Unique Vanuatu experience awaits Indigenous teams

Australia's women's and men's Indigenous teams will each play four T20s in Vanuatu to mark their first tours in five years

For Australia's men's and women's Indigenous squads, travelling to an emerging cricketing nation like Vanuatu is a brilliant opportunity to grow the game and showcase their incredible culture.

But, as women's captain Hannah Darlington is already finding out, it comes with some unique challenges.

"I did have to ask the question whether we were playing on turf or synthetic wickets – the answer I got back was 'hybrid'," Darlington told

"I've never played on a hybrid wicket and am still tossing up whether that means spikes or no spikes."

Image Id: 8CD33195C08041DBA388BADDE54EEDDD Image Caption: Fiji and Cook Islands doing battle at Club Hippique in Port Vila, Vanuatu back in 2012 // Getty

The national Indigenous squads are returning to action for the first time in five years with four T20 matches each in Vanuatu against the archipelago's national sides between May 3-10.

The last international trip for the Indigenous squads came in 2018 on a commemorative tour to England that marked the 150th anniversary of the 1868 Aboriginal team that travelled to England. 

Kamilaroi woman Darlington was on that UK tour and would love to see more matches scheduled for the national Indigenous squads.

"I've always had a dream that one day, there would be a yearly fixture," Darlington said.

"I think it'd be amazing if we had a Maori versus Indigenous match yearly – one year we're in Australia, one year we're in New Zealand.

"Obviously the last few years have been a bit riddled for everyone in terms of COVID, so this is an exciting opportunity that we get to travel to Vanuatu, which is a pretty special place."

Selecting both squads was former Test batter Julien Weiner, who sought the counsel of Darlington when finalising the 14-player women's squad.

Although the young allrounder didn't play at the National Indigenous Cricket Championships (NICC) in February, she "did a lot of watching" and is thrilled with the youthful squad that has been chosen.

"It's probably one of the youngest squads I've seen for a national side," Darlington said.

"I'm really excited about some of the players that have been able to take part in the NICC to warrant this selection.

"Looking at players like Callee Black and Veronica Keen, these are players that could be knocking on the door of a state contract very soon."

Biripi man Tyran Liddiard will take the gloves for the men's side after leading New South Wales to victory at the NICC in February.

It was the Blues' fourth consecutive title at the championships, of which Liddiard has been captain for the most recent two.

Image Id: 5AE54EAB5BA445DBBABC6E31D2569E7B Image Caption: Tyron Liddiard at the NICC in Alice Springs //

The 25-year-old is eager to keep the momentum with his representative cricket going, having had another extremely positive experience in Alice Springs. 

"It was very good to be able to get back with the boys," Liddiard said. 

"It was one of my favourite trips actually. I've done it nine times now.

"Our team is really tight, so to be able to win now four years in a row, and (personally) doing alright, that has helped me to get ready for this next trip (to Vanuatu)."

Liddiard, who has featured for the New South Wales second XI on several occasions, hasn't taken the traditional route to the fringes of professional cricket.

The wicketkeeper-batter dreams of playing in the Marsh Sheffield Shield but unlike a lot of the Blues representatives, he never played in the underage state carnivals.  

"A lot of what I've been able to achieve in cricket I owe a lot to the Indigenous stuff," he said.

"I never was a pathways kid. I never did under-17s, under-19s, anything like that.  

"So my pathway was the Indigenous pathway."

Image Id: 91FE24FB7AF8437F97C8587108034ECE Image Caption: Badimia woman Veronica Keen is one to watch, says Darlington //

Both Australian squads will wear the Indigenous-themed one-day international kits designed by Aunty Fiona Clarke and Courtney Fewquandie, which have previously been worn by the Australian men's and women's teams – most recently at the women's T20 World Cup in South Africa.

Their opponents Vanuatu are still a fledgling cricketing nation but the sport is rapidly growing on the Pacific islands, with more than 25,000 cricket participants from their population of approximately 300,000.

With their men's side currently ranked 43rd on the ICC T20I team rankings, and their women's side 35th, these squads are the country's highest-ranked international sporting sides.

National Women's Indigenous squad

(Name, mob, home state)

Callee Black, Wiradjuri, NSW

Carly Fuller, Bundjalung, VIC

Charlotte Toohey, WA

Christina Coulson, Kaurareg, QLD

Clodagh Ryall, Thursday Island, QLD

Ella Hayward, Jawoyn, VIC

Grace Abdy, Waanyi Ganggalida, QLD

Hannah Darlington (c), Kamilaroi, NSW

Merinda Hale, Yorta Yorta, VIC

Mikayla Hinkley, Kunja, QLD

Piper Hooke, North East Wiradjuri, NSW

Tahlia Meier, Wamba Wamba, VIC

Taleha Urszulak, Dharawal, NSW

Veronica Keen, Badimia, WA

National Men's Indigenous squad

(Name, mob, home state)

Bailey Toseland, Taungurung, VIC

Brandon Kopper, Palawa, TAS

Brendan Smith, Dhungutti, NSW

Brock Larance, Biripi, NSW

Brynley Richards, Dharawal, NSW

Cody Hoffmeister, Palawa, WA

Charlie Anderson, Kamilaroi, NSW

Damon Egan (c), Gunditjmara, VIC

Dylan McLachlan, Kamilaroi, QLD

Kobe Ross, Kaiwalagal, NSW

Nicolas Taylor, Noongar, WA

Tyrell Sinclair, Ngarrindjeri, Yorta Yorta, SA

Tyran Liddiard, Biripi, NSW

Wade King, Ngyampaa, VIC