The Women’s Big Bash League has reaffirmed its commitment to improving education and meaningful connection with Australia’s Indigenous peoples by hosting its First Nations Round for 2021.

The round started on November 17 on Kaurna Country (Adelaide), with the Faith Thomas Trophy match between Adelaide Strikers and Perth Scorchers.

The Scorchers won the trophy after making 3-177 and restricting the Strikers to 5-165.

Cricket Australia told the National Indigenous Times at all the matches, teams participated in barefoot circles and there was also a Welcome to Country for each day of play.

The second match of the round was between the Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Thunder on the lands of the Yuwibara people in Mackay. The Renegades won by four runs.

The WBBL has only five Aboriginal players in the league, with two playing for Sydney Thunder (Hannah Darlington and Anika Learoyd) and Ella Hayward for the Renegades.

Hayward spoke to the National Indigenous Times about the 2021 First Nations round and what it meant to be one of the only Indigenous players in the WBBL.

“It means a lot and it’s cool to represent my culture,” she said.

“And obviously, there are only a few of us as well, so to be a part of that few that gets to represent my mob and also set an example and be kind of like a role model for other younger girls watching the WBBL, especially Indigenous girls.

“It definitely means a lot to walk out there with the jerseys on and be a representation of Indigenous culture and cricket, it’s just a really good feeling and it’s good for education and starting conversations.”

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 16: Sophie Devine captain of the Perth Scorchers and Tahlia McGrath captain of the Adelaide Strikers model their indigenous designed uniforms with the Faith Thomas Trophy they will compete for tomorrow
during a WBBL media opportunity at Karen Rolton Oval on November 16, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The 18-year-old said she believed there was still a long way to go but the First Nations round was a good start.

“It’s really nice to see that we’re getting acknowledgment,  and starting this movement and supporting Indigenous culture and cricket and starting those conversations and educating those who are supporting the WBBL,” she said.

Each WBBL team wore a specially designed top that featured Indigenous artwork, which was one of the highlights for Hayward.

“I think it means a lot to see the girls get around it, and just to be a part of it is super awesome,” she said.

“But to actually be on the field and get the chance to play while wearing those jerseys and to be a part of the round fully and actually be out there bowling and playing, it was such a cool feeling.”

The Brisbane Heat, which includes Indigenous player Mikayla Hinkley, played Sydney Thunder on November 19 but lost by nine runs.

The Sydney Sixers, which include Indigenous woman Ashleigh Gardner, lost by eight wickets against the Adelaide Strikers on November 20.

By Teisha Cloos