Indigenous sports stars Maurice Rioli, Adrian McAdam and Greg McAdam will swap football boots for cricket uniforms when they head the line up of players at this year's Imparja Cup, Australia's premier all-Indigenous cricket carnival.
The carnival takes place in Alice Springs from 26 February - 29 February and features 28 all-indigenous men's, women's and schoolboy teams. This level of participation easily surpasses the 17 teams that competed last year.
All eight states and territories have entered teams to vie for the coveted Imparja Cup trophy. They will contest 25-over per side matches with a 40-over per side final, while teams in all other categories will play under Super 8s conditions.
For the first time, the tournament will incorporate a schoolboys' competition for boys aged 14-17 years, the initiative aimed at helping promote cricket to Australia's younger Indigenous community.
Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer, James Sutherland said the increased number of teams in this year's Imparja Cup reflected the growth of cricket in Indigenous communities.
"Indigenous participation in cricket at all levels continues to increase," Mr Sutherland said.
"Cricket Australia is committed to making our game more accessible for all Australians. Our overall strategic plan, From Backyard to Baggy Green, outlines ways of increasing Indigenous participation in cricket.
"Competitions such as the Imparja Cup help build the profile of Indigenous cricket and provide players with the opportunity to showcase their skills and talent," said Mr Sutherland.
The Imparja Cup was first held in 1994 as a Northern Territory community-based event between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. Since then, it has expanded to become a national Indigenous cricket tournament and an important fixture on the Australian cricket calendar.
The event begins on Thursday 26 February with a rematch between 2001 finalists Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
The traditional land owners, the Arrernte people, will provide a traditional welcome and Cricket Australia Chairman Bob Merriman AM will officially welcome teams at a ceremony at Pioneer Park Racecourse on Friday 27 February.
The final of the Imparja Cup will be held at Traeger Park on Sunday 29 February, following the community and women's finals.
The Imparja Cup is hosted by the Northern Territory Cricket Association in conjunction with Cricket Australia.
The competing teams in the 2004 Imparja Cup are: