WBBL players agree to take stand against racism
Team captains and Indigenous players come together on eve of tournament to work out historic tribute through WBBL|06
24 October 2020, 02:58 PM AEST
A Barefoot Circle will be performed ahead of each Rebel WBBL match on Sunday, after the league's Indigenous players and its captains came together to reaffirm their commitment to reconciliation and taking a stand against racism.
The eight skippers and five Indigenous players – Ashleigh Gardner, Mikayla Hinkley, Anika Learoyd, Hannah Darlington and Ella Hayward – as well as the Stars' Elyse Villani and Georgia Wyllie from the Scorchers met at Showground Stadium on Saturday morning to connect to country and acknowledge the traditional owners of the land.
All the players removed their shoes and formed the Barefoot Circle on the wet outfield of the Sydney Olympic Park ground, as the Heat's Hinkley and Thunder's Darlington read out acknowledgements of country in between solemn moments of reflection.
It was after the ceremony had ended, while the players were replacing their socks and shoes, that Thunder captain Rachael Haynes called the group into a second huddle.
It was critical, she urged, that all eight teams be united in their commitment to reconciliation, and in how they would recognise that sentiment at the opening weekend of games at North Sydney Oval and Hurstville Oval, and throughout the entirety of WBBL|06.
Six minutes of discussion ensued between the 13 players, and Gardner spoke of the importance of the barefoot ritual and of its timing.
"The discussion was around making sure everyone was on the same page," Gardner told cricket.com.au.
"We all agreed on doing a Barefoot Circle before the first round … making sure all teams were on board, and teams didn't get to the first game and were unsure what was happening, and making sure everyone was there to support a really important cause.
"It's going to be a pretty powerful thing."
The move follows steps made by the Australian women's team in Brisbane last month, when they joined with their New Zealand rivals in a Barefoot Circle ahead of the first T20 International at Allan Border Field.
The national team will connect to country at every new location they play or train at going forward, as part of their ongoing commitment to learning about and celebrating Indigenous culture.
"It's awesome to see all clubs and the WBBL getting on board to support something that's so close to me and a lot of people in this country," Gardner, a Muruwari woman, said.
"To see female role models and cricket more specifically getting behind this cause is really important going forward."
Indigenous culture and inclusion will also be celebrated across the WBBL through NAIDOC week from November 8-15.
It is the first time the week will fall during the WBBL season, after it was postponed from July due to the impacts of COVID-19.
"NAIDOC week is always really special and to be playing a sport I love through that week, going out on the field knowing there's more to cricket than cricket and that I'm not only representing myself but my family and my culture, it's going to be a really important week," Gardner said.
Both Sydney teams are wearing the Walkabout Wickets logo, designed by Aunty Fiona Clarke, on their sleeves this season.
The Thunder held their WBBL|06 shirt presentation at the Murama Healing Space on the banks of the Parramatta river at Sydney Olympic Park earlier this week, as Darlington and Learoyd shared their family stories.
Brisbane Heat's Hinkley, who traces her heritage to the Kunja people of western Queensland, said she hoped the number of Indigenous players in the league would continue to grow.
"It was really special to be able to come out here and connect to country with those girls," she said.
"There's still potential for even more (players) to come through. We see other sports have tremendous amounts of Indigenous athletes and it would be really awesome to see that number keep growing."
While the consensus of Saturday's discussion saw a commit made to connecting to country on Sunday; individual teams, and players, may take a knee should they wish.
Two West Indies players will be part of WBBL|06, Stafanie Taylor (Adelaide Strikers) and Hayley Matthews (Hobart Hurricanes), and their captains confirmed to the group that conversations around their wishes regarding acknowledgement of the Black Lives Matter movement would take place.