Lorna Thomas MBE was one of the pioneers of Cricket in Australia both as a player and in her various management roles, as well as being regarded as one of the forerunners who has made the Cricket landscape for women the one it is today.
Lorna was born in 1917 and began playing cricket at the age of eleven before joining her district club Annandale. A medium-paced bowler and a hard-hitting opening bat, she represented New South Wales (NSW) from 1937. She played against New Zealand in 1946-47 and against England in 1948-49, retiring from the game in the late 1950s. However Lorna couldn’t stay out of the game and in 1960 she took up team management, going on to manage five international teams including
four overseas tours. She was affectionately known as ‘Auntie Lorna’ to many of the players because of her caring and
compassionate nature. Due to her strong role as Team Manager through the 1960s, Lorna Thomas was regarded as a pioneer of women’s cricket and led the national team through a period of significant societal change which paved the way for today’s elite players.
The 1963 ‘tourists’ were pioneers for women’s cricket under the leadership of Mary Loy (neé Allitt) and manager Lorna Thomas. This was the first tour of England by a female team in twelve years. This team was also the first women’s side (either Australian or English) to be invited by the committee of the MCC to dine with committee members in the famous ‘Long Room’ at Lord’s. Lorna was also one of
the first women admitted to membership of the MCC. The history-making tour attracted plenty of media attention and the team were tagged ‘Glamour Girls’ by the UK’s press.
The tour proved ground-breaking for many reasons and they can take credit for many of the developments witnessed in the women’s game in the last few decades.
In addition, Lorna managed the 1973 and 1976 teams to England and the West Indies as well as the Australian team which met New Zealand in Melbourne in 1972. She was also team manager in 1973 when Australia played in the inaugural Women’s World Cup in England. In the role of manager she always paid her own way.
Boasting a cricket-playing career of over half a century Lorna was major force in women’s cricket for more than seventy years. In 1978 she retired from her position as manager of the NSW and Australian teams, before being awarded an MBE for services to cricket and was made a life member of Women’s Cricket Australia.
The annual Cricket NSW Women’s City vs Country series is named in honour of Lorna Thomas.
On the 17th of September 2014 Lorna Thomas MBE, passed away at the age of 96. Cricket Australia Chief Executive Office James Sutherland summed it up best when he said: “Lorna was a great contributor to cricket in Australia as a player and administrator. She holds a significant place in the history of women’s cricket and was well respected on and off the field. Through her various roles within cricket Lorna worked tirelessly to increase the profile of the sport and her legacy is evident not only in the professionalism of women’s cricket in Australia today but also in the number of girls and women playing cricket.”
We have nothing but admiration and respect for Lorna Thomas and all she did in the pursuit of Women’s Cricket around the world, recognising the price she must have paid, and the struggle and obstacles she must have had to overcome to achieve what she did. Lorna Thomas is a great benchmark for our series on pioneers of women’s sport and a worthy first member.