed up to play cricket. Most of these girls had never played cricket before and took up the opportunity to pick up skills and spend time bonding with other girls who loved the sport as well. The turnout made the club enthusiastic to make this an annual event at the start of the season, which will go a long way in getting girls more cricketing opportunities in the area.
Reeves has been the coordinator of the club for four seasons now and organises girls-only Stage 1 and 2 cricket matches during the season for clubs in the area. She moved to Banora Point six years ago from Central Coast, which now has an amazing number of women playing cricket.
This year, during Women & Girls Week from November 20-26, Cricket NSW will celebrate stories of success for seven days, bringing forth extraordinary stories of ordinary women and girls who have thrived on and off the cricket field because of their love of the sport.
Reeves’ story is a celebration of women volunteers in cricket. Also in the offing are workshops to upskill women who would like to be involved in cricket. On November 18, former Australian women’s captain Alex Blackwell will be part of a forum at Cricket Central and answer questions from members of WiCKETS, a specialised group of women cricket administrators, volunteers and specialists. On November 22, Cricket Central will host the Careers in the Sports Industry Forum, where cricket’s current female staff will speak to women who are interested in a career in sport. On November 26, during the Weber WBBL match at SCG, 100 girl cricketers from clubs funded by the Growing Cricket for Girls Fund will walk a lap of honour around the field.
Growing up two decades ago, Reeves said, it was a different landscape for women and girls even at the Central Coast. Reeves played backyard cricket with her family, but never graduated to playing cricket competitively, even though she wanted to.
Moving to the state’s Far North gave Reeves a new impetus to build cricket around her new home. She has been the girls cricket coordinator for the Murwillumbah Panthers CC for the last four years, and girls’ participation was picking up in the area. Adam Housen, President of the Murwillumbah Panthers CC said, “Mel is a fantastic role model for all of our female participants and parents alike who really value her contribution to the club and the community.”
Additionally, local hero, Lismore’s Sammy-Jo Johnson’s success as a Breaker and Sydney Thunder WBBL player, has seen more and more girls interested in playing cricket. This year in August, Johnson spoke to the students at Centaur Primary School where Reeves is a teacher, during Country Blitz, Cricket NSW’s regional engagement tour. “The students were really inspired by her, they could believe that they had the potential to be the next Sammy-Jo,” Reeves said.
Her own heart beats for the Sydney Sixers, though, and she’s a fan. At the girls’ gala day two weeks later, Jacob Graham, Cricket Manager, Far North Coast, Cricket NSW, presented Reeves with two bats signed by the Sydney Sixers’ WBBL and BBL players, and she was overjoyed.
Julie Stafford, Female Engagement and D&I Manager, Cricket NSW, said:
“Reeves is an inspiration to all female volunteers and we are grateful for her love of and continued commitment to cricket. Her girls’ gala day was a great initiative towards getting more girls interested in cricket and Cricket NSW is hoping to turn it into an annual event in future seasons.
“Our amazing volunteers across NSW ensure everyone can play and love cricket and the fact that the number of children playing cricket is growing steadily in NSW is a testament to their hard work in helping everyone play and love the game.”