A big run for women’s cricket

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Being able to play for the Australian Women’s Cricket Team is a lifelong dream for Emily Cooksey.

For 14-year-old Emily Cooksey, cricket has been the force that’s powered her through several rounds of surgery for a cleft palate.

During her visits to Westmead Children’s Hospital to see her speech pathologist, Emily was asked to speak about something she is passionate about and spoke about the Australian Women’s Cricket Team nonstop.

And in November 2017, Emily was given the chance to meet and play with the women’s Ashes team.

Emily’s story is part of Cricket Australia’s Community Champions Campaign, a newly launched initiative that hopes to highlight grassroots stories around Australia, where individuals are using cricket in a positive and inspiring way.

In Australia, one in 800 children are born with an oral-facial cleft, a birth defect that sees 20 per cent of children requiring speech therapy.

Emily’s mum Janet said cricket has not only given her the opportunity to connect with others, it’s also boosted her confidence when speaking.

“Emily is an only child so mixing with another group of girls who are the same age as her has certainly improved her confidence.”

“As a leg spinner, she is required to instruct the fielders where she wants them to go, so she’s had to learn how to speak up.”

Janet isn’t one to shy away from the subject of Emily’s rocky start to life, and says the resilience she has developed throughout her life has contributed to her love of cricket.

“Emily has had a rockier start to life as she’s experienced a few hearing and speech problems, and has already undergone surgery a few times; just recently she was told that she needs to have more plastic surgery.”

“But children with cleft palates are strong and she’s had to learn how to be resilient and sturdy right from birth. It’s a fantastic attribute to have when it comes to playing cricket, because cricket is not an easy sport,” she said.

Emily’s favourite thing about cricket is that the mental side of the sport trumps the physical aspect.

“Cricket is really fun because you have to use your brain to be tactical and to get the opposition out, or to get a run.”

When training with the Women’s Ashes team recently, Emily said she was inspired by the amount of work they put in.

“Now that I am at the stage where I understand cricket a lot more than when I first started, it’s great to meet women who are really inspiring to us all and who worked really hard to achieve what they have.

Emily’s advice for anyone else with a cleft palate is it should never stop you from doing what you love.

“A cleft palate is pretty minor on the scale of things and it doesn’t necessarily stop you, it might just affect your speech and hearing.”

And as Emily’s mum says, it makes for very sturdy and resilient children.