Two for the team

Adelaide Strikers cricketer Alex Price and partner Claire Tavender prove that maintaining balance off the field is the key to achieving success on it

Photography by Adam Stanley
Words by Sharmonie Cockayne

To be a professional athlete, one needs to be proof of living excellence. Their bodies are kept in peak physical condition, their lifestyle is heavily regulated (they’re role models, after all) and they have the eyes and hopes of the state on them at all times. They not only have to play, they must play to the best of their abilities. Being excellent is a full-time job.

Cricket Australia leads the way in paying their female athletes, with the Australian Women’s Cricket Team becoming the highest paid female sporting team in the country under a new pay deal struck in 2017. The increase for state cricketers in recent years has also been drastic, however, many female state cricketers are still earning what would be considered a part-time wage

Despite South Australia’s women’s team, the Adelaide Strikers, being among the nation’s strongest in the Women’s Big Bash League, many of Australia’s professional female cricketers hold down a job on the side. To be a high-level cricket player and to also earn a part-time wage is a sacrifice, and one that often requires a team effort by ways of a supportive family or partner.

Adelaide Strikers bowler Alex Price and her partner Claire Tavender know this well, but they make it work and they do it with a grace that is both humbling and inspiring.

Alex and Claire, who met while studying the same course at university, both work teaching children with special needs. While Claire works full-time as a special education teacher, Alex balances her sporting career with a teaching career at Warriappendi School working with Aboriginal children with disabilities.

Alex says that while women in sport are no doubt in a position of privilege at the moment, there is still a ways to go. “I would probably be able to live off what I earn from cricket, but it would be skating by. It would be a very part-time wage that I’d be living off, so I would say it’s not a choice. That’s not how I would like to live. I want to be setting myself up for the future as well.”

It is serendipitous, then, how Alex came to her job at Warriappendi School.

“I was at a Strikers fan day, and I started playing with one of the kids who wasn’t in my group – he was just on the outside. He ended up being the son of my coordinator now. He has special needs, and I played with him, and his dad said ‘what do you do?’ We got chatting, and he offered me a job.”

Such an interaction is indicative of Alex’s unmistakeably good nature – she’s a team player, hardworking and kind.

Add post-graduate study into the mix – Alex is currently undertaking a Masters of Special Education – and we start to form the bigger picture of what it takes for a sportswoman to succeed: hard work and sacrifice.

“I work three days a week at school and train in the evenings for club cricket (Sturt Districts). On Thursdays we have a whole day of squad training, and on Fridays I have a full day of individual training. Saturday and Sunday we usually play either one or both of these days, depending on our commitments with City v Country, Big Bash or Scorpions games or even club games when we’re not playing for the state,” Alex says.

It’s a heavy workload no doubt, and when we ask how Claire and Alex make time for each other, they laugh.

“It weirdly revolves around food, because that’s the only time we get to stop and talk,” says Alex.

“Alex will roll in at like 8pm after a full day of teaching and training and she’s knackered, but we still make sure we’re eating together every night,” Claire says.

And then, if they have a spare Saturday morning, they’ll treat themselves to corn fritters at Ergo Café.

But it’s not only in their home life that Claire and Alex support each other.

“I’ve got a student who loves the Strikers,” says Claire, “he’s a die-hard fan.”

“He was my student last year and I absolutely used Alex as bait. I’d get him to write a letter to her, and when I got home I’d get Alex to record a voice message on my phone, something like ‘thanks so much for this letter, you’re working really hard at school.’ He’d be like ‘that’s amazing! I’m going to write more letters!’ and that’s how I got him writing,” Claire said.

That child’s interest alone is proof of the rising appreciation for women’s cricket, and also women’s sport in general. And now, with almost half of the WBBL season now being broadcast on television (the rest are live-streamed on cricket.com.au and Kayo Sports), not only are 30 per cent of pathways participants now girls, but the culture of the sport itself is changing dramatically.

“People didn’t even know that cricket was a sport that girls played when I was younger,” says Alex. “There were really big players playing when I was young, like Shelley Nitschke and Karen Rolton, and no one even knew about it.”

“I remember being at school and pretty much being laughed at because it was like ‘girls don’t play cricket’. Even ‘girls don’t play football’. Since the Big Bash has come in, there’s been a lot more people noticing and caring about it,” Alex says.

It’s evident then: when women come together, great things are possible, as is the case of Claire and Alex. Their teamwork in their own lives allows for Alex’s sporting career to flourish, which is not only helping build the immediate rise of women’s cricket in South Australia, but also, and most importantly, helping pave the way for generations to come. In short: they’re excellent. All the time.

Adelaide Strikers
www.adelaidestrikers.com.au

WARDROBE CREDITS
Alex: Florence dress, $249.95, Significant Other; Zoe sandals, $99.95, Tony Bianco
Claire: Voyager dress, $279.95, Significant Other; and Raven slides, $99.95, Tony Bianco