New wave of female players step up to the crease

Lani Ryan runs between the wicket during the Cowra Bowling Club's narrow loss to Grenfell in the Sportspower Cup on the weekend. Photo: Ben Rodin
Lani Ryan runs between the wicket during the Cowra Bowling Club's narrow loss to Grenfell in the Sportspower Cup on the weekend. Photo: Ben Rodin

While pathways for Australia’s women’s cricketers have dramatically improved at the top level, as evidenced by Australia’s T20 World Cup win over England last week, opportunities for young regional players to play with other women are sometimes limited.

But it’s a situation that hasn’t stopped Cowra Bowling Club’s Lani Ryan and Antonia Curtale, playing in the second grade Sportspower Cup, from making a significant contribution to the club’s solid start to the season. 

Ryan, a middle-order batter and wicket-keeper, has taken the reins as skipper this year, a steadying influence as her side has overcome a slow-start to be third place after a narrow loss to league leaders Grenfell this weekend at Oliver Oval. 

Meanwhile, Curtale, a pace bowler who has missed the last two seasons with back problems, has produced some strong figures in her return to bowling. 

For both cricketers, their journeys started in the backyard. 

“We used to play a fair bit of frontyard and backyard cricket when I was younger and got into school, and I started playing it there,” Curtale said. 

“From primary school, it’s probably junior cricket, where we played quite a lot, and then from junior cricket, getting chosen to play in one of the B Grade teams, which fortunately for us both, is the Bowling Club,” Ryan added. 

In another twist, both carry some of the more famous names in Cowra cricket. 

Ryan’s father Mark is a renowned former cricketer who now umpires, while Curtale’s older brother Mick is a name that locals hope to see back playing representative cricket soon.

Ryan in particular credits her father for helping to make her a better cricketer.

“He straight away, as soon as I was in the cricket team, helped me improve a lot and kept me in it,” she said. 

While both players have aspirations of one day playing in more women’s tournaments, Ryan has said the Sportspower Cup, with its mix of older veterans and young up-and-comers, is a good learning environment. 

“You get a mixture of experience, you get to learn from some of the older ones but you also see the energy of some of the younger ones, so you learn from both,” she said. 

While Ryan currently juggles playing commitments with the Bowling Club alongside women’s competition on Sunday’s in Sydney as well as mentoring junior players on Saturdays, she does one day hope for a women’s team, if not a competition, in Cowra.

 “You have to travel quite a lot to verse [sic] a lot of women’s teams,” she said. 

“To have something closer in Cowra would be 10 times easier.”