Cricket NSW’s Julie Stafford is on a mission: to have more girls play cricket in the state than ever before.
You’re driving past a sunny cricket field in New South Wales. You see a cricket match in action and you try to take a closer look, expecting a group of boys making the best of the fine weather. Instead, it’s a team of girls playing the game.
Julie Stafford’s vision is to have every cricket field in the state offering that sight by the end of this 2022/23 season. Stafford is Cricket NSW’s Female Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion manager.
Her mission: to double the number of girls playing cricket both across clubs and Blast Centres by the end of the season.
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Her message: ‘Give cricket a go.’ She promises that she has a game for anyone who wants to try the sport. “Cricket is a sport for boys and girls of any shape, any size, any ability,” she says.
Stafford spent the past 10 years at Cricket NSW. Before that, she worked in the UK as a Director of Sport and Deputy Principal.
“I am passionate about the power of community sport. I really see the value of playing a team sport and how that can be great for girls,” she believes.
Stafford has been a key figure in the state’s women’s cricket initiative since 2014-15 and has seen exponential growth in the number of girls playing cricket with every passing year.
The numbers are reflected in the 2021-22 Australian Cricket Census that was released in early August. In NSW, registered participation in women’s cricket increased by a whopping 18% in the last year.
The increasing popularity of women and girls’ cricket across the state also owes itself to Cricket Australia’s investment in the game and its larger vision of making cricket the No 1 sport in the country for women and girls.
In NSW itself, there are currently over 7500 girls playing cricket at various levels of the game. Stafford’s current strategy, called the Female Engagement Strategy and Action Plan, aims to double that number at the very least.
The number of female volunteers in cricket is another area that Stafford is looking to change the face of. The 200 Wickets program, funded by the NSW Office of Sport, aims to see more women in volunteering roles and in cricket committees.
“This project will identify and develop 200 women to become committee and board members of their local clubs and associations,” says Stafford.
This initiative will create a networking group to share and connect the existing wisdom of women already doing wonderful things in clubs, to encourage and empower more women.
The webinar topics will be developed from the inputs Stafford receives from the wealth of experience and knowledge from women in cricket and other sports.
That, and constituting girls-only cricket teams across NSW clubs and cricket centres, are Stafford’s priorities. She believes everyone can play, and there is a club or program for anyone who wants to have a go.