Rams finally break through for long held goal

RINGWOOD and Carlton made history on the weekend, qualifying for the Victorian Premier Cricket Women’s 1sts finals for the first time in their respective histories.

After both being admitted into the 1st XI competition in the same year, it is quite remarkable that they have achieved identical feats in the same year.

Ringwood’s achievement is all the more poetic when you realise it comes in the club’s 10th season having a women’s team.

From struggling to fill two teams only a few years ago, to easily fielding three sides every week and becoming a contender in the 1sts competition is quite a remarkable achievement.

For many years, Ringwood was seen by the rest of the competition as somewhat of a minnow. The Rams were the easybeats, and many players from the outer eastern suburbs would drive on past towards clubs like Box Hill and Prahran to chase success.

Not anymore.

Current coach Kim Littlejohn joined the program five seasons ago, just before the jump to 1sts was made. Back then, the goal was merely to make the first grade, and things have escalated from there.

“From the first year it was about getting into Premier first grade, and then when we were in Premier first grade actually just consolidating and starting to build a strong base to allow us to then get better and ultimately at some point down the track win a flag,” Littlejohn said. “But in those early years it was just about building the base of players and building the playing group to enable us to just be competitive.”

Opener and Irish star Una Raymond-Hoey has only been at the club for three seasons now, but after being convinced to come across by now skipper Bhavisha Devchand, has already seen so much growth in the team across that time.

“It’s been super interesting,” Raymond-Hoey said. “When we arrived the guys were in their second year of P1s (Premier 1sts) I’m pretty sure, and the team was obviously really young, but massively talented, so looking back on reflection it’s been a really big journey over the last couple of years.

“From a team that kind of was just starting to want to compete or believe it could compete, to now where we’ve got ourselves to a place where we’re in finals, we’re putting big scores on the board every week, we’re having competitive games every week.

“I think the growth of the players as individuals has been the biggest thing for us, because they’re all so young. When we arrived they were probably 15-16 (years old), so now they’re 17,18,19, they’re learning a lot more about themselves as cricketers, as people, how their role fits in with the team. I think that’s been the most exciting journey, just watching that progression.”

Teenage star Erin Carroll came to the club in the 2016/17 season as a 12-year-old, and was convinced to travel all the way to Ringwood from Parkdale in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs by a friend who was playing with the Rams. She has seen quite the transformation in her time at the club.

“I’ve definitely been able to see the progression from having two quite different teams of different abilities to be able progress into the Premier Firsts competition, and I think it’s definitely evolved a lot,” Carroll said. “The depth over the past few years has definitely become a lot more evident in the way that we play, now with three teams across the comp, and I think it’s a real credit to all the players and coaches that have been here over the past few years.”

Heading into the current season, Littlejohn was confident that it was finally Ringwood’s time, but the Rams certainly had their hiccups along the way.

“I thought this year was going to be our window,” Littlejohn said. “If I looked at the playing group that we had at the start of the season, I honestly thought we were in the window to actually play in the finals and I would have been disappointed had we not played in the finals.

“What really threw a spanner in the works was we were going great until Christmas, then the old Omicron wave came along and it just destroyed any ability we had to put the same team on the park each week. So, post-Christmas it has been a real struggle for the whole club because we haven’t been able to put the same team on the park in two games in a row.”

Raymond-Hoey, however, said that after a Zoom session in lockdown the players went into this season wanting to improve, and the majority also said they wanted to not only make finals, but win them.

Perhaps more circumspect, Littlejohn said it was already a great step that the Rams qualified for finals.

“Look, it’s a massive achievement for us because it shows us that we can mix it with the big teams,” Littlejohn said. “I think we’ve earned our place to be one of the better clubs in the competition and it’s testament to the work everyone’s put into this club to enable us to grow and to be one of the destination teams, so that is why it was important we made finals.”

Raymond-Hoey agreed that it was a significant achievement to have finally made the post-season, and acknowledged how the achievement had affected the wider Rams community.

“I think the emotion from the girls at the weekend was a little bit of relief, but a lot of happiness, a lot of joy,” Raymond-Hoey said. “Speaking to people around the club, that’s the most amazing thing. Past members, life members, and past players, or players who are still involved and people who follow the club are so excited, and that’s the best part of it.

“We’ve talked about it for a couple of years, about changing the way people view Ringwood – being out in the sticks and stuff, and obviously only being up in P1s for a couple of years. Seeing how much it’s impacted everyone else around the club and how excited they are for us, I think it’s just the best part for me.”

Carroll also noted the impact that the achievement is having on the wider community.

“Honestly, it leaves me a little bit speechless,” Carroll said. “If you were to tell me maybe a month ago that we’d have the opportunity to play finals, I wouldn’t have believed you, but I guess being here for the past however many years and being able to play with the most amazing people that I have honestly ever met, they’re like my family.

“The impact of it is so significant and such an exciting time and such an amazing opportunity to be able to play finals cricket. Doing what I love most with the people I love most. I think it’s also impacted a lot of the wider Ringwood community as well. We’ve had messages from people who don’t even know the game and within the community, I think they’re all very excited for us as well.”

Heading into this weekend’s game, Littlejohn is quietly confident and believes the fact that Ringwood has beaten its upcoming opponent, Carlton, twice already this season will give the group a lot of confidence.

Raymond-Hoey has a slightly different view. She certainly won’t be underestimating Carlton and doesn’t think the previous wins will play too much into the result.

“I guess it gives a little bit of confidence, but from a personal perspective I wouldn’t underestimate them as a team at all,” Raymond-Hoey said. “Obviously it’s nice to have got those wins, but to be honest I don’t think we’ve come up against the best of Carlton yet.”

Carroll agreed with Raymond-Hoey, and also doesn’t believe Ringwood has faced Carlton at its best yet.

“I think going in with no preconceived expectations is probably the best way to go about it,” Carroll said. “I think as a team we really like to play our cricket in the moment, being present and with each other, and I think going in with the expectation that we’re going to win or we’re not going to win isn’t the way we like to play. Taking every ball as it is and living in the moment and playing in the moment is what we try to do.”

The finals debutants Ringwood and Carlton will face off on Sunday at Princes Park in Carlton. The match starts at 10:30am.

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