Alex Blackwell leaves the game having led a cricket revolution – The Guardian

Posted: November 28, 2019 at 9:41 pm

When Alex Blackwell began her elite cricket career in 2001, the landscape of the sport looked very different. The Womens National Cricket League was entering just its sixth season and it would be a very brave player who dared to dream of full-time professionalism or television coverage for womens cricket.

Never one to be plagued by a lack of courage, Blackwell took up the fight to advocate for change in the sport. Little by little, the battles were won and in 2015, she quit her job as a genetic counsellor to become one of the first full-time professionals in womens cricket, marking the beginning of an era of extraordinary change.

Blackwell has been at the forefront of this revolution her career has seen not only the shift from amateurism to full-time professionalism, but a great deal of social change as well.

While always open about her sexuality with teammates, family and friends, Blackwell chose to come out publicly in 2013. She spoke openly about her disappointment that Cricket Australia had not implemented an anti-homophobia policy, as well as criticising the marketing of womens sport more broadly, believing sporting bodies chose to centre more traditionally feminine athletes in promotional material.

In 2015, Cricket Australia agreed to sign on to the anti-homophobia policy, due in no small part to the pressure from its athletes, including Blackwell, who had the strength and conviction to speak out.

When the national body released its transgender inclusion policy in August this year, Blackwell was one of its most vocal advocates. To deprive [transgender people] of access to sport would be wrong, she said in August. We wont be discriminating based on trans or gender diverse identity.

After 18 years dominating on the field, there is little chance Blackwell will be short of things to occupy her time when Sydney Thunders WBBL season draws to a close. As well as being a qualified genetic counsellor, she is in high demand as a speaker, commentator and media personality.

In 2018 she became the first woman to be elected on to the board of Cricket NSW in the organisations 159-year history. Earlier this year she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of New South Wales for her work in fighting for equality on and off the cricket pitch.

After retiring from state and national cricket in early 2018, Blackwell threw her energy into Sydney Thunder, a team she had captained to the competitions maiden title in 2015-16. A possible retirement lurked at the end of the 2018-19 season, but an agonising final ball loss to eventual champions Brisbane Heat in the semi-final was enough to propel her into one final season, though she made the decision to step back from captaincy.

I was heartbroken, but also amazed, by last years semi-final, said Blackwell. I . . . well, a little bit selfishly . . . thought to myself: Ive worked so hard to get to this point and contributed to cricket for a long period of time for it to reach this point. I thought the WBBL was an amazing competition to be a part of and decided I could go again and Im pleased I did. Its been good fun, and Ive enjoyed supporting Rachael Haynes because I think shes led the team very well.

Her career with the Thunder has spanned five seasons, 71 matches, 1751 runs and the clubs most valuable player award has been named in her honour.

At 36, and with a player-of-the-match honour from Wednesdays win over the Melbourne Stars still fresh in her back pocket, Blackwell is part of that rare breed of athletes who are able to walk away from the game on their own terms, still at the top of their game, having achieved everything possible in the sport.

When the Womens T20 World Cup final rolls into the MCG in March 2020, with its hopes of world record crowds and Cricket Australias commitment to prize money parity for its mens and womens teams, there is little doubt Blackwell will be there to witness the spectacle, supporting the women who are carrying the baton forward.

And as she does, she may reflect on what 18-year-old Alex would think about it all seeing these women carry not just their own hopes and dreams for a World Cup win, but the pride of a nation on their shoulders as they stand on equal footing with their male counterparts.

After 18 years at the top, there is one thing certain about Alex Blackwell she has left the game of cricket in a much more fair, equitable, inclusive and better place than it was when she arrived.

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Alex Blackwell leaves the game having led a cricket revolution - The Guardian

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