The McDonald’s Women’s Premier Cricket season starts on Sunday with the first round of the new First Grade T20 competition set to involve several current and future stars of the Women’s Big Bash League.
This season the structure of the Women’s Premier Cricket T20 competition changes from a combined First and Second Twenty20 competition to the two separate Grades.
Former Australian seamer, and leader of the NSW Breakers and Sydney Thunder attacks, seamer Rene Farrell, is among the many star cricketers named as both the Sixers and Thunder prepare for the first standalone WBBL starting this Friday.
The Sixers host their cross-town rivals, in the opening match, under lights at North Sydney Oval.
New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter, and most valuable player for the Thunder in WBBL 04 last season, Rachel Priest is another. The 34-year-old is part of a strong Penrith squad to take on Bankstown in one of the two back-to-back matches at Bankstown Oval on Sunday.
Priest joins Thunder team mates allrounder Lisa Griffith, Naomi Stalenberg and newly signed, prodigious batting talent 16-year-old Phoebe Litchfield in the Penrith XI. Bankstown host Campbelltown-Camden in the other match.
Litchfield, who moves to Penrith from Parramatta, is among several emerging teenage stars named for their clubs including seam bowling allrounder Hayley Silver-Holmes, also 16 and last season became the youngest debutant for the Sixers in the WBBL.
Silver-Holmes will captain Parramatta against Universities, including 17-year-old Sixers pace bowler Stella Campbell for the students.
No longer will clubs be represented by two teams in the T20 competition as was the case last season when, for example, Gordon entered two teams with its Blue team winning the title. Gordon Red missed the finals.
Both the First and Second Grade T20 competitions take place across the next four weekends with the top two teams in the Sixers and Thunder Conference playing off for each title on Sunday 10 November.
The Thunder Conference comprises teams in Western Sydney and Universities, while clubs in Northern, Central and Southern metropolitan areas will compete in the Sixers Conference.
Farrell has been named alongside Thunder team-mate and left-arm finger spinner Sam Bates for St George-Sutherland to meet Northern District at Harold Fraser Reserve.
Farrell is the all-time leading wicket taker for the Thunder and third overall in the four-year history of the WBBL. She has claimed 68 wickets at the impressive average of 18.4.
Sixers off-spinner Lauren Smith has been selected for Northern District.
The majority of WBBL players to feature during the opening round of the First Grade T20 played in two trial matches between the Sixers and Thunder during the week, both won by the team in green.
Thunder and Breakers off-spinning allrounder Saskia Horley, 19, will be key for Gordon against Sydney after dominating the T20 competition last season.
Horley claimed 17 wickets at an amazing average of just 4.3 runs per wicket and scored 254 at 63.5.
In late September, Horley alongside Silver-Holmes and Litchfield made her Women’s National Cricket League debut for the Breakers.
Silver-Holmes and Litchfield became the second and third youngest to debut for the Breakers. Griffith also became the 29th woman to captain the NSW women’s team in that same match against South Australia, deputising for Alyssa Healy, who was on national duties.
Campbelltown-Camden are the defending premiers of the McDonald’s Women’s Premier Cricket limited-overs title this season, again captained by wicketkeeper-batter Hannah Trethewy, previously contracted with the Thunder and Breakers.
Three of the five First Grade fixtures correlate with opening round Second Grade matches at the same venue.
Gordon play Sydney at Chatswood Oval on Sunday morning before the First Grade match between both clubs that afternoon.
Likewise, Parramatta and Universities precedes First Grade at Merrylands Park.
St George-Sutherland and Northern District follows First Grade at Harold Fraser Reserve.
Adjoining ground to Bankstown Oval, Grahame Thomas Oval, is the venue for the corresponding double-header featuring Bankstown against Penrith and Campbelltown-Camden.
The Third Grade Limited-Overs competition also starts this Saturday with defending champions Gordon playing away against Campbelltown-Camden. In other matches, St George-Sutherland host Manly-Warringah and Universities are at home to Bankstown.