Eleven teenage girls from the different Homelands of East Arnhemland under the umbrella of the Yirrkala Homelands School were selected to represent the Arnhem Region in the recent NT schools Inter-region Softball Cup in Katherine last weekend winning against the Katherine region and nearly taking out the entire championships in the final against a well trained and experienced Barkly team . Even before the team arrived in Katherine after an 11 and a half hour journey via unsealed roads, the journey for these homelands girls had been long and momentous. At the beginning of 2016, softball was introduced as a sport of choice by the traditional owners for female Homeland students in the Arnhem Region. The girl’s first experience of softball was playing on the only open space in the community– the runway with a bat and a couple of softballs.
From an introductory softball day in March 2016 where the girls became familiar with hitting, pitching, catching and base running. They were also introduced into the new concept of using a softball glove and catching left-handed. From here the girls attended a Healthy Lifestyles camp with a sporting focus on Softball skills in Dhalinybuy in May in the lead up to the much anticipated Arnhem Region Interschool Softball Tournament held in Yirrkala on May 19. In a valiant effort and hand fought contest with many other Arnhem School Teams, the Yirrkala Homelands team defeated the Gapuwiyak School in the final 7-4.
As the selected team to represent the Arnhem Region by winning the Arnhem Region Interschool Softball Tournament the pressure was now on the Homelands girls to succeed at the next level. With the help of Softball NT, Nicky Baldwin and Brett Toll a team softball kit was donated to the Homelands Girls so they could train in own communities before coming together one last time at the Garrthalala Homelands Healthy Lifestyles Camp. The group then travelled by troop carrier and commercial bus 11 hours to Katherine on unsealed roads for the NT Inter-Region Softball Cup. At first, the Girls were very nervous and somewhat intimidated by the location and opposition however as the tournament went over into the second day, their confidence and skills grew exponentially. The Girls drew on their strength and determination in game three of the series after narrowly losing 6-4 and 8-2 and turned on an enormous effort to beat the Katherine Region by a whopping 15 -3 a game containing two home run base hits by two Arnhem girls. The final game in the series was a very tightly contested affair between the Arnhem and Barkley Regions, the Sea Mob vs the Desert Mob.
At the end of the second innings the scores were all tied up at seven runs apiece, Barkly were victorious with some big hitting in the final innings to take the win and become NT champions 11-7.
This is not the end of Softball in Yirrkala Homelands, Softball NT was so impressed by the Girls progress and skill development that they have invited two of girls to be looked at for the state U23 team and have also invited the entire team to participate in the NT Softball championships in September 2017 – stay tuned.
Girls Softball in the Arnhem Region could not have happened in 2016 without the support of fantastic partners, Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation supplied $20,000 for the team uniforms and transport costs to Katherine and return, East Arnhem Regional Council were involved in the running of the Arnhem Region Interschool Softball Competition and supplying staff for training and line-marking equipment. Yirrkala Homelands School and staff went beyond the call of duty to run Healthy Lifestyles Camps through-out the year and train the girls in softball in their homeland communities. Thank-you all so much for your support of adolescent sport in Arnhem, I look forward to what we can achieve in 2017.
Arnhem Region Sport Coordinator