Australia

As Australian Test stars benefit from Cricket Australia’s paternity leave, a former international remembers how it used to be

After missing the historic Test against India on the Gold Coast because of a hamstring injury, Australian vice-captain Rachael Haynes posted on social media that she was focused on a “silver lining”.

According to coach Matthew Mott, the absent Haynes was devastated to miss the rare chance to play in a women’s Test, the first against India in 15 years.

As fate would have it, however, Haynes’s absence meant she was able to be with partner Leah Poulton as she gave birth to the pair’s son, Hugo.

Haynes was not the only star Australian player on the sidelines for family reasons.

Fast bowler Megan Schutt was by her partner Jess’s side caring for their prematurely born baby Rylee.

It is a situation both cricketers told News Corp earlier this year was made possible by Cricket Australia’s groundbreaking parental leave policy, which was released in 2019.

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The policy — which saw paternity leave introduced to Australian cricket for the first time — allows a player whose partner is pregnant or adopting to take three weeks of paid leave, any time within 12 months of the child’s birth or adoption.

It also allows players who give birth or adopt to take up to 12 months of paid parental leave and encourages them to return to the field, covering associated costs such as accommodation and flights for their child and a carer for up to four years.

Elliott’s ‘exhausting’ experience

As former Australian cricketer Sarah Elliott recounted on Grandstand’s coverage of the Australia-India Test, the policy marks a stark shift from the conditions faced by women cricketers in previous years.

In 2013 — as part of the Ashes series — Elliott became the first mother to tour as a member of the Australian women’s cricket team.

Remarkably, she also scored her maiden Test century while breastfeeding her nine-month-old child, Sam.

“It was an experience, that’s for sure,” Elliott said during ABC Sport’s commentary.

“There was lots of breastfeeding and using the [breast] pump. So any break [or] change of innings that we got the opportunity, I’d be in the change rooms expressing milk.”

Elliott recalled finishing one day of the Test match stuck on 96 runs, before having to return home for caring responsibilities and limited sleep.

“I had to do the duties of feeding three to four times that night and then get back up,” she said.

“I must say that I made that 100 and I think I went out four or five runs later. I was so exhausted, I think I dragged myself off the field.”

Sarah Elliott and son Sam
Sarah Elliott with her son Sam during the 2013 Ashes tour.(

Supplied: Melinda Farrell

)

Ironically — while describing the experience as “exhausting” — Elliott said having a child on tour precipitated some of her “best cricket”.

“Sam didn’t sleep well, but I think it helped me because I had a different focus … I didn’t have the time to live in my own head or think about cricket,” she said.

Nonetheless, Elliott — who was involved in consultations for the current policy — said she was happy to see current players being “looked after” with much greater access to support and flexibility.

That includes star pace bowler Schutt, who was Elliott’s teammate on the 2013 Ashes tour.

“Schutt would tell stories about hearing the breast pump [in the change rooms] — she’ll go on to learn what that’s all about right now,” Elliott joked.


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