Gardner leading by example as female participation soars
February 10, 2017
Female participation in cricket is at an all-time high and Cricket Australia’s Growing Cricket for Girls Fund is helping to pave the way.
Launched in July last year with a $4 million investment over four years, a huge appetite from associations, clubs and schools across the country, totalling 392 grant applications, prompted CA to commit another $500,000 over the next 12 months – doubling that direct funding.
The fund’s launch meant the formation of 46 new all-girls’ competitions and the expansion of 11 existing competitions, with a total of 534 new and existing girls and women’s cricket teams benefitting from the funding.
These competitions provide girls with the opportunity to play cricket against other girls of a similar age and skill level and are key step in the National Junior Player Pathway as the natural progression from MILO in2CRICKET and MILO T20 Blast.
With the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League providing inspirational role models for young female cricketers, Australian cricket is committed to ensuring cricket is a sport for all Australians.
For one Australian, Ashleigh Gardner, an opportunity was all she needed.
From Picnic Point in the south-west of Sydney, Sydney Sixers all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner has been a shining light since taking to the field for Revesby Workers Cricket Club.
Beginning her career in the backyard like so many Australian girls and boys, Gardner made her first NSW school team in Year 5 at the age of 11 and continued to impress as she made her way through the State’s underage sides to eventually be named as captain of NSW’s Under 18 side in 2013.
In 2015, Gardner announced herself as a player to watch after finishing as leading run scorer at Cricket Australia’s Under 18 Championships with 199 runs, leading NSW to the title and being named Player of the Championship.
In the same year, Gardner became the first woman to be named Lord’s Taverners Indigenous Player of the Year, whilst also being named Player of the Tournament at the Imparja Cup and making her Women’s National Cricket League debut for the NSW Breakers.
At 18, Gardner was soon becoming the player that she had looked up to for so long and was mixing with her idols.
Having already donned the Australian colours for the Commonwealth Bank Shooting Stars tours of Sri Lanka and Dubai, Gardner topped off an already-sparkling career with selection in Australia’s first female Indigenous squad on their tour to India earlier this year.
Now at just 19, Gardner has crafted her attacking off-spin bowling to accompany her big hitting and her dream is now just inches away.
After a breakout second season in the Rebel WBBL, Gardner was named in the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars Twenty20 and ODI squads to face New Zealand.
Should, or rather, when Gardner makes her debut, she will become the first Indigenous woman to do so and only the second in history since Faith Thomas (née Coulthard) made her Test debut against England on 21 February 1958.