Introducing the Hawks – Havant CC’s brand new all-girls section
Havant Cricket Club are taking the ‘obvious next step’ in setting up a girls section as they aim to capitalise on the surge of interest in the female game.
The club have produced a handful of talented women players in recent years.
Charlie Dean and Emily Windsor helped the Southern Vipers to victory in last summer’s inaugural Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final.
Both players had been ever present when Hampshire topped Division 1 of the Royal London Cup tournament in 2018.
In 2016 Dean captained Hampshire’s Under-15s to victory in the Royal London County Cup final, and the following year bagged five wickets on her debut for the Portsmouth Grammar School boys 1st XI.
Another ever present in Hampshire’s table-topping Royal London Cup team was Danielle Ransley, who has played for Havant for many years in competitive men’s games.
Like Windsor, she has appeared for the club in 1st XI matches in the Southern Premier League’s top flight.
Ransley has also played for Hampshire side Hursley Park in the Premier Division of the Women’s Southern League - taking 5-7 against Ickenham in 2019, the year Hursley won the title.
Rhiannon Griffiths and Manon Melville are two other Havant girls that have played for Hampshire at youth level.
The new Havant girls section - headed up by Tom Davies, the newly-appointed Director of Women’s Cricket - will be known as the Hawks. They will have their own bespoke kit and training hoodies emblazoned with a Hawks badge.
Davies has a personal interest in making the girls section a success as his daughter Imogen, 11, is among Havant’s current junior players.
He wants to create a ‘better experience’ for the girls, giving the squad their own identity and ‘community’.
‘I’ve obviously taken an interest in how Imogen gets on and I know there’s things she enjoys and things she’s not sure about,’ said Davies.
‘She enjoys the social aspect, seeing her friends, and she enjoys the game.
‘But she’s not sure about playing with a hard ball or about playing in a team of boys.
‘We want to make the whole experience better for the girls.
‘We want them to have their own team, their own kit, their own changing room - rather than two girls in one changing room before a game and eight boys in another changing room.
‘That’s the way forward.
‘My daughter also plays hockey for Havant and I have seen how that’s grown, and how the girls react with each other through good coaching. I want Havant (Hawks) to do the same.
‘Myself and Graham Burns (Havant CC chairman) came up with the name. I know Havant & Waterlooville Football Club are known as the Hawks and the name seemed to roll off the tongue.
‘We didn’t want to call it Havant Cricket Club girls team, that sounds a bit flat.
‘The girls will have their own team, the Hawks, and they will have their own bespoke, coloured kit with a Hawk on it.
‘Before the girls might have had to play in the boys’ kit which might have been a bit ill-fitting.
‘Now they will be all together in their own little community.’
Hampshire-based female teams have done well in recent years.
In addition to the successes already mentioned, the Southern Vipers won the Kia Women’s Super League in 2016 and were also twice beaten finalists in the T20 tournament.
Portsmouth-born Windsor - who first played for Hampshire when she was nine - also captained Hursley Park when they won the Kia Summer Smash, a T10 women’s competition, in 2019.
This summer, the Southern Brave women’s team will be playing all their home games in The Hundred at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl, creating double headers with the men’s matches.
With the Vipers also playing 20-over and 50-over competitions in 2021, there should, therefore, be numerous options for girls in southern Hampshire to go and watch some quality women’s cricket.
‘We felt we had to do this this summer,’ said Davies on Havant deciding to set up a girls section.
‘We didn’t want to get left behind. We’ve got around 20 girls at the club and we felt if we didn’t do it they could leave and join another club offering what we are going to offer.
‘We want to be the ‘go-to’ club in the area for girls cricket.
‘There are clubs who say they offer girls cricket - we have said that in the past - but that’s girls playing in a boys team where they will be in the minority.
‘We will be offering the chance to play in a girls team.’
Davies added: ‘This year it would be brilliant to do two things.
‘One, for a Havant Hawks team to play a match against another all-girls team.
‘Two, to see if we can arrange a girls tournament at Havant in August with eight-over soft ball matches.
‘It won’t be about elite cricket, it will just be about getting girls to play cricket.
‘If a team turned up with someone who’s six years old and someone who was 13, that would be fine.
‘They are our goals for this year.’
Havant CC stalwart Pete Hopson has coached many of the female players previously mentioned.
Now club vice chairman - though he still remains a player - Hopson said of creating a girls set-up: ‘This is the obvious step to take.
‘Over the last five-ten years we have had some talented girls come through, and we still have some at the club.
‘But all of them have played boys cricket - we’ve never had an official girls set-up, we’ve never had a girls team.
‘I’m sure there’s the demand for it.
‘I’m a teacher at Rowlands Castle and I see a lot of girls wanting to play cricket, and it’s really important as a club that we can offer it.’
Longer-term, Hopson would like to see a Havant team competing in the Hampshire Women’s League, a three-division structure.
‘It’s something we would look to do in the future if we can build a big enough base,’ he said.
Havant are not alone among south Hampshire clubs in setting up a girls section.
Emma Cowdrill - the Hampshire Women & Girls Development Officer - revealed that Portsmouth, Portsmouth & Southsea, Fareham & Crofton and Hambledon are all aiming to do something similar in 2021.
Regarding female cricket in the county, Cowdrill said: ‘It has massively grown - we have 31 soft ball teams and 21 hard ball teams.
‘Women’s and girls cricket has been a priority in Hampshire for a number of years
‘The north and central areas (of the county) are strong. There’s a girls only league in the north with four age groups and a girls only league in the central with three age groups.
‘It’s fantastic that girls have so many opportunities - be it soft ball, mixed, hard ball - in what is a traditionally a male-dominated sport. It’s a catch up situation for us.
‘We are trying to encourage more clubs in the south east and New Forest areas, and I’d love to think we could have a girls only league in the south one day.’
Cowdrill added: ‘It’s important to have a strong set-up at the bottom. If you start with an under-16 team and they all go on to play women’s cricket there’s nothing coming through.
‘That’s what we’re trying to encourage clubs to do.’
Cowdrill said women’s cricket can benefit from England’s World Cup victory in 2017 for years to come.
‘It was amazing to take around 80 girls and women (from Hampshire) to Lord’s for the final. To see Lord’s full was great,’ she recalled.
‘The opportunities now are great, but we are not there yet - we are still a long way off the men’s game.
‘It’s not a prerequisite for the girls to take it all the way, they can just play for fun, as a hobby.
‘If they want to take it all the way the girls have role models now, like Katie George who plays for Hampshire and has played for England.
‘We can take those role models into the clubs.
‘Girls don’t want to see male coaches or someone like me, they want to see women who are playing cricket and doing well.
‘We are a strong county - we have the Southern Vipers, the Southern Brave. It’s going to be fantastic to see the Brave play - the Ageas Bowl is a fantastic venue and girls can come and see their heroes play.’