National cricket all-rounder Ash Gardner’s rise to stardom is a script which started out the same as millions of Australians.

The Bankstown girl, 24, grew up playing backyard cricket with her brother and father where she quickly developed a love for the game.

“They both played cricket at the time and I think I just wanted to do basically whatever my brother was doing and followed in his footsteps with most sports,” Gardner said.

“Whether that was cricket rugby league, motorbike riding, I wanted to play them all.” 

That drive led to her international debut in 2017 and then, in February this year, Gardner became the first Indigenous woman to win the coveted Belinda Clark medal.

Gardner said news she had won Australian women’s cricket’s top honour left her speechless.

“I don’t think it was something I ever dreamt of being able to do while playing for this team and it’s an absolute honour,” she said. 

“Being peer voted – it is super special and shows the place we are at with this team and they back everyone.

“And to be the first ever First Nations player to win a prestigious award like this is an absolute honour.”

Gardner’s career so far has seen her captain the women’s Aboriginal XI side, win a T20 World Cup, and most recently turn heads with an 18-ball, 48-run obliteration of New Zealand’s bowlers.

“To be one of three First Nations women that have played cricket for Australia, it’s an absolute honour,” she said. 

“Being able to represent my people, my family, my community… it’s certainly something that I’m super proud of.” 

Now approaching 100 international games, Gardner said she wanted to be an inspiration for the next generation of players.

“There is an opportunity for young kids to aspire to play cricket and there is a real pathway for them to reach the highest level,” she said.

“I think you see in other sports as a real dominance of First Nations players and I guess that’s where I want to get the game to eventually.”

Earlier this year the women’s and men’s teams wore an Indigenous shirt designed by Kirrae Whurrong woman aunty Fiona Clarke – 1868 player Grongarrong’s (Mosquito) great-great granddaughter – and Butchulla-Gubbi Gubbi woman Courtney Hagen.

Hannah Darlington and Ash Gardner in Indigenous shirt. Photo Getty Images.

It was a moment of pride for Gardner, who wore the shirt alongside her teammates for all three ODI Ashes matches against England.

“It’s a fantastic symbol and goes to show that we want to celebrate our beautiful rich and diverse culture,” she said. 

“It shows the Aboriginal communities that they have the backing from a platform and are wanting to support the culture and want to educate themselves. 

“That’s the beautiful thing about this group, I think, people are wanting to actually educate themselves and are wanting to learn more.

Gardner said the Indigenous shirts were an important step forward for cricket.