Determined to promote equality on and off the field, the Northern Districts women’s and men’s cricket teams now share a Brave new name and are celebrating pride in the Super Smash.
The weather forecast predicts potential showers on Friday, but one thing’s for sure – we’ll see plenty of rainbows in Hamilton.
Seddon Park, the family-friendly cricket ground with its lush grassy banks, will play host to the Pride Round of the Super Smash today – a double-header between the women’s and men’s teams from Northern Districts and Auckland.
It’s not just about gay pride either. Pride Round is all about promoting equality in cricket, in keeping with New Zealand Cricket’s theme of the sport being “a game for all New Zealanders”.
And it’s fitting Northern Districts will host the matches for a second season running. The concept behind Pride Round links in perfectly with the teams’ new identity.
From now on, both the men’s and women’s teams will be known as the Northern Brave, a decision in the works since 2017. The Spirit and the Knights are now united as the Brave – the first major association in the country to have women’s and men’s teams playing under the same name.
“We’re going through that journey so little boys and girls can look at our teams and aspire to be what they see,” says Northern Districts CEO, Ben MacCormack.
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Brave, with many of their players stranded in Auckland’s lockdown – captain Brooke Halliday among them. With the borders now open, Halliday is one of four players who return to the side for the Pride Round.
Kate Anderson, who’s stood in as the Northern Brave captain, was part of the inaugural Pride Round match in January. It was, she says, an “awesome experience”.
It gave female cricketers the chance to play under lights for the first time, swapping the match order so the men played in the afternoon and the women received the prime-time slot.
Anderson says the round was evidence of the association’s commitment to always push for better opportunities for their women’s team. “It showed that it wasn’t just lip service in terms of equality,” she says.
Cricket has always been an accepting game for Anderson, now 25, who played through high school and was part of the White Ferns squad this year.
“I think cricket – and especially women’s cricket – has really led the way in terms of that,” she says. “I’ve never felt not accepted or that I can’t bring myself to cricket, which has been awesome.
“It’s made it quite a comforting, safe environment for me to play in and I hope that’s something young girls and boys actually can see.”
While captaining the Brave, Anderson’s key to fostering a supportive environment as leader was simply to enjoy the game.
“If people are having fun, they’re probably bringing themselves forward, and I think that’s really important that people don’t shy away from who they are,” she says.
“People are bringing their true selves to cricket, to trainings and to the games and I think that’s also how you get the best out of them when they’re comfortable in the environment.”
While Pride Round celebrates New Zealand’s rainbow community, it’s also a chance for everyone to be celebrated for their identity.
“It’s not just gay pride, it’s including everyone and making sure everyone has a place where they can feel comfortable and feel like they can be themselves,” says Anderson.
“Even just in our team, there are people from all over the country and all over the world, really,” she says. There’s a diversity in age, too – the women’s team ranging from 15 to 36.
With big names like Tim Southee and Mitchell Santner in the men’s team sporting rainbow bat grips and shoelaces at Seddon Park as part of the last Pride Round, Northern Districts promise this season will be even more colourful.
Players from both the men’s and women’s Brave teams were involved in the decision-making process and their feedback shaped this season’s event.
Along with the bat grips and shoelaces, the Brave are incorporating the rainbow in the logo on their hats, an easy way for every player to show their support.
It will also be the first game of the season for the Auckland Hearts and Aces, finally free to travel and play cricket after being in lockdown with travel restrictions since August.
After a successful event last season, the Aucklanders were eager to be a part of Pride Round again – a chance to showcase the sport’s acceptance for all.
“It’s just showing that young people, no matter who they are or how they identify, if they’re watching, they can see people either similar to them or supporting them,” says Anderson.
The decision to host Pride Round and the Brave name change aligns with Northern Districts’ reputation as a progressive association.
“That’s been something we’ve really worked hard on over the last couple of years to bring our men’s and women’s brands together,” MacCormack says.
He recalls a moment a few months ago where his four-year-old daughter summed up their new name perfectly.
“We were at a Super Smash training hub and there was an 18 or 19-year-old girl and boy, both in polo shirts that were taking the session and she said to me ‘Look Daddy, there’s a Brave boy and a Brave girl; they’re the same’,” he says.
A dad of four, MacCormack’s passion for portraying cricket as a sport for all is evident. “Having that one brand allows for that, where a boy and a girl can stand there and watch men’s or women’s cricket and say ‘I can be that, I can aspire to wear those colours’,” he says.
With a home Cricket World Cup starting in March of 2022, initiatives like Pride Round and free childcare at the World Cup games are proof of how women’s cricket is leading the way to make the sport a game for everyone.
Anderson sums it up perfectly.
“It’s where people can come together and be treated as equals. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you do…everyone just comes together for a common goal of playing cricket and having some fun.”