NORTHERN Territory cricket officials hope their state’s involvement at the Cricket Australia Under-18 Female National Championships will help the sport prosper back home.
In a significant milestone for cricket in the top end, Northern Territory has entered a team in the national championships, which are being played in Bendigo and Ballarat, for the first time in its history.
The team made its debut against a powerful Victoria Country team at Dower Park on Monday morning.
It was a proud moment for coach Richard Griffiths and his squad of 14 players, which comprises a mix of eight girls from the Northern Territory and six from far north Queensland.
“There’s been a lot of work go on over the last 12 months to get this far, so it’s really exciting to see the girls take to the field for the first time,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity. We have some girls from Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine, which is a huge geographical area, and some of them have never been exposed to this format of cricket.
“It’s going to be exciting for them and certainly challenging for them, but something we are all looking forward to.”
Serving to highlight some of the challenges that lie ahead over the next two weeks, Griffiths revealed that some players among his squad of 14 had only met for the first time on Sunday.
He said the team’s motto for the championships was ‘incremental gains’.
“We’ll review each game, both individually and as a team, and we want to keep improving. If we are doing that each game, the outcomes are not as significant for us,” he said.
“If we win a few games along the way, fantastic – if we win five or six that will be beyond expectations.
“For us we are about competing and improving. If we can go away after two weeks, sending these girls home as better cricketers, and they have had a fantastic experience, that’s a big win for Northern Territory cricket.
An encouraging first outing for Northern Territory ended with a narrow loss, with Victoria Country (4-111) able to overhaul the newcomers’ total of 4-107 in the 18th over.
Number three Ruby Strange (37) and Kira Holmes (26 not out) were the stars with the bat for Northern Territory, while Clodagh Ryall (2-13 off three overs)impressed with the ball.
If we can go away after two weeks, sending these girls home as better cricketers, and they have had a fantastic experience, that’s a big win for Northern Territory cricket.Richard Griffiths
Excited to be part of history, all-rounder Rianna Carlson, from Palmerston Cricket Club in Darwin, hoped Northern Territory’s first championships appearance would inspire more girls in the territory to pick up a bat and ball.
“Back in Darwin we don’t have a girls competition – and that’s why we have a few (Queensland) imports – we don’t have enough girls playing,” she said.
“We all play in the men’s competitions, either under-15s or under-17s
“It’s great getting to play against the girls, but hopefully a few female teams can be created soon back home. The numbers (of females playing) are getting higher.
“We have a competition once a year called NT Women’s Strike League with a few teams.”
Carlson, who rates Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell as her biggest cricketing influences, established herself as one of the stars of the Strike League with 111 runs in three innings and eight wickets, including a career-best 5-19.
The 15-year-old has been playing cricket for three seasons and was last season named the Darwin league junior cricketer of the year.