Megan Schutt’s exuberant laugh triggered synchronised eye and shoulder movements across the conference room, here at the hotel in Mumbai, where newshounds had gathered for one-on-one interactions with Royal Challengers Bangalore's players ahead of the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) season.
Not that it hasn't been extensively documented before, but a non-playing member of the team later corroborated how ‘Shooter,’ as she is affectionately called, is among the more unfiltered players one could come across in an era of rigorous media training.
A supremely intimidating pacer starts chortling, whilst highbrow discussions are going on in other sections of the room? You might ask for an explanation. Fair enough.
Drawing a personal parallel with the Schutt household, I had just informed her that arachnophobia (fear of spiders) is not gender-specific, and how, like her and her partner, I could not kill a spider either.
For context, Schutt wrote in a 2018 Tweet “One disadvantage about being in a lesbian relationship... We both can’t kill the spider.”
Only a few days before landing in India, Shooter celebrated her third wedding anniversary with Jess Holyoake, a Cricket Australia (CA) employee. Being a supporter of same-sex marriages and exposing her unadulterated self to social media’s distressing monstrosity has often been challenging. Yet, forming a collocation, it drives her to instil inspiration among youngsters, while advocating for gender inclusivity in sports, and a swift elimination of stigma associated with same-sex relationships.
A leader, among followers. A trailblazer, among adherents. And, as the collarbone tattoo perfectly describes, ‘a voice, not an echo.’
A Voice of Reliance for the Lesser Privileged
Describing her experience with the trolls since marriage, Megan informs The Quint in an exclusive conversation:
I have had every experience under the sun – every single thing. Social media could be a great tool, but at times, it surely is a bloody horrible thing. People can say whatever they like, and unfortunately, it means that you’ll need to grow thick skin to survive.Megan Schutt, Australia & RCB cricketer
Only a split second later, however, she reasserts her intention of remaining a voice of reliance for those not privileged enough to have a platform.
"The way I look at it, I feel my speaking out is going to help a lot of others. If I am saying things that are ruffling some feathers, I am all about it. There are conversations that we need to have, and if we keep hiding in the shadows, then we are giving them exactly what they want, and nothing’s ever gonna get better. I am more than willing to cop the online abuse if my actions change the lives of others," she says.
The Blessing of Motherhood, and the Bare Minimum Boards Need To Do
Megan and Jess welcomed their daughter, Rylee, into the world in 2021, and over the past couple of years, the former’s world has not quite been the same.
"Motherhood has changed my perspective towards life, for sure. I am a lot calmer now, in the sense that I have realised it is just a game of cricket and I don’t reflect on my mistakes in as hardcore a manner as I once used to. Those things don’t keep me up at night anymore, because motherhood makes you more sensitive about other things which are far more important," the player tells us.
Besides consistent support from her partner, friends and family, what has also significantly helped Megan in her motherhood journey is CA’s parental policy. Back in 2019, the board announced a new policy wherein every pregnant cricketer is entitled to 12 months of paid leave, alongside three weeks of paid leave for the partner. Besides that, CA also pledged travel support for every kid up to four years of age.
Whilst the Indian women are now giving the mighty Aussies a run for their money in ICC tournaments, and the Women’s Premier League garnering an unprecedented audience for women’s cricket, similar maternity policies are not to be seen.
Megan, however, remains hopeful, while also mentioning the bare minimum that every board should be doing, irrespective of whether any policy has been implemented.
"I am super lucky to come from a progressive country, where we have maternity policies in place. But we’ve had our time to catch up, and I am sure, India too will catch up pretty soon. There might not be any specific maternity policy everywhere, but just tell your players that these are what we are going to help your cricketing career, and at the same time, support you in maintaining your sanity and happiness," she tells us.
Growing Up in a South Australian Suburb
Whilst her nation might be among the more progressive ones, Shooter spent her childhood in one of the lesser affluent regions of the country – Hackham West, a suburb in Adelaide. Although, she proudly states “I will not change a thing about my childhood.”
She explains: As much crap as the South (Australia) cops, I loved my childhood. The place was a bit rough around the edges, but that is also how I am as a person, so it suited me quite well.
There was definitely no silver-spoon in my childhood. I grew up in an underprivileged socio-economic belt, but that helped me be a more realistic, more grounded person. My best friends currently are those that I met when I was 11 years of age. This is why the place will always remain special to me.Megan Schutt, Australia & RCB cricketer
Barring inculcating humanitarian values, Megan’s suburban upbringing also, in a rather fortunate manner, helped kick-start her cricketing career.
“We were not economically blessed. As kids, we had no money but a lot of time, so we all picked up sports. I played my first ever game of cricket with boys, just because they needed someone to fill in. There happened to be a scout present, who was creating a women’s team. So, it’s pretty much a ‘right place, right time’ story,” she informs us.
Being Committed to Challenges
But for a happy-go-lucky girl who played any and every sport she could, committing to cricket was a challenge. As it turns out, it also was the reason behind her unflinching commitment.
I realised the chances of being successful in cricket are actually slim, there are more failures than anything. But me being me, I liked that challenging aspect of the game and it is the reason why I stuck with cricket. I will tell you honestly, I was much better at a few other sports at that time, but chose cricket because of the challenge.Megan Schutt, Australia & RCB cricketer
245 international wickets, alongside the record of being the first female cricketer to have scalped two international hat-tricks, is sufficient to enter the discussions about the greatest pacers in women’s cricket.
That, however, has not prevented her father from using an eccentric motivational strategy, which has been working wonders since childhood.
"My dad has a very unique way of pushing me. He knows whatever he’ll say to me, I’ll do the exact opposite. So, even today, he tells me ‘why don’t you quit cricket?’ Just because he knows the spiteful me will not listen to what he says. He still makes fun of me when I am not doing great. Had he been the usual ‘oh, you’re doing so well’ kinda dad, I would have never succeeded," the 30-year-old says.
Megan gets up for a training session after a prolonged conversation, but turns around as I said “To hell with spiders.”
With yet another burst of laughter, she reverts – “Yes.”
Shooter walks away. Some more feathers are bound to be ruffled.
To hell with spiders. To hell with stigmas.
(Disclaimer: No animals were harmed during the creation of this article)