The introduction of the AFL Women’s competition has cricket running scared, according to the multi-talented Emma Kearney.
Kearney plays cricket for Victoria and the Melbourne Stars, but has also been drafted by the Western Bulldogs for the inaugural women’s football league next year.
And she has hit out at Cricket Australia for asking her to sign a form that states she has to prioritise cricket over other sports, claiming the governing body feels “threatened”.
“I’m disappointed Cricket Australia has brought this in,” Kearney told the ABC.
“It has been pretty stressful. In my personal opinion, I actually think they’re a little bit threatened by AFL.”
Kearney added that she would be more than willing to sign such an agreement if Cricket Australia were offering full-time contracts – or if the players were paid more.
“I think if we were able to do this full time, I think they’ve got every right to then say no you can’t do it,” she said.
Kearney, who is also a teacher, is one of four cricketers to try their hand at the new AFL Women’s league, with Kirsty Lamb (Victoria/Western Bulldogs) and Australian players Jess Cameron (Collingwood) and Delissa Kimmince (Brisbane Lions) all signing up.
They are not the only code-hoppers, with Brianna Davey – who has played soccer for Australia – set to represent Carlton, while Jenna McCormick and Ellie Brush – who have both played W-League soccer – have signed for Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney respectively.
Kim Mickle, who represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the javelin and is a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, will play for Fremantle, and basketballers Erin Phillips (Adelaide) and Jess Bibby (Greater Western Sydney) have also made the move.
The stream of moves has other sports worried about the women’s AFL league, according to Maurice Blackburn employment law associate Kelly Thomas.
“They [cricket] probably are threatened by that potential growth,” Ms Thomas told The New Daily.
“I don’t think this would be an issue, though, if they could make cricket full-time or offer jobs on a decent wage.
“It’s difficult to comment specifically without seeing the document … but it does seem pretty reasonable or unfair [that cricketers are asked to sign that form].”
Ms Thomas said she can understand why cricketers are annoyed, given the many differences between the two sports.
“If this was someone working at Coles in strategic areas, with an insight on how things work, they might not be able to go and work for Woolworths,” she said.
“But cricket and AFL are completely different and this seems pretty unreasonable given, from what I can tell, Cricket Australia aren’t paying them very much.
“These women are working in burgeoning areas that the public love.”
Earlier this summer, Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland said his sport was in no way threatened by the AFL.
“Cricket is Australia’s national sport and we’ve got a great history of representation in the game, and what else could you want as an aspiring girl than to represent your country,” he said.
“Why would I be worried about the AFL?”
No code wars on the cards: Perry
Ellyse Perry hasn’t been asked to try her hand at AFL yet, but you would not rule it out given her stunning sporting career.
Perry, who is one of the stars of Australia’s women’s cricket team, also represented her country at a soccer World Cup. Speaking in October, she welcomed the arrival of the AFL Women’s competition.
“It’s wonderful for them [footballers],” she said.
“It just gives them more exposure to elite sport. I’m sure they’ll [cricketers playing women’s AFL] bring things back to cricket from their experiences with AFL and vice versa.
“There’s a real collaboration aspect to it as well. It just makes better athletes.
“There’s a number of positives to the amount of opportunity female athletes are getting in Australia now … and the amount of support they’re getting from sporting organisations.
“Whether it’s Cricket Australia, the women’s AFL, rugby, tennis, netball, soccer – there’s so much of it now and I think the crux of it is it’s about providing opportunity to females to play their chosen sports.”