Teammates back ‘tough cookie’ Ash Gardner over ‘brave’ Australia Day statement

Ashleigh Gardner’s team-mates say the all-rounder star has coped well with online abuse following her January 26 statement as the team begins a 24-hour training session in the Indigenous space.

Gardner made headlines on Sunday when the proud Muruwari woman admitted her discomfort at Thursday’s game and said it was a day of sorrow and pain.

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She will play but the team have made it clear that together they support the 25-year-old’s stance.

The squad will wear an Indigenous jersey, socks and armbands for the game as they are at the center of the debate over changing the date on Australia’s National Day.

Players spent part of Wednesday attending a smoking ceremony and, upon arrival in Hobart, taking a tour of Kunanyi/Mt. to graduate from Wellington.

They called Gardner’s testimony brave, especially given the online abuse that followed.

“She was great,” said teammate Megan Schutt after Gardner went 30-of-19 unbeaten in Tuesday’s opening win over Pakistan.

“She wears her heart on her sleeve, but she’s someone who gets the job done. I checked in via text message and she was great. She’s a tough little cookie.”

Cricketer Ashleigh Gardner, a Muruwari woman, has admitted she feels uncomfortable playing on Australia Day. Credit: Jeremy Ng/Cricket Australia via Getty

Cricket Australia was originally due to forgo an elite match on January 26 for the first time in 20 years, with the second and third games of the women’s series being played in Canberra on the 27th and 29th.

However, the cancellation of the men’s series against South Africa meant that the first of those games was moved to Hobart in a bid to give the Tasmanian capital an international game.

A potential BBL Finals clash at Blundstone Arena then resulted in the game being rescheduled to the 26th.

This concerned several members of the team back in September, when discussions began about using the game as a lesson in the pain of the day for indigenous people.

“Everyone’s really supportive of Ash, she’s an important person on our team and the girls rallied around her,” said coach Shelley Nitschke, who mentored Gardner during an Indigenous XI tour of India in 2016.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions about the game as a team and we’re constantly learning.”

Australia face challenges on the pitch ahead of next month’s Twenty20 World Cup.

Beth Mooney didn’t bat in Tuesday’s win, citing pain after a grueling day-long international series that saw her open and glove-fill the bats.

She is expected to play on Thursday but with Alyssa Healy sidelined until the global tournament and Georgia Redmayne injured they have had to put homegrown talent on standby.

Uncapped Tahlia Wilson and Victorian Nicole Faltum would be the likeliest alternatives.

“We assume that (Mooney) is fit, she will be examined today,” said Nitschke.

“She had a bit of a wobble there, we thought it would be best if she moved down the order and played it safe when the cricket showed up.”

Pride jersey drama hits the NBL.

Pride jersey drama hits the NBL. Teammates back ‘tough cookie’ Ash Gardner over ‘brave’ Australia Day statement

James Brien

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