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The Women's Sports Alliance


Bryony Smith – ‘Game-Changing’ Contracts, The Hundred and Leaving a Legacy

“The Hundred has been amazing for the women’s game,” cricketer Bryony Smith tells the WSA. “The real aim was to be equal with men, but sometimes we get bigger crowds than the men now!”

Image credit: Getty Images / Surrey Cricket Club

Surrey, Trent Rockets, Welsh Fire, South East Stars – oh and not to forget England – a selection of the sides who have benefitted from Bryony Smith’s big-hitting and off-spinning all-rounder skills over the last four years.

The cricketer is fully aware that while she has talent to back-up the hard-graft she has put into the sport, she is also living in an “incredibly exciting” era for the sport.

For women, there are now prospects within the game which previous generations could only have dreamed about and Bryony is seizing her opportunities with both hands – with a bat in one and ball in the other.

“Cricket is a really unique sport because when you think about it you probably you fail more than you sort of succeed really,” muses the 26-year-old.

“But it’s that challenge which makes it so exciting and there really are so many possibilities to progress in the sport on the women’s side right now.”

‘I knew I didn’t want to go to university’

Image credit: Getty Images / Surrey Cricket Club

Her introduction to the sport came via her father and older brother who played themselves and Bryony quickly learned it was a case of “either join in or be bored on the side-lines.”

By her own admission Bryony was “not a fan of education” and had no intention of continuing her studies at college or university, but despite a passion for cricket there seemed few prospects for her in the sport outside of further education.

The introduction of the first professional cricket contracts for women in 2014, during her later years in high school, Bryony now refers to as a “massive, game-changing” moment.

“I knew I didn't want to go to university and I know a lot of people before (in previous generations) just went because they didn't really know what else to do, but now we had options,” she tells the WSA.

Bryony made her County Championship debut for Surrey that year, at the age of 16, and began to excel in all formats of the game, which led to an England T20 call-up and appearance in March 2018.

Image credit: Getty Images / Surrey Cricket Club

Her progress was truly rewarded in early the following year when she attained an ECB (England and Wales Cricket) ‘rookie’ contract and she made her ODI (one-day international) debut in June 2019, a moment she refers to as the “proudest” of her career.

“Although I’d made my T20 debut the year before in India, the ODI was at home so my family managed to get a day off work, come over and watch,” she recalls.

“Being able to share it and have them in the changing room after the game was really special.”

While the Covid-19 pandemic and some challenges with form have seen her stay “on the fringes” of England selection over the last couple of years, Bryony insists it’s “definitely a big target” to “get back into the setup.”

“I’m still motivated to get the England shirt back on and fortunately I was able to in the T20 last summer, but hopefully more will come soon.”

More tournaments and more opportunities

Image credit: Getty Images / Surrey Cricket Club

That opportunity in 2022 came via the Commonwealth Games where women’s cricket made its debut at the multi-sport event.

“I think it was massive and it showed just how much women's cricket has progressed because it’s getting the recognition it deserves,” states Bryony.

“I still think about that opening ceremony because it was such a weird experience being surrounded by all these different athletes, when we’re used to our little cricket bubble, but it was such a big step-forwards.”

That optimism extends beyond the super-elite level of the sport though, with Bryony delighted by the options now available to female players which mean even those not currently part of an international setup can earn a full-time living from the sport.

“There’s more stability for people, because back when I had my England contract for a couple of years I knew if I lost that there was nothing below,” Bryony recalls.

“There are loads of different opportunities coming up, like the Women’s Premier League over in India and talk of a Pakistan league as well.

“Plus, there’s also contracts at regional level, so you can have a professional career event if you’re not part of international cricket which definitely makes it a lot easier for younger players to progress.

“You can also play for 10-11 months of the year around the world, rather than be stuck just in England in the cold indoor schools for six months waiting for the English summer.”

‘The Hundred – a bigger deal than anyone predicted’

Image credit: Trent Rockets / bryonysmith97

Although domestic-based Bryony is particularly enthusiastic about The Hundred competition in the UK which launched in 2021 with eight women’s and eight men’s teams, or franchises.

The London-born cricketer was signed to Welsh Fire for the inaugural competition before turning out for Trent Rockets in 2022; and being retained by the Nottingham-based side for third edition of the 100-ball tournament.

“A lot of people didn't really know what to expect and the players themselves I didn't really know how much you know how big of a deal it really was going to be,” she admits.

“The real aim of it was to be equal with the men and I think that's what they've done really well with the doubleheaders and the atmosphere is amazing!

“Obviously, it’s not equal pay yet, but I'm sure it will get better over the next couple of years and we are being treated equally in terms of hotel accommodation and travel which is something we’ve not had before so that’s a real sort of step in the right direction.”

Leaving a legacy for girls and young women

Bryony believes her responsibilities extend beyond what she can produce with the bat and ball, which is reflected in her behaviour before as well as after matches.

“We want those watching to be able to see that we're just normal people as well, not just athletes, but decent people they can see are like them,” Bryony explains.

“We make a big thing after all our games to go and speak to as many people as possible and sign as many things as we can, which hopefully makes us more ‘real’ and relatable.

“Cricket is such a unique sport in terms of you're surrounded by and living with others who can be your best mates and you meet some pretty special people along the way.

“I hope by seeing us enjoy the sport and being open it will make them (young fans) want to take up the sport as well.”

Image credit: Getty Images / Surrey Cricket Club


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