• Ashleigh Gardner hopes her selection inspires other Indigenous youngsters to chase their sporting dreams. (AAP)
New South Wales cricketer Ashleigh Gardner is poised to become the first Indigenous player since 1958 to represent Australia’s national women’s team.
By
Natalie Ahmat

Source:
NITV News, AAP
31 Jan 2017 - 5:38 PM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2017 - 9:56 AM

It comes after the 19 year old was named in the Southern Stars Twenty20 and One Day International squads to face New Zealand in February.

Gardener says her selection in the national squad was a dream come true.

“It’s a massive honour to be named in this side, with the likes of Meg Lanning and Elyse Perry”, she says.

“Hopefully, its just bigger and better things from now!”

Her call-up to the national squad adds to the all-rounder's already impressive list of achievements.

In May 2016, Gardener captained the first ever National Indigenous Women’s team on its tour of India, and was also a member of the Governor General’s XI that defeated South Africa in November.

She followed that with a standout season for the Sydney Sixers in the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) , in which she finished with 414 runs and 10 wickets and took out the WBBL’s Young Gun Award for players aged under 21.

“There’s so many girls around the country similar to my age that are doing awesome things as well, and to be honoured with being the Young Gun of the year is pretty special,” she says.

“Getting the call up to the Australian side just tops it off, really!”

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Despite her outstanding form in the last 12 months, the humble star said selection in the national squad still came as a surprise.

“[Selector] Shawn Flegler called me while we were at Perth airport yesterday coming home, and I saw his name pop up on my phone, and I was just really excited to know what he wanted to talk to me about,” she recalls.

“He said it was good news when I first answered the phone, so I was pretty excited from then on and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face”.

And chances are, she’ll have plenty more reason to smile in the near future.

Should Gardner make her Australia debut, she’ll become the first Indigenous woman to play for Australia since Aunty Faith Thomas (nee Coulthard) made her Test debut against England nearly 60 years ago.

The proud Muruwari woman, who even has her mob’s name tattooed on her arm, says it will be a special moment if that happens.

“It's just a massive honour to represent not just myself, by my people back home as well,” she explains.

She hopes her selection will inspire other Indigenous youngsters to chase their sporting dreams.

“Whatever you want to do, you gotta stay determined and you can achieve whatever you want to do,” she adds.

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National selector Shawn Flegler said the National Selection Panel had been impressed with the performances and consistency Gardner had shown in the past six months, and was looking forward to seeing what she could do on the big stage.

“Everyone involved in these squads had an impact for their various clubs in the WBBL and it’s pleasing to see them competing as such a high level.

 “With the ICC Women’s World Cup taking place in England in June, this is a really important series as we finalise preparations for one of the biggest challenges in world cricket.”

The Southern Stars’ three match T20 series against the White Ferns at the MCG starts on February 17.

The Stars will then cross the Tasman for the Rose Bowl Series, which consists of three One Day Internationals.

The team is ranked number 1 in the World (ICC Women’s rankings) and are the current holders of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup.

- With AAP