Ashleigh (Ash) Gardner is a Muruwari woman from south-western Sydney. Her Mob and Country – the Muruwari people, are from south-west Queensland and rural north-west New South Wales. Ash plays on the Australian women’s cricket team and is an accomplished all-rounder.
Ash played a number of sports as a child but quickly realised that cricket was her number one. Not only did cricket give her the drive to excel, it also seemed like a potential future career possibility. She was fortunate enough to receive her first state cricket contract at the age of 17. Even though she was still completing her HSC, it was quite clear where Ash’s priorities were – and that was cricket! Exposure to professional sport environments helped Ash to learn that talent was only going to get her so far and that she had to change her attitude if she wanted to achieve her lifelong dream of playing for Australia.
At the age of 18, Ash was named Captain of the Australian Indigenous team completing a tour in India. Two years later, Ash captained that same side for the 150th anniversary of the first Aboriginal cricket team who played in Britain in 1868. By the age of 22, Ash was a two-time world champion and continues to be destructive with the bat and a match-winner with the ball.
In 2022, she was recognised for her outstanding achievements by Cricket Australia who named Ash the Belinda Clark Medallist – the highest individual honour in Australian Women's Cricket – and awarded to Australia’s best women’s international cricketer. Ash and her team went on to win the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand where she and her teammate went undefeated. Ash and her team also won gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
After Australia won the 2023 Women’s Twenty20 World Cup, Ashleigh received the International Cricket Council’s Player of the Tournament Award.
Being a role model for young aspiring Aboriginal athletes was never something Ash thought she would be but understands that this comes with being a professional cricketer. Her aim is to always be professional both on and off the field and to showcase positivity for young kids.
Ash also founded The Ashleigh Gardner Foundation whose goal is to increase the number of Aboriginal kids finishing high school and aims to provide a healthy start to the school day for Aboriginal kids: “we believe by delivering a positive experience at school through providing breakfast and unstructured play, it will encourage these kids to complete their education long term”.
The Ashleigh Gardner Foundation’s mission is to foster a positive culture and a healthy lifestyle through sport, education and art with hope of increasing positive self-belief and confidence at a young age.
To kick off her 2023 year, after a successful WBBL season for the Sydney Sixers, Ash was named Player of the Tournament. Following the WBBL season, Ash travelled to South Africa with the Australian women's team, where they secured a historic sixth T20World Cup crown, with Ash playing a starring role and being named the Player of the Tournament.
She is proud to represent her Mob and culture, with her clan name tattooed on her arm to remind her of her roots.