Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh has expressed outrage over the lack of cricket facilities in the outback town of Tennant Creek, with players forced to practise at the local tennis court in the lead-up to major competitions. 

Waugh visited Alice Springs last week to take photos and meet cricketers at the National Indigenous Cricket Championships and the Imparja Cup — the Northern Territory’s First Nations cricket tournament.

He told the ABC he was “shocked” to discover players from Tennant Creek, a town of 3,000, 500km north of Alice Springs, had no cricket nets in their town.

“Someone’s got to do something about that, whether it’s local government or Cricket Australia or whoever,” he said.

“That’s just not good enough.”

A man stands with a women's cricket team
Steve Waugh with the National Indigenous Cricket Championships’ NT women’s team.(Supplied: Cricket Australia)

Waugh said the lack of cricket facilities was “ridiculous in this day and age”.

“In Australia, we’re supposed to be the lucky country,” he said.

“There should be opportunities for kids to go out there and to practise and to enjoy themselves.”

Two cricket players in action on an oval, on a sunny day, with red rocky mountains in the background.
The Imparja Cup and National Indigenous Cricket Championships have both been held in Alice Springs in February.(Supplied: Cricket Australia)

Town works to keep cricket alive

Despite the lack of facilities, Tennant Creek swept through to the Imparja Cup finals on Friday, losing to Alice Springs by a slim 17 runs.

“It’s great to see they made the final, it’s a really tremendous performance, when there’s no real practice facilities there,” Waugh said.

Tennant Creek has not had a weekly cricket competition since 2021.

But residents are working to reignite a love of the sport through grassroots events like the Rossy Williams Shield — a local all-levels, two-day cricket carnival.

Two men stand together pleased at the Purkiss sporting reserve in Tennant Creek, Lachie holds a shield and tropy.
Lachie Dunemann (right) is presented with the Rossy Williams Shield by Ross Williams.(ABC Alice Springs: Evan Wallace)

Tennant Creek cricketer and Kalkadoon man Lachie Dunemann said the lack of cricket facilities in his town had made it difficult to attract new players.

And he said practising at the local tennis court presented its own challenges.

“It’s not the same as batting … in Alice or in Darwin or wherever else. It’s a lot different,” he said.

“And I reckon it makes you a bit better because you’ve got to be a bit aware. Some balls bounce higher than others. Some don’t bounce. So you’re always on your toes.”

A woman in a cap and sport uniform, standing on the verandah of a country stadium and smiling.
NT women’s team vice-captain Gerry Reid practised in the tennis court, alongside the local men’s team.(ABC News: Charmayne Allison)

‘You just make do’

NT women’s team vice-captain Gerry Reid also used the tennis court to practise in the lead-up to the National Indigenous Cricket Championships, training alongside the local men’s team.

“Living so remote there’s not a lot of cricket where I come from, so you just make do with what you have,” the Arabana and Warlpiri woman said.

But National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee co-chair, Justin Mohamed, said it was crucial towns like Tennant Creek had adequate facilities.

A man in a dark suit with a light-blue shirt.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee co-chair Justin Mohamed.(Supplied: Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People)

“Unfortunately some of our regional areas — especially our more remote areas — don’t have those facilities,” he said.

“There’s more to be done, and we’ve got to be better at what we provide communities.”

NT Cricket chief executive Gavin Dovey said improving cricket infrastructure across the territory — including in Tennant Creek — was a key part of the organisation’s new five-year strategic plan.

“We fully support the push and desire for building cricket nets in Tennant Creek,” he said.

“We look forward to working with Tennant Creek Cricket Association to explore initiatives … to achieve this.

“Cricket is Australia’s national sport so whether you’re a kid from Tennant Creek or a kid from metropolitan Melbourne, you should have the same opportunity to play and fall in love with the game.”

Barkly Regional Council, which takes in Tennant Creek, was contacted for comment.