Australia's female cricketers are worried the professionalisation of the women's game is creating a growing gap between the country's international and state players.
While players want to play and train more they are concerned there is not enough money and resources being devoted at state level to help cricketers make the transition from semi-professionals to full-time players. They also hold fears for the future of the WNCL.
Players reported their concerns to the Australian Cricketers' Association at a recent meeting of state delegates leading into the start of negotiations for the next memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cricket Australia on October 1.
The ACA are calling for female players to be included for the first time in the same collective bargaining agreement as their male colleagues, giving them entitlements such as injury payments, access to retirement funds and visiting periods on tour for partners. Female players, many of whom work and/or study outside of the game, also want a bigger say on scheduling.
CA has almost doubled its player payment pool to $4.23 million for the coming season. While the country's elite players can earn in excess of $100,000 from their Southern Stars, WNCL and WBBL contracts, the best domestic players will earn $26,000 a season. Nationally contracted players also have greater freedom of access to the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.
"You don't want to create this big gap where the Australian players are becoming professional and training all the time and the state players are juggling jobs, careers, a bit of cricket as well – we're trying to ensure the women's game evolves equally," former Australian star and ACA executive member Lisa Sthalekar said.
Sthalekar believes the women's game is at a similar point to the men's game in the late 1990s when it made the transition to the professional era. The ACA was formed in 1997 and a year later signed its first MOU with the then Australian Cricket Board.
"CA contracted players are now employees of CA but don't have their own industrial agreement – there is certain rights [and] they're not necessarily being looked after," Sthalekar said.
"It's not always about the monetary point of view, it's about their workplace being a safe environment to do their job. They have no say in the scheduling. That's their workplace – how many times they are away from home? They don't get a say in that.
"They're not saying they don't like that, they want a say at the table with CA. At the moment by not having that agreement they don't have the opportunity to do that."
While the introduction of the WBBL has helped increase earnings for state players, Sthalekar said they were unhappy it has come at the expense of the WNCL. In order to find more time for the WBBL, teams now play each other only once instead of twice in the 50-over competition. Their preference is for the WNCL to be played either side of the WBBL, which is how the Sheffield Shield is scheduled.
"What we heard unanimously from the playing group was WNCL is our Sheffield Shield, we don't just want to play T20," Sthalekar said.
"It's an area where the players develop their skills. You take away our longest form, players will only get four overs or 10-12 balls to bat.
"By reducing the longer format you'll create a wave of players that aren't resilient enough to cope with the pressures at the next level."
The scrapping of the under 17 and 19 female competitions has also disappointed the ACA. Females now play at under 15 and 18s while the males have under 15, 17 and 19 age groups.