Home » Australia launches inaugural First Nations team to compete on world stage in Brisbane tournament

Australia launches inaugural First Nations team to compete on world stage in Brisbane tournament

Netball Australia has announced the line-up for its inaugural First Nations team set to debut at the Pacific Aus Sports Netball Series in Brisbane.

Held from June 10-15, the side features 12 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander athletes from all over the country that will get to test their skills against international talent.

The other nations competing are yet to be announced, but previous editions have included Netball World Cup teams such as Tonga, Fiji, Singapore and Malawi.

The initiative aims to provide visibility and recognition of First Nations talent in Australia. At the Pacific Aus Sports Series, the team will operate as an invitational side, unable to tally official caps or World Netball points like their travelling opposition.

Tonga Tala met the Malawi Queens at the Pacific Aus Sports Netball Series in April 2023, before going on to play them again months later at the World Cup in Cape Town.(Getty: Ashley Vlotman)

Hand-selected by Kamilaroi woman and First Nations engagement lead Ali Tucker-Munro – alongside the sporting body’s chair of selections Michelle Wilkins and pathway head coach Anita Keelan – players already identified in the pathways were invited based on their level of experience.

“We wanted to create a space to showcase the amazing First Nations talent we have in this country, particularly those already in the high-performance space,” Tucker-Munro told ABC Sport.

“It was really about identifying these kids and giving them the opportunity to come together as First Nations women, where they can connect on a cultural level and learn from one another.

“There’s a broad spectrum of players and we’re looking at the calibre of athlete that are Super Netball training partners, those that went to the Australian National Championships last year, were involved at underage nationals or are playing in the top league of their respective states.

“It speaks to the fact that there’s been some amazing [First Nations] women out there doing the hard yards week in, week out, trying to find an opportunity and we’re offering them that visibility and a rare opportunity to play against international sides that competed at the most recent World Cup.”

Ali Tucker-Munro sits alongside Giants head coach Julie Fitzgerald at a game

Alison Tucker-Munro has worked closely with Australia’s most experienced Super Netball coach Julie Fitzgerald at the Giants Academy.(Getty: Jason McCawley)

A former Diamonds squad member herself, Tucker-Munro played in an older iteration of the national netball league for the Adelaide Ravens and Sydney Sandpipers.

After retiring, Tucker-Munro started coaching and has held various roles within her home state of NSW, guiding the Giants Academy and First Nations All Stars.

In 2021, her work was recognised when she won the Margaret Corbett OAM coach of the year. Tucker-Munro coaches the UTS Randwick Sparks opens team in the NSW Premier League competition that feeds the Swifts and Giants.

Three women - two netballers and their coach, embrace and smile at the camera.

Tucker-Munro has coached Courtney Jones (right) at the Sparks before.(ABC Sport: Brittany Carter)

“I would have been thrilled to get an opportunity to play alongside my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters in one team,” Tucker-Munro said.

“To build and nurture connections with those amazing, like-minded women, I would have relished that and I think that’s what is integral to this is.

“These players are not just connecting in a sport sense, but also in a cultural sense as empowered First Nations women that are role models within their families and community.

“I liken it to the All Stars concept we see in rugby league, running parallel to the existing pathway, where each year, players gather to fill up their spiritual and cultural cups before they go back to their regular NRL teams.”

Jauncey looks up to goal with the ball in hand

WA star Jamaica Jauncey has been invited to be part of the Australian First Nations team.(Supplied: Netball Australia)

Tucker-Munro began in her role with Netball Australia in August 2023.

In March, she played a key part in helping them launch another initiative, the First Nations coaching course, designed to foster culturally safe spaces, promote collaboration opportunities and offer support to Indigenous coaches in the national and state set-ups.

The course runs six months from February to August and addresses the decades long inequity of First Nations high performance pathway coaches at the elite level.

These barriers have also been present in a playing sense, which was publicised nationwide in the wake of the Jemma Mi Mi incident during the 2020 Super Netball season, as well as Netball Australia’s failure to protect Diamonds debutant Donnell Wallam in the controversial Hancock Prospecting sponsorship saga of 2022.

This new Australian First Nations team forms part of netball’s Declaration of Commitment that the sport made to offer better support and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. A coach is yet to be announced for the team.