Leading Australian cricket star Ash Gardner believes women's sport will thrive even further if they bring their male counterparts along for the ride rather than engage in an 'Us v Them' battle for funding. Female sport in Australia has never had as high a profile as it does right now thanks to the exploits of the Matildas at the World Cup and all-rounder Gardner, who has been part of three World Cup-winning Australian cricket sides, is urging other sports to hop on the wave.
She pointed out there is a long way to go before female athletes enjoy full parity with males – highlighted by the Wallaroos' fight with Rugby Australia over financial support – but wants the codes to take a united front to bring about change. "There's obviously always going to be those inequalities in sport and unfortunately, as female athletes, that sometimes is the way," Gardner told Yahoo Sport Australia.
"But you have to understand a lot of the time the men do bring in a lot of the revenue and it's being able to understand that and also appreciate the work they do as well. I think as female athletes we need to leverage off what they do.
"We need their support as much as the fans because ultimately that's going to grow our game and that's going to get more investment and sponsors involved as well. I think nowadays people are actually understanding that women's sport is either better or just as good as what our male counterparts are doing.
"I know a lot of people that I talk to prefer watching women's sport, which is super cool, because it shows that we're doing something right."
Cricket needs to follow suit after Matildas success
Gardner admitted to feeling a touch envious of the attention afforded the Matildas over the past month and hopes cricket authorities were watching closely. She said: "You look back to 2020 when we had a home (T20) World Cup and 86,000 people at the MCG for the final, which is a record crowd to watch a female game in Australia.
"Cricket has paved and led the way in many respects and what the Matildas have done at an international level for sport in general has been fantastic. Hopefully Cricket Australia has looked at what they did from a marketing point of view and they can market our summers from here on in really well.
"I think the Matildas have pushed that envelope out and cricket needs to follow suit and get us back to playing top tier stadiums where we can have 50,000 people watching us. They've laid the platform for us to leverage off and hopefully the right people have been watching and they can take some things from it."
Gardner was at Sydney's Manly Beach on Wednesday to help promote the Barefoot Beach Cricket program. It's part of a push to promote the benefits of playing cricket and help drive registrations for all formats of the game.
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