On the up – the ACT athletes ensuring our game remains a sport for all

Cricket is proudly a sport for all. The inclusivity of cricket was on display recently at the National Cricket Inclusion Championships in Brisbane, where ten ACT representatives competed in both the Blind/Low Vision and Deaf/Hard of Hearing divisions.

The week-long championships event is a celebration of diversity and inclusion in cricket, bringing together Australia’s most talented cricketers living with disability to compete for a national title.

And it was a hot week of play in Brisbane (20–25 January) with one day of the championships cancelled due to the extreme weather.

Six ACT male Blind/Low Vision cricketers joined with colleagues from Tasmania for the second year running, to compete as a combined ACT/TAS team, while four ACT female athletes teamed up with players from NSW to compete in the Deaf/Hard of Hearing division.

ACT-TAS team shaking hands with QLD post-match

ACT/TAS Blind/Low Vision team 

While our male Blind/Low Vision players didn’t come away with a win during the tournament there was a clear improvement of skills from last year to this year and over the course of the week-long competition.

ACT representative players joining as a combined ACT/TAS team (The Cats) were:

  • Daniel Searle (c)
  • Clifton Plummer (vc)
  • Brent Dopson
  • Toby Hartshorn
  • Benjamin Phillips
  • Jespah Soegeng.

ACT/TAS Team Manager and Blind Cricket ACT’s, Jason Schmidt, said the tournament was wonderfully inclusive, filled with countless memorable moments. 

“But my favourite moments are the smaller ones; when I see the skills that we've been working on at home finally come together on the field,” Schmidt said.

“I appreciate how the players show respect and support for one another, even in a competitive environment.”

ACT/TAS captain Daniel Searle, was runner up B1 player of the tournament, while Toby Hartshorn was runner up B3 player of the tournament.

Toby Hartshorn and Daniel Searle at NCIC presentation dinner

Searle said the team had a fantastic week, and while the ACT/TAS squad is still developing, a great deal of growth was on show.

“I’m really proud of the way we came together as a unit.

“We put a strong emphasis on ensuring a welcoming and inclusive environment, striving to make sure that cricket is accessible for everyone no matter their background.

“We have a number of players that are very new to the game, so they were really thrown in the deep end coming up against seasoned players and teams with significant experience.

“While we didn’t get a win, I believe we surprised everyone with how competitive we were and how we were able to come together as a cohesive unit despite having limited opportunities to play together in the lead up,” Searle said.

ACT-TAS Blind and Low Vision team – 2024 NCIC

NSW/ACT Deaf/Hard of Hearing team

This is the first time that a female Deaf/Hard of Hearing NSW team has competed in the NCIC, which provided four ACT players an opportunity to also shine at the tournament.

ACT representative players joining as a combined NSW/ACT team were:

  • Chloe Nash-Shannon (vc) – Tuggeranong Valley Cricket Club
  • Diana Ciuffetelli – Weston Creek-Molonglo Cricket Club
  • Rona Lazo-Treloggen – Weston Creek-Molonglo Cricket Club
  • Heather Mertin – Tuggeranong Valley Cricket Club.

Chloe Nash-Shannon was vice-captain of the combined NSW/ACT team, who recorded one win against Queensland during the tournament, with Victoria the overall winners.

It was the NSW/ACT crew’s sportsmanship and positive encouragement that was a winner at the tournament, with the team presented the Spirit of Cricket Award.

NSW-ACT Deaf Cricketers celebrate when receiving the Spirit of Cricket Award at the 2024 NCIC presentation dinner

Chloe said winning the award was a shock, but a very proud moment.

“We really tried to display teamwork for the whole tournament. We supported each other through the good and the bad times. 

“We also spread our positive vibes around the other teams players, officials and spectators; always cheering and chanting when our players and our opponents got 4s and 6s. 

*see the ladies celebration dance below recreated at the recent Women’s T20I at Manuka Oval

ACT Deaf/Hard of Hearing players interviewed at WT20I Manuka Oval – February 2024

“We want to set a good example and showcase the inclusivity and sportsmanship within our sport to encourage more female players to join us next year, and maybe one day we can have our own ACT team.”

The Spirit of Cricket Award wasn’t the only accolade for the team.

ACT players Diana Ciuffetelli (Weston Creek-Molonglo Cricket Club) and Heather Mertin (Tuggeranong Valley Cricket Club) were named in the Cricket Australia Women’s Team of the Tournament.

Diana Ciuffetelli and Heather Mertin named in the Deaf Cricket Australia Women’s Team of the Tournament

Ciuffetelli, a wicket keeper, had a tally of six dismissals throughout the tournament and also received the award for ‘Most Dismissals’ (stumps and run outs) jointly with a Victorian player.

She said she was honoured to be named in the Team of the Tournament, particularly in a sport that makes her feel happy and positive.

“Cricket helps me feel more confident and more independent to communicate with both deaf and hearing peers,” she said.

“It’s also good for my mental health and well-being, keeping me active. 

“The NCIC tournament is so important; it’s inclusive, fully accessible, and provides an enjoyable atmosphere to make new friends and play old rivals.” 

Likewise, Mertin, an allrounder, said was shocked and surprised to be named in the Team of the Tournament.

The highlight of the tournament for her was a personal run tally of 34 not out (and at 63-years-of-age).

“I just enjoy playing cricket with a great group of women,” Mertin said.

“I’ve been playing cricket for over 22 years; it’s really good fitness, and I love going to training and exercising with lots of laughs.”

Heather Mertin post-match after her 34 not out
NSW-ACT Deaf and Hard of Hearing Women's team – 2024 NCIC

NCIC 2025

One thing is certain, this year’s tournament has only fueled the fire in the belly of players wanting to return in 2025.

For Blind Cricket ACT goals include building on the progress made in the last two years.

“We’ll continue to develop our current players, work on increasing our player base and expanding our emerging programs,” Schmidt said.

“Our specific focus will be women's programs, youth programs and regional hub development in Albury/Wodonga, and also attracting new sponsors to support us in our quest to reach the national level."

Looking to 2025, Searle said there is strong interest in returning bigger and stronger.

“I’m really keen to see more growth and development in our squad. I hope to see more people learn about the game of blind cricket.

“I want people to know that it doesn't matter whether or not you know anything about cricket, we will welcome and support you.

“With more match play and time together this squad has a lot of potential; it’s exciting to see players continue to take that next step in their development.”

Similarly, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing players will focus on growing awareness and participation.

Ciuffetelli said the group will continue training hard preparing for the 2025 tournament.

“Hopefully one day we can set up our own ACT Deaf Women’s cricket team, we just need to create more awareness to increase our player numbers, but we also have great opportunities with the combined NSW/ACT team…we just need to come up with a proper team name (like the ACT/TAS Blind/Low Vision team, The Cats)!

“Ultimately, it would be a dream come true to make the Australian Deaf Women’s Team one day,” Ciuffetelli said.

Article by Dinah Bryant

Deaf/Hard of Hearing ACT cricketers with the Spirit of Cricket trophy received at the 2024 NCIC accompanied by staff from Deaf ACT, Louise and Lauren


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