Newcrest Mining Western Desert Softball Tour Perth 2015
HEADS TURNED, faces looked amazed, and eyes focussed on reading the bold type ‘Western Desert Softball Tour’ as the tight-knit unit of black and red shirts entered the Softball WA headquarters for the first time. Friday 9 January marked the day many young women from the Western Desert region first laid eyes on an international standard softball stadium.
After a long two-day drive from the communities to Perth, girls from eight remote Western Desert localities were excited and equally anxious from the attention they received walking through the Softball WA gates to watch the Australian Open Women’s national championships semi-finals. Sponsors and partners of Ngurra Kujungka were guests at the Western Desert Softball Tour jumper presentation where the 32 Martu and Pintupi girls were organised into two teams.
The Kakarra (meaning East) team drew representatives from Jigalong, Punmu, Parnngurr and Kiwirrkurra communities, while the Yapurra (West) team comprised players from the Warralong, Nullagine and Parnpajinya communities. The girls were proud to receive their playing shirts and determined to represent their teams well at the Western Desert exhibition game to be played the following day. With the girls staying to watch a very impressive standard of softball displayed in the semi-finals, it wasn’t long before questions were thrown at Ebony Humble about learning how to pitch and bat like the women representing their respective states.
As the girls reflected on what they learnt over night, excitement was in the air around camp at breakfast the following morning. The girls were thrilled to receive kit bags along with cleats fitted by Fielders Choice, and were ready in their Western Desert uniforms to depart for Softball WA headquarters. Arriving to watch the preliminary finals, the girls observed a warm-up completed by the Western Flames, which they replicated on the back diamond in preparation for their curtain-raiser game.
Once the finals finished, the Western Desert girls nervously entered the big diamond 1 dug-outs in front of a generous crowd. Mentors for each team spoke to the girls about focusing on having fun; nerves were settled; and the game was soon under way, together with running commentary from Softball WA representative Trevor Schorer. The crowd was captivated to see the Western Desert talent as the umpire called ‘Play Ball’.
Yapurra were first to bat, scoring 2 runs on early and able to hold their lead in defense during the first dig with some impressive windmill pitching. It wasn’t long before Kakarra fought back in the second dig, with striking pitching from Kiwirrkurra’s Tanella West, backed up by a great hit from mentor and Ngurra Kujungka Recreation Officer Darlene Richards leading Kakarra into the third dig with a 1 run lead.
Yapurra needed to get some runs back. The team’s mentors, Annabel Landy and Rosanne Marnie, encouraged their girls to hit the ball ‘hard’. The feedback was heard, with the girls scoring another run. However, their defence let them down in the last dig, resulting in a 5 – 3 win to Kakarra at the end of the game.
The teams were presented with medallions from Western Flames softball players Shannon Hearne, Leigh Godfrey and Chelsea Forkin, while major sponsor Ben Bryant from Newcrest Mining handed the Western Desert Softball Tour Champions trophy to Kakarra mentors Darlene Richards and Roxanne Chapman.
Rewarded after a busy two days, the girls then enjoyed a movie and dinner to switch off from softball. However, with new gear and excitement from their previous day’s game, the girls were up early next morning practising their pitching, catching and throwing before breakfast. The girls were eager to play development games against the WA Under 17 Girls’ State Team, who were in their final days of preparation before departing for Canberra. Yapurra were first to challenge the girls while Kakarra completed a practical umpiring course.
The teams swapped places after a lunch break. After many requests for umpire training, the girls were focussed on expanding their knowledge on the rules of softball. The session incorporated field umpire positioning at 1st and 3rd bases, plate umpire positioning and the signals required for relevant calls. The development games were rewarding for all involved as the Western Desert girls mingled with the Under 17s players.
The Kakarra and Yapurra teams displayed some powerful hitting, leaving no rest for the State team while fielding. Soon enough, the cleats were kicked off and the majority of the girls were running bases in bare feet, displaying their true Western Desert culture.
As the games wrapped up, the Western Desert teams headed to Hillary’s beach to cool off after a warm day at the fields. Smiles were everywhere as the girls buried each other in the sand and played beach cricket on the shore. The girls were happy with time available later to go shopping before departing Perth with two very packed buses ready to make the trip home to their communities.