By Casey O'Connor
From Stanthorpe District Cricket to the 2024 T20 world cup – that is the hope for members of the Vanuatu Women’s National side currently playing in the Granite Belt-based competition.
Eight of the Vanuatu Women’s National cricket team are currently playing in the Stanthorpe Cricket competition, also joined by a number of players from their men’s cricket sides, as they prepare to try and qualify for the world cup.
The women are just a step away from their world cup dream with the Vanuatu National team recently beating PNG in the regional final earning them a place in the second stage of the T20 World Cup qualifier in Dubai in March.
If they are successful, the team will find themselves in the 2024 ICC World Cup line up taking on the big names of women’s cricket including the all-conquering Australian team.
This Friday night the women, and a few of the men, will play the Stanthorpe Davis Shield side in a 30-over day/night game at the C F White Oval.
The game is a chance for the players to get some match practice as a team under their belt.
All of this has been made possible due to the collaboration between Rod Presita CEO of IComply Labour and Agricultural Compliance, the Stanthorpe Cricket Clubs and Callum Blake who plays for South’s.
Prestia who has initiated the Sporting Dreams and Seasonal Work programme says it has become a great partnership.
“Previously sportsmen and women in Vanuatu had to choose between sporting ambitions and coming Australia to support their families at home,” he said.
This programme allows them to come to Australia and work while continuing their sporting dreams. “He was full of praise for the Stanthorpe Cricket Association.
“The officials, teams and players have embraced the workers.
“They have been accepted and supported by not just the members of their own tams but all teams and the Stanthorpe community.
“It is great to see.”
Prestia said the support of Red Jewel Farm should not be underestimated as they arrange their worker’s schedules to allow their them to play each Saturday.
South’s player Callum Blake, who was born and lived in Vanuatu until he left to go to boarding school, agrees it’s a great program.
“It has been good for the local clubs and for the players from Vanuatu,” he said.
“I played cricket alongside quite a few of these guys growing up and for me it is like I am a kid again back playing at home in Vanuatu.”
Blake joined the South’s club shortly after relocating from Brisbane to Stanthorpe and currently teaches at Scott’s College in Warwick.
He and the National Vanuatu side coach played Cricket together and are mates. The coach now sends through his coaching schedules to Blake who passes the information on to the girls.
Blake said the people of Vanuatu have a passion for sport and in particular Cricket.
There are six teams playing in the National competition and the cricket landscape is similar to Stanthorpe. The overseas players are relishing the opportunity to play on turf wickets and learn new skills as there is no such thing as a manicured turf wicket at home.
Stanthorpe Cricket Association President Chistopher Haynes said the presence of the international players had helped the local competition.
“Having the Vanuatu players (men and women) sprinkled through the teams has been a great boost to our competition.
“Hopefully having some girls playing will also encourage more local girls in the future to continue playing after juniors as there are great pathways for girls who want to pursue a career in cricket,” he said.
This Friday night the game begins at 5.30pm. Spectators can expect to see plenty of entertaining cricket, lots of colour and music from the Vanuatu team’s army of supporters.