Lismore’s Lyn Larsen: A travelling trailblazer

06 Oct 2016

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In a short space of time, the development of women’s cricket has gone beyond the days of the national team paying their own way, to a product that is a developing commercial success and legitimate profession for a growing amount of female cricketers.

A catalyst of this changing game is Meg Lanning, who in 2014, was awarded the national captaincy at just 21, making her the youngest player male or female to captain the country.

Lanning took the record off Lyn Larsen, who between 1984 and 1994 forged one of the most successful international cricket careers world cricket has seen.

One of the greatest players and leaders Australian cricket has produced, Lyn Larsen achieved what few have in her ten-year international career. A testament to hard work, Larsen would not let practical difficulties stop her from achieving state and international success.

Larsen hails from Lismore in northern New South Wales and would often famously make the overnight trek south to play club cricket in Sydney, after playing club cricket in Lismore on a Saturday.

She describes the journey and that time in her life as ‘hectic’, but necessarily so, as she pursued the dream of first playing for her native NSW, then for her country.

“I never consciously set out to play for Australia, I just kept playing and at each level tried to do my best which [kept leading] to further selections,” Larsen said.

“It has to be said the commute made it challenging: [I would arrive] in Sydney early hours of Sunday, be picked up and taken to trials, training or games, [then] back on the bus Sunday night and off to school, college or work on Monday morning.”

LarsenLarsen said that while it was difficult pursuing her cricket career while managing school or work in Lismore, she never considered moving to a major city.

“It was different then. You could still make teams from home and the NSW administrators and selectors were very supportive of that,” Larsen said.

“It was an amateur sport, and while we trained as hard as anyone, it was something we did on top of our regular jobs or study, so you wouldn’t move on the back of that.

“Besides, I am a country bumpkin and could never have lived in the city anyway,” Larsen laughs.

Larsen first represented Australia at junior level in 1981, before earning her Australian cap in 1984. She would go on to represent Australia 15 times in Test matches, and 49 times in ODI’s, in an era where international touring was far rarer that at present.

One of her many career highlights stems from an historic occasion in itself, the first female five-day Test, where Australia bowled out England seconds before a torrential downpour would have certainly ended the match.

“The victory was so special because of the drama of the finish; [winning in that fashion] validated the declaration what we had to do to bowl England out twice.”

Larsen’s captaincy record is enviable to say the least.

She was undefeated as Australian captain in 10 Test matches, won 9 of 11 one-day series in charge and was a World Cup winning captain in 1988.

Larsen however typically downplays her importance on a period of women’s cricket that brought unprecedented levels of success both individually and for the national team.

I loved test cricket and the challenges it presented as captain, which is probably why both of the test victories mentioned above outrank the World Cup victory for me,” Larsen said.

“When you have the calibre of Fullston, Fitzpatrick, Wilson, Griffiths, Goss and Brown in your side, you didn’t have to do too much other than toss the coin and watch them all in action.”

“I used to wave my arms a lot to give the impression I was in charge!”

Larsen is known widely as a modest character. Her induction into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 is an achievement bestowed on few, yet Larsen still speaks reservedly on her inclusion.

“In lots of ways I was embarrassed. I was there on the back of my star players and the team results, not me as a player,” Larsen said.

“Of course I was extremely honoured but I’m a realist in recognizing that it was a team acknowledgement, I was simply fortunate to be the recipient of that recognition.”

Following this induction, she was accepted into the Cricket New South Wales Hall of Fame in 2010, as one of just 17 members at the time.

Larsen is enamoured with the current crop of Australian international players, and how quickly the game has developed since her playing days.

“It is unbelievable really, like someone flicked a switch and suddenly women’s cricket is real, has credibility and is leading the way in women’s sport.”

“The girls play such a great standard now, [which] shows how elite coaching, programs, competitions and additional resources make such a difference to skill levels, attitudes and performance expectations.”

She is proud that female cricket is now earning the coverage that it is beginning to receive.

“What is significant I believe is the portrayal of the game now,” she said.

“The girls play a great brand of cricket which has been matched in recent times by professional TV coverage and leading commentators talking about the game giving it credibility.”

“Women’s sport is riding a wave, and cricket is leading it, so the challenge is to keep putting out a good product, players and personalities to capture the imagination of the sporting public.”

While not directly involved in cricket at present, Larsen held positions as at the International Women’s Cricket Council and as a youth selector for Cricket Australia after her career concluded.

She remains as a trustee with the Sydney Cricket Ground, a position she values as an ‘amazing experience.’

‘Cricket has given me so much and I will be eternally grateful for that.”