The women’s Big Bash League cricket competition started last month and now it’s the men’s turn. BBL 08 begins this week and we thought it was timely to check in on some of the outstanding Indigenous players, so you can follow their stories this summer.

Jake Weatherald – Adelaide Strikers – Batsman
Weatherald is in the spotlight this summer for the way he left the BBL stage last season. The 24-year-old became the first person to smash a century in a BBL Final (115 off 70) to lead the Strikers to their inaugural title.

He has spent the off-season working on improving his concentration at the crease in the hopes of an Australian Test team call up. The selectors haven’t called yet, but he is regularly on the phone with former Test legends Darren Lehmann and Brett Lee who both rate him as a future Test star. Lee even labelled Weatherald “the future of Australian cricket”.

Weatherald will open for the Strikers this season. Keep an eye on his cracking pull shot and clean cover drive, both featured heavily in his three 50s and one 100 during BBL 07. His strike rate over the last three seasons is a pretty 127.55. He is part of the competition’s 500-run club and it will be exciting to see how many he can add in this year’s extended season.

D’Arcy Short – Hobart Hurricanes – Batsman
D’Arcy Short also featured in last year’s BBL Final, but his side fell 26-runs short of the Strikers’ total. Short smashed 68-runs off not many balls to lead a late fight back but the team couldn’t rally.

Short is a little more experienced than Weatherald. The 28-year-old received his first ODI cap for Australia against England in Cardiff last winter. His left arm wrist spinners add value to his selection but like Weatherald he’s yet to crack the Test team.

His ability to dismantle the opposition in T20s is unquestioned. He smashed 61-runs in his Big Bash debut in 2016, and last year hit four 50s (two of which he made the 90s) and a massive century against the Brisbane Heat in January (122 not out).

Short is of the Mitakoodi people in northwestern Queensland and is very proud of his heritage. “I know where I come from. I feel a connection with my Indigenous heritage,” Short wrote on sports website Players Voice.

“I’d like to think that when Indigenous kids see us playing together in the Big Bash, it sends a message that they can achieve anything they set their minds to with self-belief.”

Dan Christian – Melbourne Renegades – Allrounder
The veteran of our list, Dan Christian has been around long enough to have memories of playing with Test greats Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee and Shane Warne. The all-rounder made headlines in 2011 when he was contracted by the Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League for $900,000.

The 35-year-old’s experience isn’t the only asset he brings to the Renegades this year. The veteran comes into BBL 08 in form, having smashed 52 off 19 for the Jozi Stars in South Africa’s Premier T20 League earlier this month.

He spent the off-season in England as captain of Nottinghamshire in the Vitality Blast, destroying Northamptonshire’s opposition bowlers with 119 off just 40 deliveries including 9 sixes. He was batting at six during that game.

This season is shaping up to be a big one for Christian.

Scott Boland – Melbourne Stars – Bowler
The tall right arm fast bowler has been around state cricket for six years. He made his Test, ODI and T20 debuts for Australia in the 2015-16 summer after collecting career best figures of 7-31 in the Sheffield Shield.

The 29-year-old’s best BBL match last season came against cross-border rivals the Strikers in January, taking an impressive 4-30 followed shortly after with 3-37 against the Sixers. Consistency has been a problem for Boland in the Big Bash so it will be an area he hopes to improve this season.

Boland’s ancestry traces to the Gulidjan tribe in the Colac area of Victoria, a fact he discovered in his mid-20s. He’s still learning about and wanting to embrace his background respectfully.

Cricket Australia Indigenous engagement specialist Paul Stewart is working with Boland to work out ways he can learn more about Indigenous culture.

“I think the best thing, is we’re role models for the Indigenous community,” Boland said.

Josh Lalor – Brisbane Heat – Bowler
Left arm quick Josh Lalor has been around the Big Bash League since its inception. He debuted for the Sydney Sixers that year and has since enjoyed time at the Sydney Thunder and the Perth Scorchers before ending up with the Brisbane Heat in 2015.

Lalor is known as a cunning bowler, capable of adjusting to various conditions and remaining consistent under pressure, as shown by his economy rate of 7.78 for the Heat.

Lalor (31) will compete for game time this season as the Heat have a stacked pace lineup. Mark Steketee, James Pattinson and Brendan Doggart are all just as likely to get the nod. Two leg spinners have also been included in the Heat’s squad.

Heat Coach Dan Vettori said it was an easy decision to offer Lalor a contract for this season.

“His experience and skill definitely helps, especially with working alongside some of the younger bowlers in the squad,” Vettori said.

Brendan Doggett – Brisbane Heat – Bowler
We’ve profiled Brendan Doggett already this year, for his inclusion in the Australian Test squad for the tour of the UAE. He didn’t get any game time, but he’s definitely on the radar of some of the top brass.

With just seven Big Bash games under his belt, the 24-year-old is one of the least experienced players on our list. He is well known in the BBL for becoming a part of the five-wicket club against the Scorchers in January.

His only other two BBL wickets came against the Stars in his BBL debut last season, and against the Hurricanes in the Heat’s last match of BBL 07.

There’s plenty of room for improvement on his BBL resume but his form in the longer formats suggests he’ll have plenty of time to shine. He took 5-101 in the Sheffield Shield Final victory over Tasmania last season. With 38 wickets from 12 Sheffield Shield matches, keep an eye on Doggett for higher honours this season.

Jason Gillespie – Adelaide Strikers – Coach
The first Indigenous Australian man to play Test cricket in the modern era, Jason Gillespie is now a respected coach. His time at the Adelaide Strikers in the last 18-months has seen the club not only succeed on the field (their first BBL title coming under his guidance), but also off the pitch.

The Strikers have an agreement with the Northern Territory Government and Cricket Australia to play BBL and WBBL matches in Alice Springs again this year.

The Strikers started the two-year agreement last season which saw Gillespie lead the players to hospital visits, run open training sessions in the region, host autograph sessions and invite young Indigenous athletes to participate in clinics. The partnership has also seen a welcome to country video play on the big screen before each match and a special Indigenous outfit was worn by the players last year.

By Keiran Deck