More than 40 Indigenous teams representing the length and breadth of Australia will arrive in Alice Springs on Sunday for the 2014 Imparja Cup.

The week-long tournament from 9-15 February will once again feature the nation’s brightest Indigenous talent. Entering its 21st year, players will travel thousands of kilometres to Alice Springs from remote locations for the annual celebration of Indigenous cricket and heritage.

Men’s and women’s state and territory teams contest the senior national titles, while Major Centres, Community and Schools teams also compete in separate competitions to form the rest of the 40-plus team tournament.

After breaking New South Wales’ two-year hold on the men’s competition, Queensland will defend its 2013 title, while the New South Wales women will look to make it four straight crowns.

The competition will cap a significant 12 months for Indigenous cricket, a period that was highlighted by the graduation of three representatives from the  2013 tournament to KFC T20 Big Bash League rookie contracts this season.

Ben Abbatangelo (Melbourne Stars), Hayden Collard (Perth Scorchers) and Ryan Lees (Hobart Hurricanes) were all signed as BBL community rookies in part due to their performances in Alice Springs last year, with expectations high that more Indigenous talent will announce their arrival and continue in this trio’s footsteps in 2014. The trio will return to the Imparja Cup this year for Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania respectively.

Andrew Ingleton, who oversees Indigenous cricket in his role as Cricket Australia’s Executive General Manager Game and Market Development, said it is this progression to the elite level that the Imparja Cup fosters.

“Australian cricket’s goal is to be Australia’s favourite sport and a sport for all Australians. Thriving Indigenous cricket participation is critical to achieving this,” Mr Ingleton said.

“There are cricket development programs spread across the country to inspire Indigenous Australians to pick up a bat and ball.

“High-performance opportunities like the Imparja Cup continue the foundation set by our participation programs, creating a pathway that seeks to put Indigenous Australians in the Baggy Green.”

For the first time in the tournament’s history, players and coaches from the Men’s State and Territory division will receive mentoring from former Australian Test and first-class players.

In partnership with the Australian Cricketers’ Association, Jimmy Maher, Brett Geeves, Greg Matthews, Tim Cruikshank, Adam Crosthwaite, Phil Emery, Ben Johnson, Lee Carseldine, Wayne Holdsworth and Ken Skewes will compete in the ACA Masters team and stay on for Day 1 of the Cup to help players and coaches with preparation, match tactics and game awareness.

The 2014 Imparja Cup tournament begins with the ACA Masters and Black Caps – an Indigenous representative team selected from the 2013 Cup – on Sunday 9 February at Traeger Park.

For full tournament details, live scores and live streaming of the 2014 Imparja Cup finals, visit www.imparjacup.com.au

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