20 March 2023
Before ADF and NZDF cricketers took to the pitch for the inaugural T20 cricket tournament against the Pacific Islands from March 13 – 18, a small team was already hard at work to help foster the next generation of cricket talent.
From March 5 - 13, a planning team of six ADF personnel worked with Cricket Fiji to arrange coaching workshops and development programs at Fijian schools.
It was the first part of the inaugural Pacific Island Cricket Challenge 2023, an engagement activity involving community workshops and T20 tournament designed to strengthen ties in the Pacific community through sport.
Co-hosted and organised by ADF Cricket and Cricket Fiji, eight countries took part in the event.
Up to 60 Pacific Islands cricket coaches participated in level-one coaching workshops, ambulance and sports-medicine courses, before organisers headed out to 20 Fijian schools.
Former ADF coach and planning-team member Major Anthony Purton said kits were gifted to schools so students could get hands on with bat and ball at an early age.
“The kits are similar to the Milo cricket kits that you see back home,” Major Purton said.
“They don’t need a dedicated area or dedicated numbers to play, almost like a beach cricket sort of vibe.”
Coaching staff included former international players such as Australian Cathryn Fitzpatrick and International Cricket Council members.
Some of the ADF organisers are also top-tier players.
Planning team communications manager Squadron Leader Nisha Balasingam said she would rather be on the pitch than behind the desk, but the administrative role gave the ADF cricketer a different perspective.
“There are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes and you don't realise that until you’re on the other side of the fence,” Squadron Leader Balasingam said.
Navy women’s cricket captain Acting Sub-Lieutenant Terez Lofts said by the end of the tournament they had strengthened the relationship with Pacific Island partner nations through sport and raised awareness of the cricketing community.
“We’re sharing history and mutual respect through a friendly sport,” Acting Sub-Lieutenant Lofts said.
“The feedback was they all appreciated the coaching and had a great time.”
The Pacific Island Cricket Challenge 2023 finished on March 18 with PNG winning the men's and the women's T20 competitions.