Pride was the order of the day at Raby Sports Complex today for the start of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander T20 Cup.
Day one of the two-day affair kicked off with a welcome to country from local Indigenous elder Uncle Ivan Wellington, a smoking ceremony and a barefoot circle formed by all the players.
The event sees Indigenous representatives playing under the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers banners in both the men's and women's competitions.
Sydney Thunder community interest specialist Jake Balnave said it was fortunate this year's event could be held during NAIDOC Week.
"NAIDOC Week is normally in July and out of cricket season," he said.
"So the huge benefit, if we can take any benefits out of Covid, is that we're able to celebrate the connection to culture for our Indigenous players during this week.
"We've got players from all across the state and lots of different mobs and tribes to play under either the Sydney Thunder or Sydney Sixers banner and it's amazing to see so many young and older players out there who find that cricket allows them to connect to their culture."
Sixers fan engagement specialist Aaron Wharton said he was impressed with how everyone involved with the clubs was learning.
"The conversations I hear in the sheds and on the field is that people are really learning from one another, which is what this event is all about," he said.
"As a white, Anglo man myself, I'm learning a lot, which is super cool. We all need to learn and be allies."
Balnave said it was clear that "cricket was the winner" during the event.
Wharton said many people had gone to great lengths to make it to Raby today.
"It's been such a tough period for a lot of people, but we've had some people drive six hours, four or five hundred kilometres, to get here," he said.
"It's a big sacrifice and I'm really grateful to everyone on the field and all their families."
Balnave said he hoped events like the Indigenous T20 Cup made it clear that cricket was a game for everyone.
"One thing we're conscious of is making cricket a sport for all and providing opportunities for people living in remote or rural communities to have access to elite pathways," he said.
"Today acts as a little bit of a pathway opportunity to our NSW Indigenous teams.
"We've got the male and female coaches of those two squads here today working with the teams, so they're able to impart some knowledge on to them as well."
Balnave said the players came from a mix of Premier cricket and local district competitions, and some even came out of retirement to be involved.
Wharton said the event provided a great opportunity for people to learn more about the long history of Indigenous involvement in the sport.
"A lot of people wouldn't know the first Australian cricket team to tour England was actually Aboriginal, back in 1868," he said.
"Having these people together today gives them an opportunity to go on and shine like Ash Gardner for the Sixers or Hannah Darlington for the Thunder.
"The proof is in the pudding at a grassroots level. We're going really well, but we're still learning about the great history of this country as we go through cricket.
"Today it's four teams, two clubs, but one celebration."
The T20 Cup festivities will continue tomorrow (November 13).