The dawn of a new era: How the Twenty20 World Cup final raised the benchmark for women's sport

Beth Mooney (left) and Alyssa Healy were at the centre of history in the T20 World Cup final. Picture: Getty Images
Beth Mooney (left) and Alyssa Healy were at the centre of history in the T20 World Cup final. Picture: Getty Images

Beth Mooney could feel her heart beating out of her chest as she walked out to bat at the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final.

To hear the roar of 86,174 people packed inside Melbourne Cricket Ground is one thing, but to feel it is another.

Oddly, it was only when she was standing by the stumps with nothing much to do that it hit her. History was in the making and she was right in the thick of it.

"I was going out to bat with Midge [Alyssa Healy] and thought 'this is amazing, we're opening in front of 80,000-odd people.' But when I was facing up to bat I didn't really notice it," Mooney said.

"It was only until we were near the end, Midge was teeing off and hitting bombs that I thought, 'wow, this is really loud.'

"I don't know how to describe it other than when you hear a loud noise, you just think it's loud. But when you can actually feel in your body how loud it was, that's incredible. It exacerbated all the things I was feeling."

Nearly 90,000 fans packed the MCG for the final. Picture: Getty Images

Nearly 90,000 fans packed the MCG for the final. Picture: Getty Images

The record-setting T20 World Cup final between Australia and India has propelled women's sport into a new era both domestically and globally.

It recorded the highest attendance for a women's sports match in Australia and second highest globally, but its impact goes beyond crowd numbers.

It reached an average audience of 1.2 million people in Australia and 9.02 million people in India, where 1.78 billion viewing minutes was recorded of the game alone.

Then add Katy Perry and hosting the match on International Women's Day to the overall picture. Its success even proved sceptics on the Australian team wrong.

"We knew it was going to be a pretty big crowd which none of us had thought initially," Mooney said.

"Belinda Clark sat us down just before the Ashes in 2017 and said 'we've won the rights to host the World Cup, we're going to start a new era of the women's game and sell it on its own.

"'We're going to play the final at the MCG on International Women's Day.'

"A lot of us sceptics came out of that meeting and thought 'jeez, if you don't half fill it, it's going to look pretty bad.'

"Why not go for something like Adelaide Oval or Sydney Cricket Ground, where you have 50,000 capacity so if you don't quite make it, it still looks pretty full?

"But the world is very different now. The Australian public has really gotten behind the Women's Big Bash League and Australian team.

"There's more of a presence of our group and that's probably helped with having the World Cup on home soil, then being able to achieve that goal of trying to fill it."

Katy Perry and Sophie Molineux party after the final. Picture: Getty Images

Katy Perry and Sophie Molineux party after the final. Picture: Getty Images

Clark's announcement coincided with Cricket Australia's landmark revenue sharing deal which included female players for the first time.

It was lauded as the biggest pay rise in the history of women's sport in the country, paving the way for female cricketers to become full-time professional athletes.

Australia has since claimed a home and away Ashes series and two T20 World Cup titles.

Former Australian captain and now sports broadcaster, Lisa Sthalekar, says although there has always been a strong platform of women's cricket in Australia, the wheels truly began to turn once it was given the platform to be showcased.

"It shows when national sporting bodies chose to invest heavily in the women's game - which let's be honest, has been lacking in this country for over one hundred years - it's amazing how quickly you can catch up to where the men's game is from an eye-ball and broadcast quality perspective," Sthalekar said.

"Allowing our players to become fully professional meant they had more time to dedicate to the game. When you train more, recover at better times, and have a proper weekly schedule, it allows you to improve your skills.

"That transfers onto the field and we're able to see the skill level these players have, which excites the general public."

Jess Jonassen is mobbed after taking a wicket against India in the final. Picture: Getty Images

Jess Jonassen is mobbed after taking a wicket against India in the final. Picture: Getty Images

The World Cup final was the pinnacle of the movement which has happened thus far in the women's game. It's raised the benchmark for not only women's sporting events in Australia, but the world.

Now the country eagerly awaits the outcome of Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football's historic joint bid for the 2023 FIFA World Cup.

"We have world class facilities and have infrastructure to hold these big events," Sthalekar said.

"The T20 World Cup was a prime example of how Australians get behind women's sport. We've been one of the countries that has led the way in how we see our female athletes.

"If we got the 2023 World Cup that would be massive for this country and football in this country. Again, it's showcasing and bringing so many tourists to Australia."

This story How the T20 World Cup final raised the benchmark for women's sport first appeared on The Canberra Times.