Western Desert representative teams Kakarra and Yapurra exhibit their softball talent in Perth
Heads turned, faces amazed and eyes concentrated reading the bold ‘Western Desert Softball Tour’ as a tight unit of black and red shirts entered the Softball WA headquarters for the first time. Friday the 9th 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 to Perth, girls from 8 remote Western Desert communities 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 invited along as guests of the Western Desert softball tour jumper presentation where the 32 Martu and Pintupi girls were separated into two teams. The Kakarra (meaning East) team was represented by Jigalong, Punmu, Parnngurr and Kiwirrkurra communities, while the Yapurra (meaning West) team was represented by Warralong, Nullagine and Parnpajinya communities. The girls were proud to receive their playing shirts and determined to represent their team 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 to Female indigenous sport development officer Ebony Humble about learning 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. As the finals finished up the Western Desert girls nervously entered the big diamond 1 dug outs in front of a generous crowd. As mentors from each team spoke to the girls about focusing on having fun nerves were settles and the game was soon under way 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 getting 2 runs on the scoreboard early and able to hold their lead in defense during the first dig with some impressive windmill pitching. It wasn’t long however until 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. With Yapurra needing to score runs back, mentors Annabel Landy and Rosanne Marnie talked to their girls encouraging them to hit the ball ‘HARD’. Feedback was taken in with the girls scoring another run however it was their defense that let them down in the last dig resulting in a 5 – 3 win to Kakarra at the conclusion of the Western Desert exhibition match. 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.
With excitement lingering from the exhibition game the girls were captivated in watching the nail biting grand final of the Open women’s national championships between New South Whales and Queensland. Rewarded after a busy two days, the girls enjoyed a movie and dinner to switch off from softball. However with new gear and excitement from their previous days game the girls were up early the following morning practicing their pitching, catching and throwing before breakfast. The girls were eager to play development games against the Western Australian 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 swapping over after a lunch break. After numerous requests for umpire training the girls were concentrated 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. Kakarra and Yapurra teams displayed some powerful hitting leaving no rest for the state team fielding. It wasn’t long before the cleats were kicked off and majority of the girls were running bases in bare feet displaying their true Western Desert culture. As the games wrapped up for the day the Western Desert teams headed to Hillary’s beach to cool off from 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.
With a great few days at Softball WA the girls were happy with time to go shopping before departing Perth with two very packed buses ready to make the trip home to their communities.