Right now, Indigenous men and women are bowling and batting in the red desert celebrating culture, connection and cricket.

The National Indigenous Cricket Championships (NICC) began on Monday in Alice Springs, NT and will continue until February 3.

NICC will bring together seven men’s and six women’s teams from across the country to compete in national titles in T20 formats at Traeger Park, and Jim McConville and Albrecht Ovals.

New South Wales will be entering the competition seeking to defend their men’s and women’s titles.

Proud Tasmanian Aboriginal man, Callan Morse, has been playing for the Tasmanian team for many years and has participated in his fair share of NICCs.

“You always get to take something new away from each one … It’s always a challenge, I’ve had experience now so I know what to expect but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Morse said.

Morse grew up playing cricket, and is still just as passionate as the day he started.

“I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember, probably as long as I could walk so I don’t know any other way.

“I love the fact that it’s an individual sport in a team environment. As a batter, there isn’t anyone that really affects your performance outside of yourself.

“We’ve got a number of younger players in our squad this year and my role in the side has transitioned a bit to the 14-year-old that ran the drinks to the older players to now developing into a player that contributes more and more to the success of the team.

“Now I feel like I can offer a bit of a mentorship and support role to the younger players, talking to them about tactics and strategies.”

Running alongside NICC is the Imparja Cup. The tournament is in its 27th year and will see cricketers from across the Territory showcase their skills. The tournament hosts four divisions, Mixed Indoor Cricket, Men’s Major Centres, Men’s Community and Women’s Community.

Whilst many of the players have had strong connections to culture from a young age, others are only beginning their cultural identity journey. NICC and Imparja Cup provides opportunities for Indigenous peoples to come together, to share stories and experiences, and at times, to find family.

“A lot of the players from Tasmania don’t have a strong understanding of their cultural heritage, due to the nature of Indigenous life in Tasmania where a lot of people aren’t practicing traditional culture like they are in other places in Australia.”

“It’s about encouraging younger people to be curious and interested in their cultural heritage and to accept that it is okay not to know, but that there’s opportunities and ways to find out about yourself and your family history.”

“If I hadn’t have been picked to participate in the Imparja Cup for so long, I wouldn’t know nearly as much about my family heritage as what I do now. I’ve met relatives through the cup … ran into a bloke who was my second cousin when we played Victoria a few years ago. So that was a nice little moment as well.

“I’d encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to participate in Indigenous sport … especially Indigenous cricket. There are so many doors that can be opened outside of just playing the sport.”

The Imparja Cup will kick off on Saturday and feature a Reconciliation Round which aims to recognise, celebrate and acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and culture in the sport.

By Rachael Knowles