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The young noongar (or nyungar) girls in the southwest of Western Australia had many games they played just among themselves because after a certain age they were not permitted to play with the boys of the camp. In one of their games a short piece of stick was placed on the ground to represent a nhoba (baby). Each girl had to defend her child from the wanas (digging sticks) of the other girls — all of whom pretended to try and kill the nhoba (baby). Wanas were thrown from all sides at the young ‘mother’, all of which she tried to fend off with her own stick. The mother held her wana between her thumb and forefinger, putting it over her head, behind her back, against her side, in whatever direction the missiles came, thus learning to defend her young ones. In real adult fights women sometimes stood beside their husbands and warded off the kidjas (spears) of their enemies.


A group of 4–10 players

Playing area

  • A designated area
  • Use ropes or cones to mark a circle 3 metres in diameter
  • Mark another circle 7–10 metres in diameter around this smaller circle to mark the playing area


  • Tennis balls to throw (coloured softball-sized airflow balls work very well especially if a number of groups are playing in the same general area)
  • A rounders bat or small cricket bat as a wana • A set of wickets, a skittle or container as the nhoba (baby)
  • A large hoop to place over the nhoba (baby)

Game play and basic rules

One player with a wana (bat) stands next to a nhoba (skittle symbolising the baby) in the middle of the 3 metre circle. A large hoop is placed over the nhoba and the batter (mother) may not step inside this area.

The rest of the players are spread around the perimeter of the playing area. Start the game using one ball and build up to two balls.

On the signal to start, the players in the outside group attempt to throw a ball (with an underarm or sidearm action — below shoulder height) to hit the nhoba while the batter uses the bat (wana) to hit/tap the balls away. Players may throw the ball to another player for them to have a throw. They are allowed to baulk but cannot delay a throw. Players should throw the ball as soon as they field it and must not wait until two balls can be thrown at the same time.



The batter cannot use their body to block the balls and must stay inside the 3 metre circle and outside the large hoop placed over the nhoba. The batter may only tap/hit the ball away and they are out if the ball is caught on the full, if it is caught with one hand after one bounce, the ball goes out of the playing area on the full, the ball is hit away too hard, the batter steps inside the hoop or outside the 3 metre area, or the batter hits/knocks the nhoba over.

A player from the outside group may enter the playing area (large circle) to catch or retrieve balls but they cannot throw while they are in this area. A player from the outside circle may not enter the 3 metre circle at all in catching/retrieving balls.

Players who retrieve balls from outside the large circle return to the playing area to throw the balls. Players may use a spare ball while a player retrieves a ball hit outside the playing area.

The player who is able to hit/knock over the nhoba with a ball becomes the new batter and the game continues. The game may be played with players batting in a set order and players are not out until they hit at least one ball.

If wickets are used as the nhoba the players around the circle must first bounce the ball on the ground outside the hoop in an attempt to knock the nhoba over — no direct hits are allowed.


As a competitive game, players in two teams score runs or points for the number of balls they hit before they are out. The game has a lot of action and players do not tend to stay in for a long time. Note: To play this game in a competition format, players may vary the rules and work out their own scoring systems.




Players are not allowed to retrieve balls from inside the small (3 metre) circle until the game is stopped.


A wana is a digging stick in the Noongar language of the south-west of Western Australia. A baby is called a nhoba.  

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