14. MEG LANNING
Australian captain Meg Lanning grew up playing cricket with her sister but it was years before the women’s game was broadcast on television and she realised it could be a career for her. Meg joins host Sam Squiers to discuss becoming captain at 21 years old, feeling like an outsider to her own team and the pressure, and triumph, of the 2020 Women’s World Cup.
Hey, I’m Sports Journalist Sam Squiers, welcome to “On Her Game”.
Meg Lanning is an absolute gun of Australian cricket, she’s the Captain of the Australian Women’s Cricket Team, a position she’s held since she was 21, actually the first team ever skippered was the Australian team. How’s that for pressure? Meg continues to write chapters in the history books and adds to her incredible legacy every time she steps onto the cricket pitch. She holds the record for the most Women’s One Day International Centuries and has seen her team to so much success. Five World Cup wins including this year’s incredible T20 World Cup success in front of a record breaking 86,000 people at the MCG.
We know Meg Lanning as a tough and formidable leader, but we don’t often get to see the other side of Meg Lanning, her teammates call her “Serious Sally”, but Meg has faced challenges in her journey too. Times when she felt alienated and an outsider to her own team. Meg fell in love with sport playing in the backyard with her younger sister Anna.
LANNING: I love the outdoors, playing any sport. Ah, there’s five kids in the, in the family so there was plenty of people to, to play games.
SQUIERS: Five kids, how many boys, how many girls?
LANNING: Yeah, ah three girls, two boys.
SQUIERS: Right, okay cool.
LANNING: Um, so my younger sister Anna, ah, she’s born on the same day, ah, two years, ah, behind so we, we actually sort of played against each other, but yeah I just loved playing sport, watching sport, anything to do with it, I was, I was there and involved.
SQUIERS: Because Anna plays in the, um, WBBL as, as well. Were you two close growing up?
LANNING: Yeah, we were close and we still are, um, obviously she, she plays cricket as well, ah, and we’ve played a lot together, so it’s been really nice to be able to share the journey with her I guess and, ah, see her progress. So, it’s nice to have someone you know in every team, ah, that was always a good thing. So, ah, yeah, it’s been nice to play alongside her and, um, yeah, I’m sure there’s a few more games left in us yet.
SQUIERS: What kind of kid were you? Were you shy, were you out there, were you competitive, what, what kind of kid was Meg Lanning?
LANNING: Yeah, I’ve always been competitive no matter what it is, sport, board games, card games anything like that, I, I always wanted to win (laughs). And, ah, it’s no different now, I think I, I was pretty shy and I still think like even today, I’m still pretty sort of shy (Squiers: mmm), until I sort of really know someone well or feel comfortable I probably don’t give too much away (Squiers: mmm). Ah, so, that’s probably carried on through, through my life, but yeah I just, I’ve, I’ve always been a doer (Squiers: mmm), I just like to get out there and try things and be involved and don’t have to talk to too many people, just want to be active and, and be part of it.
SQUIERS: Have you got any stories about your competitiveness when you were, when you were little?
LANNING: (laughs) Ah, I just remember playing a lot of table tennis with my younger sister Anna, and they would get the, like, the racquets or the, the bats, whatever you call them, would be constantly thrown (laughs) (Squiers: is that right?). Ah, yeah, I think one day we broke the kitchen window, it bounced off something and hit the window and sort of cracked it, so that was the end of that (laughs). Mum wasn’t too, too pleased with that.
SQUIERS: Were you like best of ten, no best of twelve, best of, you kept going until you, you won?
LANNING: Yeah pretty much. It was first to eleven and if I wasn’t winning make it twenty-one (laughs) until I can win, but yeah, ah, Anna was pretty good competition because we’re pretty even with our wins and losses (Squiers: mmm), so it sorts of kept us honest.
SQUIERS: So, um, you played in the backyard with Anna, but how were you introduced to cricket, how did both you and Anna have a love of the game?
LANNING: I think initially it was through our dad, ah, he watched a lot of cricket (Squiers: mmm), he played cricket himself, but he was watching it on TV and we probably just sat beside him and, and watched it as well, so that was probably the first look we got at the game and, and then secondly it was the Summer sport at, at Primary School, so that was what was played at recess and lunch. (laughs) I was the only girl playing at recess and lunch, but it didn’t bother me one bit and I just loved getting out there, and, and playing. So, that was probably the first introduction I had.
SQUIERS: Why weren’t the other girls playing? Why was it just Meg who was out there playing?
LANNING: (laughs) I’m not sure, they weren’t overly sporty I, I guess. Maybe they were a little bit timid, ah, I know for some girls playing in an all-boys team is probably quite intimidating (Squiers: yeah) and, and a barrier to why, to why they do it. But to me I didn’t really mind it, (laughs) it was just being able to play and be active, whoever it was with I didn’t really care.
SQUIERS: Back then did you like that element of surprise? Where they thought, you know, back then that if a girl came in it was going to be an easy out, did you like that element of surprise?
LANNING: (laughs) Yeah, it worked in my favour a little bit I, I would think, um, but. Once they saw I knew I was doing, sort of, um, they sort of quietened down a, a fair bit, I think. And I played in the boys’ team all through High School really (Squiers: mmm) and, ah, I think it helped me because originally I was actually a bowler and, ah, and they didn’t want to get out to the girl (laughs), so they went into their shell a little bit and, and just blocked a few, so it actually worked in my favour.
SQUIERS: Were there any other sports, were you just naturally sporty at all sports, what were your favourites, um, and I also understand that you, you wanted to play hockey for Australia originally?
LANNING: (laughs) That was my original ambition to play at the Olympics, ah, playing hockey (Squiers: mmm), and. I had never played hockey before that was just something, I wanted to do I must have seen it on the TV at one stage. I, I think when I was growing up the Hockeyroos were really successful (Squiers: mmm), the Nikki Hudson era (Squiers: yeah, yeah), ah, so probably played a part.
SQUIERS: You would have seen much cricket, but Hockeyroos we saw everywhere because they were in the Olympics and an Olympics, that’s like every four years, that’s really when you got to see women in sport, wasn’t it?
LANNING: Hmm, yeah that’s right so, you know, and obviously they were successful so they got a bit of airtime as well which was good and yeah for some reason I just remember, you know, hockey as a really cool sport for women (Squiers: mmm)and that’s why I wanted to do it, having never played at it or, you know, looked at how it, it actually happened, but that’s what I wanted to do (laughs). I think the, the lure of the Olympics, um, was probably something that played a part there, I actually had never played it until Year Seven I think that was when I first got it into it. I was playing AFL in the Winter, that was the sport and that was with the boys as well (Squiers: that’s cool). And then we got to, got to the age where it was a little bit rough and, um, and that sort of ended there pretty much.
SQUIERS: At what age did you stop playing AFL?
LANNING: Ah, I would have been Under 12s I think (Squiers: mmm). I played Under 12s and then I finished up there, because there wasn’t really any girls’ teams back then. Hmm, ah, and then once you got to a certain age playing with the boys you couldn’t really keep playing.
SQUIERS: Did you know women played cricket back then when you, when you picked it up?
LANNING: No, I didn’t, I, I only remember watching men’s cricket and that’s why my hero was Ricky Ponting (laughs) growing up because that’s sort of all I saw. Ah, I loved the way he played, ah, yeah, he was sort of the, the person I, I wanted to follow in the footsteps I guess (Squiers: mmm), but I had no idea that there was women cricket out there. I didn’t even know there was sort of a pathway program until a teacher came up to me in Year Five, I think it was and said ‘do you want to trial for the, the regional girls’ cricket team?’ and I was like, ‘oh, okay, I’ll give it, I’ll give it a go’ (laughs). but if he hadn’t come up to me and, and said that I, I probably wouldn’t have, have really started.
SQUIERS: So, you made that regional cricket team, was that when things started getting serious for you with, with cricket?
LANNING: Probably yeah, that was the first real game of cricket I’d played. The captain of my team was actually Ellyse Perry (laughs) (Squiers: oh wow). We, ah, we, yeah, we played a few regional years together, ah (Squiers: cool). So that was, that was cool, she was a, a gun back then so everybody was like (laughs) ‘Ellyse Perry sort of thing’ and I opened the batting with her a couple of times so that was a, a good introduction to I guess to it, ah, so that was the first time I sort of, yeah, really enjoyed the contest I guess and, and playing with other people.
SQUIERS: That was a pretty star-studded team wasn’t it, was it Under 12s State Team, NSW Team, that was a bit of a star-studded team that you all went onto play for Australia together, can you tell me a little bit about that team.
LANNING: Yeah I can, we were, we were pretty good (laughs), we won the National Championships, ah, Alyssa Healy was in the team as well, ah, Sarah Coyte, Ange Reakes, um, and there’s a few others that played State cricket as well, ah, so we had a pretty star-studded line up for, for the first year at least. And then, um, we sort of then linked back up again in the Australian team.
SQUIERS: You said you were a shy kid, and then you had to go play with the boys throughout your, your early on career, you played with the boys in your School’s First XI as well when you were in, in High School. What was that experience like, were the boys welcoming in that, in that team, because it’s not Primary School anymore, these are High School teenage boys, a bit different?
LANNING: (laughs) Initially, um, I think they were a little taken back but, but to be fair I’d, I’d played with the boys from Year Seven (Squiers: mmm), so when I went into the First XI team I’d already been playing with (Squiers: mmm) most of those boys and against the other schools as well, so that wasn’t a new thing in, in the First XI. It was probably in Year Seven and Eight, when, ah, it was sort of a new thing and it hadn’t been really done before that there were a few eyebrows raised I guess (Squiers: mmm).
Ah, but again once I got playing and was able to show that I knew what I was doing (Squiers: mmm), ah, they, they were, yeah, really welcoming and, and, you know, and I went to Carry and all the boys there and the coaches there were great. They, they really, yeah, made me feel like I was involved (Squiers: mmm) and, and part of it and I guess that initial experience made me keep playing through because, you know, I felt like part of the team. And so that was, yeah that was a credit to the, to the school I guess for firstly letting me do it because it hadn’t been done before (Squiers: mmm) and then yeah, to have such a good environment to play in that I wanted to keep going.
SQUIERS: What was it like, do you reflect on that time in playing with the boys, what did that teach you?
LANNING: Well I think it was a really good challenge for me (Squiers: mmm), ah, and it, and it took me out of my comfort zone (Squiers: mmm) a, a fair bit. I certainly had days where I’d questioned whether I wanted to, wanted to go to training (Squiers: mmm) or the game because I, you know, because I felt a little bit comfortable, I guess. But yeah, I think being able to push through that and find ways to deal with that I guess has, has helped me deal with, um, things today. Um, you know, trying new things, trying to push yourself a little bit further and, and things like that probably, ah, came about from, from that sort of part of my life, so yeah I, I look back on it and think it was such a great thing that I did, I think it made a really big impact on where I am now.
SQUIERS: You made your debut for Australia at just the age of eighteen, um, that would have been an incredible, an enormous moment for you, and one where you are essentially still very, very young, can you take us back there what was that moment like?
LANNING: Yeah it was in New Zealand, ah, it was a T20 game I think, and the first game actually got washed out. So, me and Sarah Coyte debuted together (Squiers: mmm) and we were all geared up to play our first T20 game and then it got washed out (laughs) so we had to wait a few more days before we made our debut, ah, so yeah I remember opening the batting actually (Squiers: yeah). I was quite surprised I got picked to be fair, I thought I’d be going on the tour and being the drinks carrier (Squiers: mmm) and just seeing what it’s all about, but I was thrown in straight into it.
SQUIERS: So, you had never had that experience of doing that then?
LANNING: No (Squiers: wow), no I’ve been very lucky (laughs), I’ve been very lucky to, to be playing must of the time. And yeah, I remember opening the batting, hitting a couple of boundaries and then got out for ten or twelve or something like that (Squiers: mmm), so it wasn’t a, an amazing debut but, ah, yeah I think even still it, I sort of, yeah it sort of felt like I, I was able to play at that level (Squiers: mmm). Um, I didn’t feel too overwrought which was nice and, ah, going into that, that team there was a lot of great players in there so, ah, I just wanted to sort of learn as much as I could and see what touring was all about because I hadn’t really done it before.
SQUIERS: What players were in there, who else were in that side, some of the big guns?
LANNING: Yeah, so Alex Blackwell was the Captain (Squiers: right), Jodie Fields was out injured at the, at the time, Lisa Sthalekar, Shelley Nitschke (Squiers: cool), Leah Poulton, Ellyse Perry, um, Alyssa Healy as well so we, we had a pretty good team (Squiers: mmm), back then, back then as well. My opening partner was Shelly Nitschke, ah, who’s now (Squiers: mmm) our assistant coach at, at Australian level (laughs), so, ah, she was a great, she was a great person to open the batting with. She, she had my back the whole time (Squiers: mmm), there were a few, um, teams who liked a little bit of a sledge and a bit of chit-chat and, and she was always there to sort of give it back for me. Because as you can imagine I’m not saying too much early in my, my career, I’m staying pretty quiet even now (laughs), so she was there to sort of say, yeah have my back, which was, which was great.
SQUIERS: And in terms of women playing more T20s and One Dayers, ah, that was a, that was a big decision and one from Belinda Clarke wasn’t it, um, early on in trying to, to kind of revolutionise the women’s game and move away from playing so many Tests and moving to the shorter format?
LANNING: Yeah and I think when you look at where the game’s at now, I think it’s, it’s worked. I think (Squiers: mmm) it’s been a really good driver for the women’s game. T20 is very accessible it’s, it’s very exciting, it brings the crowd and people are interested and as players it’s fun to play as well (Squiers: mmm), you know, it’s a great format. So, you know, although fifty over cricket has a place in, in our game especially, ah, I think it makes total sense that T20 cricket is probably at the forefront and, and probably a lot more investment in that side of the game, but yeah to, to have that foresight I guess from Belinda Clarke to, to think that, that would be the really big fish I guess to, to make the women’s game move, move forward really quickly, ah, I think it’s been a, a successful decision and, ah, we’ll, we’ll continue to do that over the, the coming years.
SQUIERS: Do you miss playing so many test matches or are you happy with the format, format now?
LANNING: Ah, I really like the Ashes format actually.
SQUIERS: Mmm and for those who don’t know the, with, um, with how many T20s and, and then the one Test.
LANNING: Yeah, so the Ashes is made up of, ah, Three One Dayers, Three T20s and One Test Match (Squiers: mmm) and then you get points for each, ah, each game and whoever, you know, gets the most points wins the Series (Squiers: mmm). So, there’s, there’s a lot of, you know, every game has context and every game’s on the line, which I think is great and it gives you a chance to play a Test match, which is really cool as well. And if we could replicate that against South Africa, New Zealand, India (Squiers: mmm), things like that, I think it would be a really good move for, for the game. But, it’s difficult to get nations to play Test matches, it, it costs a lot of money and I guess putting resources into that is not always possible. So, um, I, you know, guess down the track if we can get to that stage that would be great (Squiers: mmm), but, um, still part of the Ashes, it’s, it’s a great format and we always look forward to it.
SQUIERS: Because you looked up to Ricky Ponting when, um, when you were young, you would have been looking up to him in Test matches and, and dreaming about your Baggy Green as well?
LANNING: Yeah absolutely, you know, as a young cricketer, the Baggy Green is the ultimate I guess (Squiers: mmm) and we don’t get a lot of opportunities to, to get it. I think I’ve played five Test matches in ten years so (Squiers: mmm), ah, you don’t get a lot of chances to play but it is still a really amazing experience. I remember the, ah, the Baggy Green presentation for our most recent Test match, we had three debutants and it was amazing. I don’t cry very often but I had tears in my eyes during that presentation (laughs), just the emotion I guess around it and having a lot of people there who were, were supportive of, of everyone was, was great. So, yeah looking up, you know, looking forward and, um, and trying to get that Baggy Green, that’s what you want to do as a kid.
SQUIERS: Did you cry when you were given your Baggy Green?
LANNING: (laughs) I didn’t, no, Belinda Clarke gave me my Baggy Green (Squiers: cool), there wasn’t as many people there. At the last Baggy Green presentation, we had like fifty people there, the Australia A team were there, all the, the families and friends were there as well, so, um, I think all built up the emotion as well.
SQUIERS: You became Captain at a really young age, you were twenty-one when you became Captain, um, were you ready for that role back then?
LANNING: Ah I don’t think so, no, knowing what I know now (Squiers: mmm), definitely not. I hadn’t done any leadership roles, or, or been Captain of any team previously so I didn’t have any experience to, to call upon, I guess. So, it really meant I was making it up as I was going along to be fair (laughs), ah, learning on the job. I had some good experience around me, so Alex Blackwell was, within the team and she was the Vice-Captain, so she was (Squiers: mmm), she was a really good support for me. And the coach Catherine Fitzpatrick, she was a, a good support as well. So, I had a lot of help, ah, but once you’re out on the field you’re, you’re sort of alone in a lot of ways (Squiers: mmm), you’ve got to just make decisions and, and run with it. And I guess early on I worked out a lot of it is gut instinct, and, and backing your sort of first thought and just really trusting that and I suppose that builds over time. But I sort of felt like that was, you know, important from, from the start.
SQUIERS: What was it about Meg Lanning back then that saw them put you into that role?
LANNING: I, I think I had a good inner-confidence, ah, (Squiers: mmm) and an ability to make decisions and I think that’s a really important part of leadership and it doesn’t mean.
SQUIERS: On the field or off the pitch or on the pitch?
LANNING: Both I think (Squiers: mmm), ah, yeah, I think as a leader you need, you need to make decisions (Squiers: yeah) and that doesn’t mean you’re gonna get it right all the time. But I sort of feel like, you’re better off doing something about a situation than sitting back and letting it run and not doing anything (Squiers: mmm), you don’t really know what, what would happen. So, I think that might have been it, I just sort of had a quiet confident about myself and my ability and.
SQUIERS: Did you take to that easily, that leadership role?
LANNING: I think it took me a little while to work out what was involved (Squiers: mmm). Like, like on the field I found it the easiest part really (Squiers: mmm), off the field was where I had no idea what I was doing, I, and I didn’t understand what was involved in the role to be honest (Squiers: mmm). And, you know, I feel like I worked out over time that the off-field stuff is actually, probably a much bigger role (Squiers: mmm), ah, than the on-field stuff is. Ah, building relationships, understanding players, coaches, trying to get everybody to work together (Squiers: mmm), all that stuff is really, really important and, and something that I probably found difficult in the first instance and something that I’m continuing to, to work on all the time because it’s so important to making a team successful. And, and getting you know, the, the outcome you want, so the on field stuff for me is just sort of gut instinct (Squiers: mmm) and, and going on what I feel at the time, whereas off the field is, you’ve gotta make sort of a conscious effort to, to try and get the best out of everyone and, and that’s the challenge.
SQUIERS: Are there any stories or mistakes, um, you want to give us a bit of an insight into, into, um, you know, your leadership style back then that you would change, um, with knowing what you know now with hindsight and experience, I guess?
LANNING: Yeah, I think it’s just about listening to other people’s opinions a little bit more, (Squiers: mmm) and, and understanding that not everybody sees the world as you see it (Squiers: mmm). Ah, and you’ve gotta respect that I guess and I think early on, um, you know, I sort of had a bit of tunnel vision going and I was like, ‘well this is how I see it so why, why don’t they do this or why are they thinking this sort of thing?’
And over time, you sort of work out that everyone sees things differently and it’s actually really good thing to embrace those views and, and beliefs and I think overtime I worked out that, um, you can, you can delegate and give other people responsibility and owner, ownership of things and, and that actually gives a much better result to the team. You know, as Captain originally I, I think I probably felt that I had to take the lead all the time (Squiers: mmm), I had to do everything and that’s actually not the case, ah, you get a much better result from the team if you give them a little bit of ownership, and, and feel like they’re making some decisions, that’s when, that’s when you get the best out of people. So, I think that’s sort of an area where I’ve changed over time.
SQUIERS: So, you were twenty-one when you, um, captained for the first time, at twenty-two you actually won the T20 World Cup under your leadership, what did that then do for your confidence and for your leadership?
LANNING: Yeah, it was obviously a big confidence booster, we had an amazing team, ah, that probably helped (laughs). Yeah, we had a, some, some players who had been involved in World Cups previously, had some good experience and, um, they sort of helped me, me through, I guess. Ah, but to be able to lead the team on the big stage and we had a really good game in the Final against England we actually smashed them, which is, ah, nice to put a big performance on the, the big stage (laughs) and think that actually gave everyone a lot of confidence that, you know, we can put our best game when, when we’re under pressure the most.
SQUIERS: What was it like playing back then, in those, in those early days, in terms of the crowd, in terms of the attention you guys got?
LANNING: Yeah, there wasn’t really many people in the crowd (laughs) apart from family and friends, ah, so that’s obviously changed a little bit over time. And, yeah, I guess we, we’re a lot less professional I guess you could call it, we weren’t training as much (Squiers: mmm). We, we, we were sort of very much part-time and, um, we tried our, our best and, and we still gave out some really good performances and we had some amazing players. So to be able now to, to train full-time (Squiers: mmm) and, and to put a lot of time and effort into getting better as players and people I think we’ve seen the, the change in the game over the last few years and how much of an impact that can have.
SQUIERS: Because a lot of the female cricketers, um, had to work as well, full-time, um, as well as being, representing Australia and, and trying to keep this, um, their profession, their professional cricket dream alive. Did you work, I know you studied, but did you work as well?
LANNING: I did a couple of shifts at Baker’s Delight (laughs), ah, when I was, ah, towards the back end of High School, ah, and just out of High School. Ah, that, that was (Squiers: mmm), finished up when they put me on the 6am start shift (Squiers: you didn’t like that?). No (laughs), that was way too early, so, ah, that finished up pretty quick.
SQUIERS: Did you bake the bread or are you just front of shop?
LANNING: I just, I just, front of shop and the cashier, it was very tempting all the bread (Squiers: yeah). Oh, the scrolls and the scones are delicious.
SQUIERS: And that smell at six o’clock in the morning would just be delicious?
LANNING: Yeah, yeah so, I had to stop that pretty quick (laughs), ah, and then I went into, yeah, full-time study and, and part-time cricket I guess it was initially (Squiers: mmm). That was good actually it sorts of kept me busy, you know, for a lot of the time and gave me something to think about the, the study, which is important to have something away from cricket as well. So, it’s sort of one of the benefits of being part-time as a, a cricketer initially is that you have to balance things, and, and work out how to manage your time and things like that (Squiers: mmm). So, initially I think it’s a good thing to, to have it that way.
SQUIERS: What did you study, and did you finish your degree?
LANNING: Ah, I studied Exercise Health Science and it’s a three-year course (laughs) and it took me eight years to complete but I have my certificate (Squiers: yay) I have graduated.
SQUIERS: Did you get to go to the ceremony or were you overseas?
LANNING: No, I was on tour (Squiers: of course) (laughs), I was away (Squiers: of course). Yeah it was always going to happen.
SQUIERS: Take me back then to 2017, that was a really difficult year for you, um, your team lost the semi-final of, ah, the World Cup, a game that you were expected to win, but a shoulder injury then sidelined for, was it eight months? What was that time like?
LANNING: Yeah it was a very challenging time (Squiers: mmm). Ah, yeah, first in the World Cup, where we went in with very high expectations internally and externally and, um, we played okay through the Group Stages and then we got blown off the park in the semi-final by India. Ah, so it was a pretty brutal sort of finish to the, the tournament and, ah, I sort of had the shoulder injury through the World Cup as well (Squiers: mmm), I pretty much wasn’t training at all, I was literally playing in the games. And then, um, yeah, once we finished up in the World Cup, I had, ah, shoulder surgery after that, that mean I missed the Ashes Tour which was the next thing on the calendar for us. So, I missed a little bit of cricket (Squiers: mmm), for the first time I’d actually ever had to miss games of cricket and that was a massive challenge for me. I found it quite difficult to be, to be fair.
SQUIERS: And it was a home Ashes as well, wasn’t it?
LANNING: It was yeah, and because of the disappointment of the World Cup, the Ashes was like the next opportunity for us to (Squiers: mmm), to start again I guess, um, and I wasn’t part of that, so that sort of made it more difficult as well (Squiers: mmm). So, I learned a lot through that period, I hated it at the time (Squiers: mmm), I, I didn’t enjoy it at all, but looking back I think it’s been a really good experience for me to have, just to see things from a slightly different perspective, and, and like I said before, view, you know, view, view it how others do, ah, because I’d only sort of seen it through one lens like I guess for, for a little while.
SQUIERS: Tell me why you, you hated it.
LANNING: Ah, I guess I just didn’t feel part of the team, ah, you know, I, I guess being in the bubble for, for so long (Squiers: mmm), you just get used to being, being involved and being part of a group and, and touring and things like that. It’s, it’s a lot of fun and, um, when you’re not in the team you, you don’t get to be part of that and you, you ask a lot of questions and you, you look at them on the TV and they’re having so much fun and enjoying it, it’s like (laughs) and it’s, yeah you just want to be involved in it so, um, that was probably the hardest thing.
SQUIERS: It’s extraordinary is it, because you were the Captain for so long and then, um, it’s not like you were dropped or anything like that, you hadn’t even been dropped from the side before then (Lanning: no). Um, and then for you to feel like an outsider that, I find that really, really strange but that’s, people talk about that don’t they, athletes that when they’re, they’re on the sideline they really feel like an outsider.
LANNING: Yep absolutely and I had no idea what I was walking into, I, I remember I was at the, the Test match for the Ashes. I, I went and joined up with the team for that little period of time and I, it was so awkward, I felt so awkward (Squiers: why?). Down in the, down in the change rooms I felt like I was in the way, I felt like I was just, I just shouldn’t have been there (Squiers: mmm) and I was like ‘oh my gosh, if I feel like that, as like the Captain of the team, imagine what anyone else feels like or whether, you know, what a new player of the team feels like?’ (Squiers: mmm)
So, that was a real eye-opener for me it, it gave me a, a very different perspective and I felt like I could sort of empathise with a lot of other players in that respect because I had actually experienced it now and knew what it, it felt like (Squiers: mmm) to be on the outside a little bit. Ah, so, yeah, I think, yeah, from that angle, um, I learnt a lot, ah, even though at, at the time I, I didn’t enjoy it at all.
SQUIERS: Do you now look at people, players who are injured and how do you act differently now?
LANNING: Well, I just feel like I can go and have a conversation with them (Squiers: mmm) and actually just listen to their feelings and thoughts and I’ve got an understanding of what that feels like (Squiers: mmm). Ah, whereas in the past or before that sort of time, I, I probably was a little bit too nervous to go and speak to people about it because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing (Squiers: mmm) or I didn’t want to make them feel worse. Ah, because I had, I had no concept of actually what it was like (Squiers: mmm), ahh, and so I sort of avoided that I think.
SQUIERS: Could you identity that they were feeling awkward or you just didn’t, didn’t realise?
LANNING: Ah, I probably didn’t realise, I probably didn’t even notice and that, um, you know, looking back it’s, probably not great but I just didn’t know anything, anything else (Squiers: mmm). And so, yeah, so that’s one of the best things I think going through that experience is now when, yeah when people are injured or dropped or not in the squad I actually feel like I can go and have a conversation with them (Squiers: mmm) and just talk to them about, about it. Ah, it’s not going to fix it but, you know, I know when I was injured just someone coming up and having a conversation was actually really helpful (Squiers: mmm), ah, because you already feel sort of on the outside and then if people aren’t talking to you it’s sort of, you over think it (Squiers: yeah) and you think it’s a lot worse than it is.
SQUIERS: You’re so conscious of every body movement really, where you’re standing, what, how you’re positioned, everything isn’t it.
LANNING: Yeah, yeah, yeah and when you’re in the team you don’t even think twice about that (laughs) like you wouldn’t even think about where you were sitting in the change room or where you were standing or anything like that (Squiers: mmm). But when you’re just on the other side of it you, you second guess everything so, it’s just sort of being able to help other people through that I guess and just asking a question I think is really important.
SQUIERS: Did you pick anything up in that time that helped you deal with feeling like an outsider like did you, um, did you, did you finish your degree in that time, (laughs) was that what happened? What got you through that, that time considering you had never experienced being dropped or injured up until that moment?
LANNING: (laughs) Yeah, mmm, I actually did a little bit of coaching during that time (Squiers: mmm), ah, of an Under 15 team, so that was a good experience again just sort of viewing things differently
SQUIERS: Under 15s girls?
Yeah, Under 15s girls, it was sort of the Cricket Australia XI, um, they were playing in an Under 18 competition actually, so they, it was quite challenging for them, ah, to play in, you know, up in an age group (Squiers: mmm). So, yeah just to be able to work with them, I think they were a little bit scared of me for the first week (laughs) so having to work through that and, ah, yeah to get them to see that I am actually just a normal person (laughs) and you don’t need to be, you don’t need to be scared of me. So, working through that was actually an interesting experience in itself and, and then just trying to, yeah, communicate really clearly with them, ah, in a way that they understand. And, um, I guess as a player you, you just do things most of the times you don’t think about how you’re doing it or what you’re doing (Squiers: mmm), so actually trying to work out trying how to communicate, you know, it was a good challenge, so I enjoyed that.
SQUIERS: Coaching, is that something post-playing we could see Meg Lanning, Meg Lanning do?
LANNING: Potentially I’m not sure yet, I’m, I’m currently doing my Level 3 Coaching Course (Squiers: really, cool), that’s taking a bit longer than what it should as well. Um, but yeah, I’m not sure if I, I want to do it afterwards (Squiers: mmm), but I’m keeping my options open I, I, I think, um, we’re lucky in the position we are to have access to some coaching courses and things like that. And I want to try and work out if I like it or don’t like it before I have to come to, to that decision I guess but, ah, anyhow again it’s a nice thing to have away from the playing side of things just to, to keep me busy.
SQUIERS: You are in a really unique position in that you’ve, you’ve really been able to see Australian Women’s cricket from, you know, I guess two sides before it was, it was really revolutionised, um, to how it is now and you’ve seen this massive shift in the way, um, Women’s Cricket has been embraced by both the public and our own organisation as well. Can you just take me back into that shift, what was it like in those early days, what’s been the biggest change you’ve seen for women’s, women’s cricket?
LANNING: I think the biggest change has been the pathways that have been introduced and the opportunities that young girls have to get involved in the game now. You know, me growing up only had, like I had to play with the boys, if I didn’t play with the boys, I wouldn’t have been able to play (Squiers: mmm). Whereas now, you can play in the girls’ teams, you can play in boys’ teams, mixed teams, like a lot of those barriers that were there ten, fifteen years have, have been removed and, and that’s only a good thing (Squiers: mmm).
And, you know, we’ve seen with the participation and, and, um, attendances at games, things like that like there are so many more people who are involved in Women’s Cricket, and, and love the opportunity to play so that’s, that’s a really important part of it as well. Ah, there’s a lot more time, effort, ah, investment in, in the game and I think we’ve seen, you know, from our Australian team in terms of the athleticism, (Squiers: mmm), you know, how we’ve been able to improve our skills with the, with the extra time and ability to, to put full-time effort into getting better.
You know, I think we’ve really developed it really quickly in, in that space, the other thing, the last thing probably is this, is it hasn’t happened like overnight (Squiers: mmm), it’s actually been a, a really gradual improvement and there’s been a lot of time put into it over an extended period. Um, and, and that’s why I think we’re starting to reap the benefits of it now is because we built a really good base and started probably small and Big Bash was very small when we started and, and it’s evolving very slowly and I think that’s really allowed us, um, to experience what we have over the last few years.
SQUIERS: How much of that change came down to your success, did you feel pressure as, um, a team to be successful in order to get that coverage, to get that attention, to get that, um, interest from the fans and especially from, from the media. You know, we’ll always report in the media on the men’s cricket, but for a long time there we would only report on women’s cricket if you were successful, did you feel that added pressure as well?
LANNING: Mmm, it probably wasn’t something we spoke about (Squiers: mmm), I think it helped that we were very successful (Squiers: mmm), I think Australians love winners in, in general (Squiers: mmm), no matter what it is. So, that definitely helped us I, I think, ah, but, you know, what I will say is that the expectations internally from us as, as players are always high and have always been high (Squiers: mmm). Even when we weren’t, ah, professional as such, we always wanted to be the best and we always wanted to win, so that hasn’t really changed too much. So, um, you know, I guess you don’t want to rely too much on, on external, um, motivators I guess (Squiers: mmm) because, you know, otherwise you can sort of get into trouble a little bit so, we always wanted to do as well as we could and we were lucky through that period we had a good team and, and people were able to take notice of our wins.
SQUIERS: Did you get frustrated when you would win and maybe it wasn’t reported or you didn’t get that, that added attention, was that, was that frustrating during those early years?
LANNING: Ah, not really it wasn’t something I thought too much about, but I have noticed every World Cup that we’ve won, there’s been more attention and more interest (Squiers: mmm), it’s grown every time by a massive amount. Like, when we won in Bangladesh in 2014 ah, there was probably very minimal coverage (Squiers: mmm). Ah, but, since then, um, you know, you sort of go forward to, to the most recent one, even the one in 2018 in the West Indies like it was, it was a massive change and you could really notice it.
SQUIERS: Participation rates for young girls off the back of that win in 2014 and in the lead up to that was astronomical, it was like nine hundred percent (Lanning: Mmm), um, increase in, in the number of little girls taking up cricket when after that win. So, I guess in terms of people who say, um, who might doubt Women’s Cricket and why, um, you know, in those early days did doubt it and the money that it could make for the organisation, you saw that in the participation rates of, of young girls and that’s awesome for the game.
LANNING: Yeah, absolutely and, and we play an, an important role I guess in that in, you know, in allowing young girls to see where they can get to and, um, you know, being role models for them and, and it’s an important role we play and we enjoy doing it. We want to set a really good example and show young girls out there what’s possible and that just comes with the territory, I guess. But when, when we go to clinics or anything like that the group’s fully invested in, in trying to, you know, put into it as much as we can and inspire the next generation. Because we’re, we’re lucky to be in the position we are and if we can have a small impact on it that’s, that’s really cool and, um, yeah there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to, to give people those opportunities so it’s, it’s great to see.
SQUIERS: One of the other big changes from when you first started would be in terms of, ah, social media, there wasn’t a lot of social media going on when you (Lanning: mmm) first started, um, you’re a really private person, aren’t you? (Lanning: mmm) Why is it we don’t know much about Meg Lanning away from the cricket field?
LANNING: (laughs) Ah, I don’t know, I just sort of don’t really feel like putting too much out there (laughs). It’s sort of my business and not really anyone, anyone else’s which might sound a little bit harsh but, ah, yeah, I, I mean some of the times other people don’t find interesting what I’m doing (laughs), I’m just happy to go with the flow and do whatever. But, ah, yeah, I’ve tried over the years to be a little more out there and be a little bit more of myself. But I think I said earlier that, that it sorts of takes me a while to warm to people I guess (Squiers: mmm) and trust them and, and then I sort of come out of my shell a little bit and, and that’s probably what you see on social media, I just sort of, yeah, I keep to myself most of the time.
SQUIERS: Is that challenging for you, um, given I guess in this new age of, of social media and new age of, of women’s sport people do have a deeper interest in who Meg, Meg Lanning is, has that been like a bit of a transition for you?
LANNING: Mmm (laughs), yeah it has been a little bit, ah, and trying to get the, the balance right because you, you know, you want to be authentic and be yourself and I, that’s what sort of resonates with people (Squiers: mmm). So, you know, I don’t want to force myself to do something that’s not really me, but at the same time people want to, want to find out who the real Meg Lanning is (Squiers: mmm). So, you’ve got to try and get that balance I guess of giving just enough that, that people feel like they’re part of it but, you know, me also feeling that I’m being myself and authentic. So, I’m probably battling with that a little bit (laughs), trying to find the happy medium but I, I try to, I say to myself ‘I’ve got to post on Instagram once a month’ (laughs), um, it’s not very much and I think I’ve gone a couple of months without posting already so (laughs) I need to up that.
SQUIERS: And I guess as well, like, you’ve been Captain for so long and you’ve been Captain through this transition is that challenging then to be Captain in a time of social media where there’s different interest in, in you personally but also a lot more scrutiny in, in the way that Women’s Cricket is approached by, by the media, by the public now as well and you’re leading, you’re the leader of that, has that been a challenge?
LANNING: Yeah it has and, and you’ve got to make sure you’re switched on all the time and yeah anything you say at different, at different points can be taken in a few different ways (Squiers: mmm), so you’ve just got to make sure that the message you’re trying to get across is, you know, is the right one and, and, and gets communicates the way you want it to. And I guess having done a little bit of media and things like that over time you, you get used to it a little bit on how to do that.
Ah, but, you know, certainly over the, the last year or so and that, that World Cup that we just played recently the, the scrutiny was nothing like we’d ever experienced before. And, ah, I know, you know, we’ve been sort of saying for a little while that, you know, the stories would mainly be focused on really positive things and only the good things (Squiers: mmm), and probably had made the step to being critically analysed (Squiers: mmm), um, on things that we weren’t doing as well or when we, we didn’t win. And I think we’re at that stage now where that’s happening (Squiers: mmm) and I think that’s actually a really good thing because it means people are invested in it and they’re interested and they want to see us do well and I, I think that’s been a massive shift.
So, that the fact that people are willing to ask questions and, and say, you know, ‘why did this happen?’, you know, stuff like that, I think that’s a really good thing for the sport (Squiers: mmm) because it just shows there’s a lot more people who, um, you know, are, are interested in what we’re doing.
SQUIERS: Well let’s go there, the World Cup, can’t wait, um, did you feel that, that pressure for so long, I felt like we were talking about the Final for so long before you’d even playing the match we were talking about the Final and you weren’t even there yet? Did you feel that pressure leading into the tournament?
LANNING: (laughs) Yeah, I think we did, ah, and, you know, initially when they said 90,000 people at the G, I was like ‘I’m not really sure that’s possible’. (laughs)
SQUIERS: Is that right, you didn’t think?
LANNING: (laughs) I was a little bit sceptical initially and, and it, and it was sort of like we need to be there like, like Australia needs to be there to, to try and make that happen (Squiers: mmm). And of course, we were heading into that World Cup wanting to, to be in the Final (Squiers: mmm), like that’s everyone’s aim getting into it, so it didn’t really change our expectations. But just the talk about it, the amount of questions, every press conference we did (Squiers: mmm), the Final, Final, Final.
And it was just a bit like, ‘hang on a second, like, we’re not in the Final yet (Squiers: yeah)’. Like we need to get there first, first we need to get through the Group Stage and then the Semi and then we can talk about it (Squiers: mmm). But everybody wanted to talk about it, and I find that really hard because as an athlete, like you can’t get ahead of yourself, the moment you, you starting to far forward it all unravels really quickly (Squiers: mmm).
So, you had to be sort of really mindful of what you said and how you thought about it and, and it just happened so often, and it was all that was talked about. So, once, once we got to the Final and we were in it, I was so relieved I was like ‘okay, now we can talk about the Final’ (laughs). Because we were finally there, but oh yeah it was, it was intense, like there was just so much chat about it and like it was good because it was good press for the game (Squiers: mmm) like, you know, people wanted it to be successful, 90,000 people like yeah that’s great but we sort of had to, yeah, get through that little bit.
SQUIERS: So, Game One against India in Sydney, you guys don’t win and that kind of sets you back a little bit, how much of a shock and was that a shock and how did you feel after that, that first game given that lead up you just described?
LANNING: It wasn’t a shock because India are a really good team (Squiers: mmm) and we played them in a Tri Series heading into the World Cup so we, we knew what we were coming up against and they have many match winners and in T20 Cricket that’s what makes you nervous as an opposition (Squiers: mmm) is when teams can take a game from you really quick. And, yeah we, we did alright in the first innings but with the bat it was a, a disaster really, we, we pretty much did everything that we talked about not doing (laughs), not doing especially against, ah, Yadav the spinner who got, um, most of us out (Squiers: mmm).
I think we just got a little bit nervous probably I think it’s the sort of stage that got to us a bit, we were indecisive and, and didn’t play the way we wanted to especially with the bat. So, yeah, that was a bit, it was a bit deflating to be honest after the game in the rooms we were very quiet (Squiers: mmm). It was, we took it really hard because we, yeah, we, we were probably a little bit startled in, in the way we played especially with the bat so we had to pick ourselves up pretty quick and, um, sort it out because in World Cups it’s pretty cut-throat.
SQUIERS: Ah, were there moments where you were genuinely concerned, ‘okay, this may not happen we may not get to that Final’?
LANNING: Yeah and even in the second game against Sri Lanka it was still a little bit all wrong (Squiers: mmm) it just didn’t feel right. Yeah, we did well again with the ball but then we were 3 for 0 with the bat and geez that was knife-edged sort of stuff (laughs). I was glad I was out there actually because, so I could do something about it I (Squiers: yeah), I think if I was watching it would have been a lot worse (Squiers: mmm). And I felt reasonably comfortable after we sort of settled a little bit with Rachael, we would be fine but, ah, yeah even after that game it was just a bit like, ‘okay, like, what is happening? (Squiers: mmm) Like we need sort our stuff out here or if we keep going the way we are it’s not going to happen.’ (Squiers: mmm)
Ah, and after that game we actually had a pretty good chat about things and what was happening and why, and why we weren’t really playing how we wanted to and especially as a batting group, um, because that was the area we felt like what was lacking in the most (Squiers: mmm). Yeah, and, and it actually just came down to our attitude and, and our approach to it. Our game plan was good, we looked at our game plan, we were happy with it, we felt like that was good, it was just that we weren’t executing it and weren’t really backing ourselves into, to take it on.
So, yeah, after that second game heading into the third game, we had, we had Bangladesh in the third game (Squiers: mmm), who we hadn’t played before and, um, you know, and that actually gave us a really good opportunity to just worry about what we were doing (Squiers: mmm). And, ah, once we got going in that game, we were fine (Squiers: mmm), from then on, I was a lot more confident after that.
SQUIERS: Then let’s just fast-forward to that Semi-Final on the Thursday before the Final (Lanning: mmm), in the morning what was your reaction because it was just rain (Lanning: mmm). Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. The radar was like rain everywhere what went through your mind that day?
LANNING: Yeah, we were very nervous even heading into that day, yeah, all the talk was about the rain and how much rain was coming, like, it wasn’t just rain it was like proper (Squiers: mmm), whole day sort of stuff (laughs). Like it wasn’t like ‘oh we might be alright, we might not be’ (Squiers: it seemed like no break at all on the radar). It was like we were in trouble here (laughs). Yeah and so it poured the whole day, I remember sort of, I remember being in my hotel room and just looking out and it was just pouring with rain. We, um, we were on the bus on the way to the ground it was pouring with rain (Squiers: mmm), the game before us got called off.
SQUIERS: And there was no backup, there was no contingency (Lanning: no, no), it had to, if you didn’t play then you were second in your pool and you were going to miss out on the Final. South Africa was going to get through.
LANNING: Yep correct. So, it was, ah, yeah we were all holding our breaths very nervous when we got there and I don’t know what happened, we were lucky, we were very lucky, ah, yeah someone was helping us out I think and, ah, and somehow we got on. And I remember we were out on the ground and warming up and it was still raining, ah, but obviously we were very keen to get out there, so we were warming up and South Africa were still in their change rooms, nowhere to be seen (laughs).
And we were like, ‘yeah it’s fine, we can totally play in this, it’s totally fine’ and we were all very keen and then somehow it, we got, however many overs in we needed to, it was incredible the whole thing like.
SQUIERS: A sporting miracle, you got it.
LANNING: Absolutely, yeah, yeah, we were very lucky. (laughs)
SQUIERS: You move onto the MCG, almost 90,000, a record crowd, what was that moment like to be in the MCG and to see that many people and to hear that kind of sound and play?
LANNING: Yeah it was amazing, ah, I remember rocking up to the ground and we were pretty early because of, because the Katy Perry entertainment before the game we actually weren’t allowed on the ground for like an hour before the game or something (Squiers: mmm). So, that was an added difference that we weren’t really used to, so we got to the ground pretty early, ah, and when we sort of walked out from the change rooms, there was already people in there, like this was sort of two-and-a-half hours before the game. And looked up and there were like people in the crowd like right at the back, like in the rows right at the back at the top and I was like ‘okay, this is going to be something pretty big (Squiers: right) like when people are sitting in those rows, you know it’s going to fill up pretty quick’ (laughs).
And yeah it was just a great atmosphere, yeah, I just remember like looking at everyone in the team and you could just tell like we were ready to embrace it (Squiers: mmm) and really have fun and enjoy it. We weren’t scared about what we were heading int at all and it was just a really good feeling within the group I, I don’t know what it was, but we were just ready to go. It was like we had done all the hard work heading into, into the Final and now we could enjoy it, and, and see what happened.
SQUIERS: What was the moment like when you had won, with everything you’ve just told us about the lead up to that Final and not even knowing if you’d get there, um, having talked about it for so long and for that moment to happen, what was that moment like?
LANNING: Yeah it was amazing, ah, when Ash Gardner took that catch and the roar of, of the crowd, ah, yeah, it’ll be something I’ll never forget to be honest, it was so loud and even in, in the lead-up to the finish, we had, we had it sort of wrapped up a little bit earlier, you know, before the end of the game. And the Mexican wave and at one point everyone had their iPhone lights on and were doing these ones and me, Rach and Ash Gardner were looking around going ‘what is going on here?’ (laughs).
And yeah, it was just, it was amazing to be part of it and it couldn’t have gone any better to be honest, it just was one of those days where everything clicked for us and (Squiers: mmm), and yeah, I guess just to be able to put out such a good performance, ah, as a team on a really big stage and, and create a really good spectacle for everyone that’s something I’m really proud of for, for the group. Because, you know, sometimes when you get big moments you can step back and, and not really, you know, give your best performance but we were able to play as well as we have for, for a few, few years and that’s, um, pretty impressive.
SQUIERS: You say, you say before you don’t cry that much (laughs), um, I cried before the match (Lanning: yeah), I cried after that match and I wasn’t even there, right there playing in it, what was it like for you, did you have tears? Did we have a Meg Lanning tears?
LANNING: (laughs) There were a few directly after the game I think when we were hugging everyone and, and celebrating I guess with the, the coaches and the players and things like that. So, yeah, that was, that was pretty cool, those moments, you know, straight after the game when you’re, you’re still on a high and just sort of taking it all in those, they’re the ones that you remember.
SQUIERS: What were the celebrations like? Take us, take us there.
LANNING: (laughs) It’s actually nothing too, ah, entertaining to be fair, we actually stayed at the ground until like 4am.
SQUIERS: Really? Wow it would have been hard to leave after that.
LANNING: Well we didn’t really want to; we didn’t really want to (laughs). So, it was a Sunday night and I’m not sure what was really open in Melbourne anyway to, to go out and about so. Ah, yeah, we stayed in the rooms and there were a lot of family and friends in the rooms actually (Squiers: mmm), it was, it was packed, it was, like the change room was full to the brim with supporters and that was really cool and everybody was just there chatting for hours and hours.
And, ah, then eventually once everyone had left, all the players and staff went out to the middle of the ground and sat in a circle and chatted and I suppose just looked back on what had happened and that’s really cool, we got some nice photos of the group out there on the ground with the Cup. So, yeah, it was, it was a really good celebration actually to do it with family and friends and those who have been there through the ups and downs and things like that, ah, I, I guess that’s the good thing about a home World Cup is that you can have so many people there to cheer you on.
SQUIERS: We finish on every podcast by asking our guest what advice you would give to your ten-year-old self, so if you could look back at that shy little Meg Lanning (laughs) what would you tell her?
LANNING: Ah, I would say to ask more questions, so, ah, like I was really shy and I was lucky enough when I was young to meet, ah, some amazing athletes and, and people who I, you know, I would probably consider to be heroes and role models and, and I was always too shy to ask anything or, or talk to them.
Ah, but when people go and, and chat to kids at clinics and things like that, like we love it when people ask questions and want to know what we do and how it happens. And yeah, I just wish looking back that I was brave enough to ask a few more questions, and, and learn a bit more because no doubt I had them, but I was too shy to speak up. So, ah, that would be my advice because, yeah, whenever I go to a clinic or anything like that, I want people to ask me questions, so that would be it.
SQUIERS: You’re an absolute legend Meg. Thank you for sharing your story with me on “On Her Game”.
LANNING: No worries, thank you.
SQUIERS: On her game is presented by me, Sam Squiers and produced in collaboration with Podcast One Australia, Producer Lindsey Green, Audio Producer Darcy Thompson, Executive Producer, Jennifer Goggin. For more episodes, head to podcastoneaustralia.com.au download the free Podcast One Australia app or search on On Her Game podcasts.
Transcribed by Nadine Maraldo www.gossipcom.com