The Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars
Interviews and article by Myak Homberger
The Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars (Australian Women’s Cricket Team) is a remarkable cricket team. They have won every possible cricketing trophy there is to win, they are currently number 1 in the world rankings, and have what is regarded by the media as some of the best players in the world.
I was keen to understand not only about individual stars in the team, but what set this team apart and allowed them to deliver such remarkable things. So the journey started in Sydney in January and culminated in exclusive behind the scenes access to the team and players throughout their tour of England for the Ashes series, including a photo-shoot.
The first point of contact with any team is the ‘gatekeeper’, who as well as being the face of the team to the media, also portrays the team spirit. From my initial contact and through each e-mail, call and ‘meet up’ we had with the team, they were incredibly enthusiastic and so accommodating. This speaks well of a team that has the same ethos running through the support staff as that which runs through the team itself.
For me, the question was, is this a team that is run like a well-oiled machine full of professionals? Well - yes and no. They are professional and have a great support team, as you would expect from the Australians in anything they put their hand to in sport. However, this is by no means the total depth of the team. There is a mix of layers: there are seasoned players and there are seventeen year old players and there are players who are regarded as being the best in the world in their position - and somehow all of this works and makes the team what it is. There is though, more to the make-up of the team than just that.
Talking with individual players about their journeys, the tour and the team, it very quickly became obvious what their secret ingredient is. They are committed and professional (as we have said) but so is any national team, irrespective of their position in the world rankings. In all of my conversations with the players, everyone in the team had different examples about their connectivity, team dynamic and being part of the team.
They all said things in different ways - but the underlying magic was the same. This is about a group of athletes who acknowledge and respect each other both on and off the field. But what is the key for me, is that they each know what their own role in the team is and what they contribute to the team - but they also know what every other player contributes. So what happens is that there is such an awareness of each player about the next player and what they bring to the team; that when this is added to the respect they have for each other on and off the field, it creates a bond that brings the true meaning of TEAM. However, I discover that there is another dimension below this, once I talk more with the players. It seems that this transcends the assumed ‘respect on and off the field’ understanding that I had. What they actually mean was summed up so well by Ellyse Perry: “whilst we all play Cricket, we have lives outside, working, studying, etc. and we accept each other’s differences and that we all do different things. We are fantastic at acknowledging this.” That is quite a statement, but it rings true with what all the other players were saying. They feel that it’s a massive asset when they run onto the field knowing, accepting and supporting each other on and off the field. This also creates a group of individuals who are extremely grounded and are genuine people without agenda.
This culture is a credit to the team and all those involved - that despite all the wins, trophies, medals, records and world class players, they are focused on each other and ensuring that they do their bit for the team, whilst supporting and recognising the contribution of the player next to them. All this is done despite huge media focus on the team and on some of the individuals in the team. For me this is another example of how the team recognises what different people bring to the team and their needs.
Some players have brought huge media attention to the team by playing remarkable cricket, breaking records and being incredibly young - but this puts pressure on both that individual and the team. However, the team pulls around those players and supports and protects them from the pressure and shields them to allow them to be the people they are meant to be. This in a large part is also down to the support staff who have broad shoulders and care about the players as people - and this is a credit to them too. It would be so easy to let them be over-exposed in order to gain the maximum publicity - but that isn’t their priority: the athletes and the people they are now and are to become are their priority.
So the secret ingredient seems to be not only the acceptance and acknowledgment of the athletes as individuals both on and off the field, but also of the differences in their personal lives outside of cricket, whilst at the same time knowing what each player brings to the team. This has created a connection and a bond that would beat a team full of individual stars. It has been a privilege to listen to and observe the Australian team.
So thanks to the team, the support staff and press team who gave us such access and trusted us to be involved. It was great to hear all the stories and listen to a team with such awareness of each other. I look forward to what the future holds for both the individuals and the team.