New deal a big step forward for women's game: Cheatle

Lauren Cheatle has seen the women's game take enormous steps forward during her time at the elite level, but there is still work to do

Shortly after Lauren Cheatle’s international debut in 2016, Cricket Australia announced a landmark pay deal that saw the Australia’s leading players transformed into the nation’s best-paid female athletes in a team sport.

At the time, the numbers were groundbreaking; the maximum retainer for an Australian-contracted player rose from $49,000 to $65,000, while the WBBL minimum retainer jumped from $3000 to $7000 and state contracts rose from $7000 to $11,000.

Seven years and further two new Memorandums of Understanding later, those figures have been dwarfed by the latest women’s pay deal. Top CA-contracted players can now earn more than $800,000 when combining international cricket with WBBL deals, and domestic players can earn more than $150,000.

Cheatle, who was still in high school and aged 17 when the 2016 deal was announced, has watched the professionalism and standards in the Australian women’s game go from strength to strength across that period.

She knows there is still work to do to enable state players to reach full-time professional status – the latest deal saw them reach 0.7 full-time employment, up from less than 0.5 under the previous pay deal – but the left-arm quick believes the game will get there.

"I think the progression of not only women's sport, but women's cricket has been massive," Cheatle said.

"I feel like women have always gone above and beyond expectations to keep the standard of the game increasing.

"But there's still a little bit of work to be done to become full time.

"I think with this investment in the women's game, it's a really big step forward and as a women's playing group we want to grow the game commercially, especially the domestic players and I think that's the key to becoming full time."

Cheatle combines cricket with part-time work for disability support service What Ability, a role she is passionate about and which helps to balance out the pressures of life as a professional cricketer.

The majority of her NSW teammates also either work or study and while Cheatle agrees it is important that players can have that balance, and are prepared for life after cricket, she said the new pay deal would allow most to dedicate more time to their sport.

The minimum retainer for a state contract has risen to $54,000, and it is that number Cheatle is particularly keen to see continue to increase.

"It just gives us a better opportunity to become professional athletes, professional cricketers, and just be the best cricketer we can be," she said.

"With the minimum being 54 some will still have to work to maintain an income, but it frees a lot of us up financially.

"Our (state players) train 10 months of the year so those contracts becoming full-time in the future really matters to us.

"I think there’s around 30 players who won't have both a WNCL and WBBL duel contract, so it's really important to protect those players.

"It's just a super exciting time and it's a step in the right direction, but (we also know) as a playing cohort that we're not all the way there yet.

"But this is my third MOU that I've been involved in and to see the standards of the game continually grow is really exciting and I feel like we're we can go to is even better."