The South Queensland Indigenous Men’s team emerged victorious in the inaugural Michael Mainhardt T20 Indigenous Challenge in Cairns over the weekend. The team, boasting a formidable lineup that included several current Queensland Indigenous state representatives, faced a formidable North Queensland side fuelled by pride and passion.
Queensland’s latest addition to the talent pathway calendar, supported by Lords Taverners Queensland, featured a three-game series that culminated on early Sunday morning. After both teams displayed remarkable cricket skills on day one, each securing one win, the ultimate winner was determined. In the first game, South Queensland showcased their prowess, posting a total score of 119, propelled by a stellar performance from Gold Coast rookie Zak Patel, who scored 31 from 39. Despite a resilient effort from North Queensland, they fell two runs short on the final ball.
In the second game, played under the lights of Griffiths Park, the home side, brimming with confidence, opted to bat first. A remarkable effort from Townsville local JD Wilkins (40 of 45) led the northern side to also post a score of 119. However, the South Queensland batting lineup, initially led by the young and experienced Cruz Baker, faltered against the formidable North Queensland bowling attack, especially the outstanding performance by local Cairns player Ashley White. White's impressive figures of 4/12, supported by Jamison Allan (2/12) and JD Wilkins (3/12), left the South Queensland side all out for 87 with an over to spare.
Despite some light showers, the decisive third game showcased South Queensland's class, with the opening pair of Cruz Baker (51 off 48) and Ethan Du Payne (57 off 47) leading the charge to accumulate an impressive 137 runs. Despite gallant efforts from the home side, South Queensland’s bowlers, particularly Jake Coolwell (4/12) and Banjo Seaniger (3/21), maintained the team's momentum, securing victory. Cruz Baker's all-around contribution, including a handy 2/20 with the ball, earned him the title of the Player of the Series.
The tournament, named after Queensland representative and Indigenous head selector Michael “Ducko” Mainhardt, saw his attendance to evaluate the next generation of Indigenous talent. He expressed excitement about the future of the Queensland Indigenous talent program.
“The new competition has given us an opportunity to see a number of new players that weren’t known to us, particularly from the northern part of the state” he said.
Queensland has a proud history of promoting the Indigenous talent pathway, regularly fielding teams in the National Indigenous Cricket Championships. The new fixture aims to bridge the gap between Community Cricket and the State representative side. Jason Smith, Co-Chair of the Queensland Cricket First Nations Advisory Committee, also commended the initiative and the wider impacts it may have.
“The weekend has laid a solid foundation for Queensland’s Indigenous pathway to be one of the leading models across the whole country” he said.
The true winner of the weekend was the expansion of Queensland Cricket’s Indigenous pathway, with the discovery of new players and heartwarming stories of cultural connection. Both sides wore new playing strips featuring the artwork of Queensland Cricket’s Reconciliation Action Plan. The South Queensland side, wrapped in royal blue, showcased the Aboriginal artwork from Mandandanji man, Daniel Blades. Meanwhile, the northern side, draped in deep yellow, featured artwork from Townsville-based Indigenous artist Robert Paul, a Juru descendant of the Bowen region.
Looking ahead, the competition aims to expand in future years, with discussions already underway to incorporate the female pathway. This represents the next logical step, particularly following the success of Queensland’s Indigenous women’s team, which claimed their first-ever NICC tournament win last year.
Queensland Cricket extends gratitude to Lords Taverners for their financial investment in the program, Cricket Far North for hosting the tournament and the Bulls Masters (Nathan Reardon and Peter Drinnen) who acted as team mentors. Players interested in joining the Queensland Indigenous talent pathway are encouraged to contact Kieren Gibbs at Kieren.Gibbs@qldcricket.com.au.