Melissa Hale didn’t even like cricket when she first got involved with the deaf form of the game.
Just over a decade later, the Lilydale woman is a champion for female participation in the inclusive sport and a finalist for the Volunteer of the Year award at the 10th annual Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation Awards.
“I’m humbled and honoured to be a finalist,” Ms Hale said.
“It doesn’t feel like work when it is something that is close to your heart.”
She developed a love for deaf cricket when she joined the Melbourne Deaf Cricket Club committee about 13 years ago as a temporary secretary.
“I joined to simply help out because I was good at paper work and knew absolutely nothing about cricket, and didn’t even like the game,” she said.
“I came to realise that deaf cricket was so much more than just a cricket club or a cricket game to the players who attended.
“It was a second family – often a family that many felt they didn’t have due to lack of communication within their own families.”
Melbourne Deaf cricket Club is the oldest deaf sports club in the world, at 139 years old – but deaf cricket clubs had never had women’s teams before.
“I knew that that there were no opportunities for women to experience this sense of community, and to learn the game so I set out to simply just start,” she said.
“A major highlight for me has been to play with my nine-year-old daughter, Charli.
“Although she’s not deaf, she’s a very proud CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and has really enjoyed the sense of community the deaf team gives her, too.”
Ms Hale’s award nomination said she’d been instrumental in establishing the first ever deaf women’s cricket team for Flemington Colts Cricket Club in the past 12 months.
As a result, Melbourne Deaf Cricket Club will have its first ever deaf women’s cricket team.
She was also instrumental in working with Deaf Cricket Australia and Cricket Australia in organising the first deaf women’s cricket exhibition matches at the recent National Cricket
Inclusion Championships – a world-first and Australian-first.
“Because of Melissa’s passion and determination, history has been created in cricket,” the award nomination said.
“She’s essentially shown what the spirit of cricket is all about.
“She has put in hundreds of hours into this, and this has been difficult for her to juggle on top of full-time work and raising four children between the ages of nine and 13.”
Ms Hale told the Mail she couldn’t have achieved this with her husband James’ support.
Other local finalists include the Access All Terrain Program at Mount Evelyn YMCA Camp for Initiative of the Year and Yarra Ranges Council for the Inclusive Sport, Recreation or Open Space Infrastructure Award for the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail chicanes.
The Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation Awards celebrates the achievements of sportspeople with disability, the coaches, organisations, officials and volunteers who support them, and the inclusive sport and recreation sector across Victoria.
Winners will be announced on Wednesday 22 May.