The rise to stardom of national all-round cricketer Ash Gardner is a storyline that began like millions of Australians.
The 24-year-old Bankstown girl grew up playing cricket with her brother and father, where she quickly developed a love for the game.
“They were both playing cricket at the time and I think I just basically wanted to do what my brother was doing and follow in his footsteps in most sports,” Gardner said.
“Whether it was cricket rugby league, motorcycling, I wanted to play them all.”
That motivation led to her international debut in 2017, and then, in February of this year, Gardner became the first Indigenous woman to win the coveted Belinda Clark Medal.
Gardner said the news that she had won Australian women’s cricket’s highest honor left her speechless.
“I don’t think it was something I ever dreamed of being able to do while playing for this team and it’s an absolute honour,” she said.
“Being voted on by the peers – it’s super special and shows where we are at with this team and they support everyone.
“And to be the first First Nations player to win a prestigious award like this is an absolute honour.”
Gardner’s career so far has seen her captain the Aboriginal women’s team XI, win a T20 World Cup and most recently turn heads with an 18-ball, 48-point annihilation of New Zealand bowlers .
“To be one of three First Nations women who have played cricket for Australia is an absolute honour,” she said.
“Being able to represent my people, my family, my community…that’s definitely something I’m very proud of.”
Now approaching 100 international matches, Gardner said she wanted to be an inspiration for the next generation of gamers.
“There is an opportunity for young children to aspire to play cricket and there is a real pathway for them to reach the highest level,” she said.
“I think you see in other sports a real dominance of First Nations players and I guess that’s where I want to take the game eventually.”
Earlier this year, the women’s and men’s teams wore an Aboriginal jersey designed by Kirrae Whurrong, aunt Fiona Clarke – great-great-granddaughter of 1868 player Grongarrong (Mosquito) – and wife Butchulla-Gubbi Gubbi Courtney Hagen.
It was a proud moment for Gardner, who wore the shirt alongside her teammates in all three ODI Ashes matches against England.
“It’s a fantastic symbol that shows we want to celebrate our beautiful, rich and diverse culture,” she said.
“It shows Indigenous communities that they have the support of a platform and want to support the culture and educate themselves.
“That’s the beautiful thing about this group, I think, people really want to educate themselves and want to know more.
Gardner said Aboriginal shirts were a big step forward for cricket.