New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council

1933 – 1992

New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council

1933 – 1992

Theme: Sport and recreation

This essay written by Prue Hyman was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993. It was updated by Prue Hyman in 2018.

1933 – 1992

Although women's cricket in New Zealand had not reached the same status as men's cricket by the early 1990s, it commanded a loyal following of immensely keen players, coaches and administrators. Apart from a slightly lighter ball in the women's game, the rules of women's and men's cricket were identical. While the strength and speed of bowling were less in the women's game, top players could reach comparable levels of skill to the men. However, their lower numbers and entirely amateur game made reaching those levels a considerable challenge.

The New Zealand Women's Cricket Council (NZWCC) was the governing body for the administration of women's cricket in New Zealand for nearly 60 years. Its aims were 'to control and advance women's cricket in New Zealand'; [1] to arrange inter-association matches and tours to and from New Zealand by representative teams; and to settle any disputes between affiliated associations. On 26 September 1992 the NZWCC merged with New Zealand Cricket, the governing body for the men's sport. Under the new organisation's rules, a Women's Cricket Board, with similar objectives to NZWCC, was established.

Some sources claim that the first women's game in New Zealand was played in 1886 in Nelson, and clubs were formed 'in almost every town of note' after World War I. [2] In 1928 the first provincial association was established in Auckland, followed by Otago (1928), Canterbury (1931), Wellington (1932), and Whanganui and Southland (1933). [3]

The catalyst for the formation of the national body in 1933 was the news that an England team was to tour Australia in 1934–35 and extend its visit to New Zealand, 'if the interest was there'. [4] Although the more experienced visitors demolished New Zealand in the single test match, the tour was crucial to the development of women's cricket; it also improved the sport's public image, with spectators (at least 3000 at the Wellington game) realising that women could play with true skill.

Eris Paton batting

Eris Paton bats for South Island against England at Carisbrook, 1957. New Zealand Cricket Museum

The NZWCC's headquarters rotated among the four main centres before becoming permanently based in Wellington in 1954. There it was run by a management committee elected from delegates from affiliated associations. Key decisions, such as the election of selectors and managers of teams, were made at general meetings, where associations' voting power was based on their player numbers. After 1989, however, selectors and managers were chosen by the management committee from women nominated by associations. NZWCC was affiliated to the International Women's Cricket Council, formed in 1958 largely as a liaison body.

The number of players in affiliated associations grew slowly, from 697 in 1938–39 to a peak of 2941 in 1984–85; it had declined by 1992 to about 2000, over half of them school players. Associations paid an annual subscription to NZWCC, plus a levy per registered player. However, the comparatively low numbers resulted in constant financial struggle, with members of early New Zealand touring teams having to pay a substantial proportion of their own fares. Increasing grant and sponsorship income improved matters and allowed more regular international competition, but there were still long gaps between test series with England and Australia. In between, there were a number of tours and World Cup tournaments for one-day games, and visits to and from India. The 1993 tour to Australia was the first in women's cricket to have day/night games and coloured uniforms.

The NZWCC and the associations also organised coaching schools and age-group competitions to encourage school players through to adult participation. The council provided some professional coaching, but most was done voluntarily by current and former players. Hillary Commission funding from 1990 enabled the part-time employment of a national director of coaching and an administrator.

Early successes in international matches, [5] such as wins against Australia and South Africa in 1972, were opportunities to gain media attention for women's cricket which were not sufficiently built on. However, player numbers did increase after New Zealand hosted the 1982 World Cup, with live television coverage of the final.

The New Zealand team's subsequent lack of success affected both sponsorship and the recruitment of potential players. Cricket is a time-consuming and fairly expensive sport; this may have accounted for the drop-out rate and for the under-representation of Māori women and women with children. Unlike softball and soccer, women's cricket had no specific lesbian teams, although it had a high level of lesbian participation. Public lesbian identification by individuals was, however, subtly discouraged because of concern about sponsorship and grants. Some lesbians, uncomfortable or in political disagreement with this situation, left the sport.

Women's cricket suffered from the interconnected factors of low numbers, lack of sufficient international competition and success, little media attention and a low financial base, which led in turn to a lack of resources for recruitment, coaching and raising standards. Other issues affecting the sport included gender role ascription, women's access to leisure time, and whether 'men's sports' were seen as suitable for 'feminine' women. Inevitable conflicts and factions within the organisation also lost some people to the sport.

The degree of men's involvement in women's cricket varied over the years. An early constitution required that the council should consist of women, although men could be co-opted for advice. Later, men could become members. By the mid 1980s they were allowed to be officers, and two men joined the management committee. In most areas men's associations and individual men frequently gave coaching and other support. NZWCC coaches and umpires took the examinations run by the men's associations, and two women umpires reached top level.

Separate clubs and associations for women and men were the general rule until the 1990s; a widespread trend to amalgamation was to see cricket administration fully integrated by the middle of the decade. Amalgamation could in theory offer women's cricket access to a greater resource base and to areas of the country previously untapped. If this opportunity was not taken, however, the sport would continue to be played by a small minority. Even so, it would doubtless still bring much challenge, pleasure and friendship to its adherents.

Prue Hyman

Women’s cricket 1994 – 2018

There were immense changes, both favourable and unfavourable, in women’s cricket over the 25 years after 1993. The amalgamation with men’s cricket in 1992 vastly improved the resources available to the game. The increase in media coverage, particularly television and social media, greatly raised the profile of women’s cricket, while the pay and conditions for the White Ferns team improved considerably (although they still lagged well behind the Black Caps in financial rewards); in 2017 they travelled business class to international series for the first time. In interprovincial cricket there were no playing fees for women, whereas men received $575 for Twenty20 (T20) games.

Amalgamation certainly benefited women’s cricket with better coaching and funding at the partially professionalised top level. As a result, the standard of fielding and big hitting in particular improved a great deal. Some aspects were more worrying, with grassroots cricket not particularly well served, although more young girls were being introduced to the game with innovative approaches.

One loss to the women’s game was that, on economic grounds, it focused totally on one day (20- and 50-over) games, with no test matches or interprovincial two innings games. Susie Bates, one of the highest profile women cricketers, commented publicly on how much she would have liked to play test cricket. By 2018 only 45 tests had been played between women’s teams, with 2 wins, 10 losses and 33 draws. The record was much better in one day cricket, with wins in 63 of 101 20-over games and 167 of 325 50-over games. The White Ferns’ biggest triumph was to win the World Cup at home in 2000. In 2018, White Fern Amelia Kerr, aged 17, made 232 in a one day international against Ireland, becoming the youngest ever cricketer (male or female) to score a double-century in international cricket.

The depth of women’s involvement, however, remained inadequate under amalgamation. An independent report in 2016 forced New Zealand Cricket to concede that it had neglected women’s cricket. Carried out by Sarah Beaman, a former Auckland representative, it found that over 90 percent of cricket clubs had no female-only teams, and almost 60 percent of clubs did not offer cricket for girls at all.

Women also filled only 6 percent of governance roles, compared to 38 percent in 1993. Only 10 percent of players were female, and of those, 90 percent were under 12 years old. New Zealand Cricket accepted that they had allowed women's cricket to be run by men, with neglect of the women's game on the basis of cost and a perceived lack of interest. The report made seventeen recommendations, with its top priorities being to bring more women into governance positions and increase female presence in coaching and umpiring. Other major areas identified for reform were the levels of female participation at junior and youth levels and the lack of talent pathways at domestic level.

As a result, improvements took place, with New Zealand Cricket getting three women directors in addition to former White Ferns captain Debbie Hockley as President, and mandating that there had to be two women on all regional boards by March 2019, with four out of six major associations already in compliance. At district level there was just 14 percent female representation in 2018.

New Zealand Cricket stated its wish to ensure that by 2021, when New Zealand was to host the ICC Women's World Cup, it would have made ‘enormous strides’ in growing the women’s game. Its history was also receiving enhanced attention, with the launch of a project for a book publication ahead of the 2021 World Cup. [6] Strengthening the network between former and current players was to be a key focus of this project. 

Prue Hyman

Notes

[1] Constitution and Rules of the New Zealand Women's Cricket Council Inc. (revised 1973).

[2] Reese, 1936, p. 112.

[3] In 1992 there were ten associations: the founding six plus North Harbour, Taranaki, Manawatu, and Hawke's Bay. These last three, plus Wanganui, fielded a joint team. Central Districts, at top representative level.

[4] Simons, 1982, p. 16. Simons, a founder of the Wellington Association and manager of the first New Zealand team to tour Australia in 1938, was active in administration for many years and was elected NZWCC's first life member in 1961. Nine other long-serving players and/or administrators were later been elected to life membership: Hilda Poulter, Ina Lamason, Joy Lamason, Rona McKenzie, Phyl Blackler, Trish McKelvey, Thelma Macdonald, Yvonne Taylor, and Mary Brito.

[5] In the first test against England in 1969, New Zealand captain Trish McKelvey scored an undefeated 155 at the Basin Reserve in Wellington—until 1986 the highest score by any New Zealander on that ground.

[6] New Zealand Cricket Museum, ‘The History of Women in New Zealand Cricket’. Retrieved 25 October 2018 from: http://nzcricketmuseum.co.nz/womenincricket/

Unpublished sources

New Zealand Women's Cricket Council records, 1933–1992, Women's Cricket Board, New Zealand Cricket, Christchurch

New Zealand women’s cricket records post 1992, Women's Cricket Board, New Zealand Cricket, Christchurch

Published sources

Beaman, Sarah, Women and Cricket, Cricket and Women, New Zealand Cricket, Wellington, 2016. Available from: https://www.nzc.nz/media/7756/nzcr_j000080_women-and-cricket-document_digital_d1.pdf

Flint, Rachael Heyhoe and Netta Rheinberg, Fair Play: The Story of Women's Cricket, Angus and Robertson, London, 1976

Geenty, Mark, ‘Sally Morrison: Wellington's first lady of cricket does it for love’, Stuff, 9 September 2018. Retrieved 25 October from:  https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/cricket/106524835/sally-morrison-wellingtons-first-lady-of-cricket-does-it-for-love

McKelvey, Trish, 'Where to Now?’, Programme for New Zealand v Australia and England, NZWCC, Wellington, 1992

Reese, T. U., New Zealand Cricket 1914–1933, Vol. II, Whitcombe and Tombs, Auckland, 1936

Simons, Dorothy, 'It Was a Long Time Ago', Programme of 1982 World Cup, NZWCC/Hansells, Wellington, 1982

Community contributions

No comments have been posted about New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council

What do you know?

Can you tell us more about the information on this page? Perhaps you have a related experience you would like to share?

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments will be reviewed prior to posting. Not all comments posted. Tell me more...