Kent Street Senior High School says women’s cricket growth driving state-first girls’ specialist program

Ben SmithThe West Australian
Kent St Snr High School have launched their stand alone women’s cricket program, something they believe is the first of its kind in the country. Pictured - Myah Burt (yr8) , Chloe Ainsworth (yr 11) and Emily Jaobs (yr8) with the players, coaches and principal Daniel Wilkins
Camera IconKent St Snr High School have launched their stand alone women’s cricket program, something they believe is the first of its kind in the country. Pictured - Myah Burt (yr8) , Chloe Ainsworth (yr 11) and Emily Jaobs (yr8) with the players, coaches and principal Daniel Wilkins Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

One of WA’s foremost cricket schools say a surge of interest in the women’s side of the game has helped propel its groundbreaking specialised girls’ program.

Kent Street Senior High School is into year two of it girls-only pathway, which runs concurrently with the boys’ program.

The school are one of just three in the state to offer a WA Cricket-approved specialist cricket programs, alongside John Forrest Secondary College and Belridge Secondary College.

However, the Kensington-based high school is the only one in WA — and it believes the country — to offer its own separate pathway for the next generation of female cricketers.

The public school has produced several high-level cricketers, including three Test players in Marcus Harris, Marcus North and Luke Ronchi, as well as current Western Fury players Piepa Cleary and Zoe Britcliffe.

Previously, local girls aspiring to emulate Elyse Perry and Alyssa Healy had to join in with the boys’ program at Kent Street, but cricket co-ordinator David Aldridge said they now had the numbers for a girls’ class.

“The popularity of the sport (is) just going through the roof, and we noticed Piepa Cleary and her success started to get more girls involved in the game and more girls start to apply for our program,” he said.

Kent St High School has launched a standalone women’s cricket program, something they believe is the first of its kind in the country. Pictured is Chloe Ainsworth (yr 11), Emily Jaobs (yr8), Myah Burt (yr8) and Niamh Coppard (yr7) Daniel Wilkins
Camera IconKent St High School has launched a standalone women’s cricket program, something they believe is the first of its kind in the country. Pictured is Chloe Ainsworth (yr 11), Emily Jaobs (yr8), Myah Burt (yr8) and Niamh Coppard (yr7) Daniel Wilkins Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

“The numbers got to a point where we were like, ‘let’s try and get a girls-only group off the ground.’

“We went from having one in the program across six years, to now 33 through the whole program. Next year, that number will jump again.”

Aldridge said it was important from a developmental perspective to ensure girls had an environment in which they felt comfortable to work on their skills.

“Traditionally, they’d have to go through all the time with the boys and even the talented ones, they stopped batting in Year 10 because the boys get a bit fast.

“If we can produce the first female to play for Australia out of Kent Street, that will be amazing.”

Like the boys’ program, selected students study the game as if it were another subject, which also frees them to play and train for their club sides outside of school, although Aldridge said schoolwork takes priority and teachers would have to sign off students to allow them to train and play.

When she progressed through the ranks at Kent Street, Britcliffe was the only girl in the entire program and while she said playing against the boys helped her improve as a cricketer, the girls-only program was an important step forward

“I’ve been back to the school a few times to meet a couple of the girls classes and talk to them and say how lucky they are,” she said.

Zoe Britcliffe at the under 18's National Championships in Canberra. Photo:  Western Australian Cricket Association
Camera IconZoe Britcliffe, in action at the under 18s National Championships in 2017. Britcliffe attended Kent Street Senior High School as part of their cricket program. Photo: Western Australian Cricket Association Credit: Western Australian Cricket Assoc/Western Australian Cricket Assoc

“As fun as it was being in the boys’ team, being around girls all the time, you’re going to learn a lot more about teammates because you’re more likely to play with them outside of school.

“It wasn’t until I was out of school and playing Premier Cricket all the time that I got into the girls game a bit more.

“So you’ve got that easier transition, but you’ve also got people who understand you a little better and then you can take each other to the next level and be a bit more serious.”

Britcliffe said it was vital for budding female cricketers to feel comfortable in their developmental environment.

“I know girls out there who don’t play because they can’t play with other girls,” she said.

“There were no other girls in my class and the last to graduate any cricket program before me would have been Piepa (Cleary), who was four or five years before me.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails