Inspiring the next generation of female cricket players & umpires

On International Women’s Day (IWD) we bring you the story of Cricket ACT umpire, administrator and former player, Margaret Marshall. This month we’re speaking to women within our cricket community about this year’s IWD theme ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women – Accelerate Progress’.

“My father was mad keen on cricket – we didn’t have a TV in the house but one would magically appear in summer in time for the boxing day test,” laughed Margaret Marshall reflecting on how she first became involved in cricket.

Margaret is a well-known figure in the local cricket community and can often be seen in the centre umpiring at various matches.

As a youngster Margaret played every sport going, but cricket was always the constant.

Margaret played in the first ever Ginninderra women’s team and captained the side in her second year.

“At 12 years-of-age I started playing in a boy's team. A couple of years later, at 14, I found out there was a women’s competition and started playing in that until I had children.”

“I went back and played for a little while when my youngest was able to be a little unsupervised, but decided I was getting too old to play.

“It was at that time someone said to me ‘Well how about umpiring?’ and I thought, ‘Well how about umpiring’.”

And the rest is history.

Margaret is in her tenth year of umpiring and loves that the role keeps her well connected with cricket.

When asked why she enjoys umpiring, Margaret’s response in simple.

“It’s giving back to the game I love so much.

“As an umpire you can be involved in every play of the day, but you’re also often involved in cricket that is a better standard than you ever had the privilege to play.

“I enjoy serving the game, progressing the game and helping others to enjoy the sport.”

Margaret Marshall behind the stumps umpiring Kookaburra Cup 2023

Margaret makes a key point around progressing the game. She is one of only three female umpires in the ACT and is joined by veteran Deanne Young and newcomer Tammie Bell, who commenced this season.

On International Women’s Day, Margaret talks about the importance of her role in being visible and a role model; to encourage other young girls to consider not only playing cricket but taking on other roles in the cricket community.

“I’ve had young girls say to me, ‘I’ve never had a female umpire before’.

“I always respond, ‘well hopefully we’ll have many more, how about you consider umpiring one day’.

“I feel privileged to do what I do and if I can also be a conversation starter for girls to consider all their options in cricket, that’s a bonus.”

While comments like these from players are simply young players stating what’s on their mind, Margaret knows that it’s also an illustration that female umpires are not mainstream.

“The fact that someone is commenting on it means that you’re still a rarity,” she said.

But she’s buoyed by a growing number of women participating.

“I’ve umpired in Sydney as well and there’s an increasing number of women participating in grade games and in country cricket.

“There’s some very capable women; I’m excited by it and the growth of the game.”

Having been in and around the game from a young age, Margaret has of course seen a changing landscape for women in cricket.

Margaret Marshall umpiring during Kookaburra Cup 2023

She firmly believes that visibility is the key to ensure we continue to progress the game for women.

“I remember in the 80s we’d have an international game at Manuka and there wouldn’t be much publicity or many people there, but looking at the crowds we get now to Manuka for an International or to a WBBL match, it’s fabulous.

“I think we’re doing a lot of work in this space and as the saying goes ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’; that visibility and talk around people and their achievements is so important.

“I get great enjoyment out of seeing my peers do well. My friend Elizabeth O’Dwyer made her 1st grade debut this season and it’s important we celebrate those sorts of achievements.”

While Margaret admits there is still work to be done around attracting and retaining women in umpiring, she believes we are on the right track.

Her belief is that the biggest investment we can make to accelerate progress for women in the game is to follow in the footsteps of the trailblazers by continuing to ignite passion for the game and being good role models.

“In addition to being born into a cricket loving family, I had good mentors around me.

“When I was only 14/15 years old, I played a match for Ginninderra with a lady by the name of June Williams, and June was in her 60s!

“She batted all day; the story is that when she got home that night she got in the bath and couldn’t get out!

“June had captained NSW for many years in her younger days and was also selected for the Australian team (however, was not able to tour).

“The memory of that day and the benefit of my 15-year-old self, playing with someone so grounded, mature and passionate about the sport, it really fostered in me how important it is to be a role model for young women.

“Passion breeds passion.

“Being respectful, friendly, promoting participation and having a good time, there’s such a role for that. That’s why after 10 years, I still umpire when I can.”

And Margaret’s investment in the sport she loves continues. This year she joined the Cricket ACT team as Finance and Business Services Administrator.

“This is my dream job. I’m in and around cricket all the time. Not only do I get to umpire, but I’m also helping in the administration of the game.”

With women like Margaret in our community fostering a love of our game and providing mentorship for our future generation of female cricketers, we know our game is in good hands.

Article by Dinah Bryant

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