5 March 2021

Olivia Thornton’s appointment as Cricket ACT’s first female CEO has been years in the making

| Tim Gavel
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Olivia Thornton

The new CEO of Cricket ACT, Olivia Thornton. Photo: Supplied.

Growing up on a citrus and stone fruit farm on the Hawkesbury River, cricket played an important role in Olivia Thornton’s early life.

She distinctly remembers her primary school days when sport was gender-neutral: the boys played netball and the girls played cricket.

“Gender really wasn’t a thing,” says Olivia, who developed a love for cricket through these early experiences.

From that moment, cricket has continued to play a recurring role in her life. Olivia’s been a professional player, coach and administrator.

One of those roles was as Cricket ACT’s High Performance Manager – Olivia was the first female in a high-performance role in Australian cricket. Her appointment as the first female CEO in Cricket ACT’s 99-year history, therefore, should come as no surprise.

“It has been a goal, but I didn’t think it would be this quick,” says Olivia. “It has been fast-tracked.”

Thirty-seven-year-old Olivia replaces James Allsopp, who has been appointed Cricket Australia’s head of community cricket.

Says Olivia: “I am proud that we are a sport for all, there are plenty of opportunities for women.”

That observation is reflected in the rise in the number of young women taking up the sport in Canberra.

“Our female participation numbers are well up. There has been a 100 per cent increase in the number of teams; I’m proud of that,” says Olivia.

READ ALSO Louise Bilston steps back from netball after 36 years

A key driver for this movement was the Women’s World Cup Final staged in Australia last year. It attracted 87,000 fans to the MCG and millions more watched on television.

It was a groundbreaking moment for women’s cricket globally, not just in Australia, but the ripple impact has been felt in Canberra.

Given the impact women are playing in cricket, reaction to Olivia’s appointment has been incredibly positive with ACT Cricket praised for its vision.

“I wasn’t surprised,” says Olivia, “but now I have a platform to help other females. While I’m the first female CEO at ACT Cricket, I won’t be the last.”

One of her initial roles will be to negotiate with Cricket Australia for future first-class and international games in Canberra.

And there is plenty of momentum on the back of hosting Big Bash games at Manuka, which effectively rescued the T20 competition.

On the horizon, there are more BBL and WBBL games, and possibly a test against Afghanistan.

Manuka Oval

Manuka could see more BBL and WBBL games and even a possible test match in the future. Photo: Supplied.

And what about considering Canberra as home to their very own BBL and WBBL teams?

“There are a few things we need to have in place when the BBL and WBBL expands.” Not the least being a solid financial base, including corporate support. But technically, that’s not a no.

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