WA chief executive Christina Matthews announces resignation after transformative era

WA chief executive Christina Matthews Getty Images

Western Australia Cricket chief executive Christina Matthews said she wanted to leave "on top" and believed the "hard work" over the WACA ground's ongoing redevelopment had been completed after her resignation signalled an end to a lengthy and transformative tenure.

One of the most successful cricket administrators in Australia, Matthews announced on Wednesday that she will step down in late March after 12 years in the role. She is one of only a few women to hold a chief executive position at a first-class cricket association.

Matthews, 63, has overseen a highly successful period for WA with the men's and women's teams combining for 14 titles. The men's team over the past two seasons swept the Sheffield Shield, Marsh Cup and Big Bash League competitions.

"I probably started thinking about it nine or 10 months ago," an emotional Matthews said at a packed media conference filled with journalists, staff and players. "You want to go out when you're on top. We've had an incredible time and incredible success."

A highly-regarded wicketkeeper, Matthews played 20 Tests and 47 ODIs from 1984-95. After retirement she held various roles in sports administration, including serving as the general manager of commercial operations and communications with Cricket New South Wales.

Having replaced Graeme Wood in late 2011, Matthews' combative leadership oversaw a rebuild after a difficult period marked by ill-discipline and limited on-field success diminished WA's standing.

Not long into her tenure, Justin Langer was appointed as head coach of the men's team leading to a cultural overhaul and improvement on the field.

Never afraid to speak her mind, Matthews' rigorous approach earned her widespread recognition and she was in the mix to replace James Sutherland as Cricket Australia's chief executive in 2018.

But Matthews in recent times has had to steer the organisation through continual upheaval off the field. She missed last year's Perth Test match amid a month's leave after a taxing period, which included a spate of board resignations and unrest emanating from several WA legends.

An external inquiry looking into the resignations, which included former Test players Wood and Mike Veletta, recently cleared directors and the executive of any wrongdoing.

Tensions also erupted last year over a proposal to erect statues of legendary quick Dennis Lillee, women's trailblazer Zoe Goss and a 19th century team of Aboriginal cricketers.

Her detractors have often seemingly been dismayed at Matthews' progressive push and she's had to navigate a membership base that skews older and male.

"I've always believed culture is how you react when things aren't going well and how you stand up when things aren't going well," Matthews said. "It doesn't matter what's happened in our history as an organisation. We've responded well and we've held ourselves with integrity and strong values."

Since she took on the role, plans to redevelop the famous WACA ground have been front and centre. It's long proved troublesome and thorny, but construction has started on the AU$163 million refurbishment.

The WACA is set to transform into a multi-sport community facility, marked by a public swimming pool, playground and cafe, while boasting 10,000-15,000 seats for events.

The project, initially pegged at $115 million, is set to be completed by mid-2026 with the iconic ground earmarked to host Test matches involving smaller nations.

The timing of Matthews' resignation surprised many who thought she would see through the redevelopment. "Ego is a wonderful thing. And one of the things in life you have to be careful of is that you're not making decisions for your own ego," Matthews said.

"Yeah, it would have been nice to cut a ribbon and all that sort of stuff. But the real hard work has been done and now it's time for that to be completed."

Matthews said she would not seek full-time employment, but hoped to dabble in cricket coaching.

A search for her successor has started.