This weekend is a blockbuster weekend with the AFL, NRL and NRLW grand finals as well as the Cox Plate.
With these blockbuster events on, one sporting competition that might have slipped under the radar is the start of the WBBL season. WBBL06 will start on Sunday and like many other competitions will be played in a COVID-19 hub. The WBBL hub will be based in Sydney.
T20 is a game of momentum and in a compressed season, momentum is more important than ever.
Last season: Winner
The Brisbane Heat are the two-time defending champions. In WBBL05, the key for the Brisbane Heat was stability. There is a little less stability in the WBBL06 squad with some player movements.
Two key players that have left the Heat are wicketkeeper and Australian opener Beth Mooney and bowler Sammy-Jo Johnson. Mooney has decided to don the burnt orange of the Perth Scorchers and Johnson has signed with Sydney Thunder.
To replace Mooney behind the stumps the Heat have called for the doctor…Dr Georgia Redmayne. Redmayne has previously played for the Hobart Hurricanes and the Perth Scorchers. To replace Johnson the Heat have signed Nicola Hancock, who most recently played with the Melbourne Stars. Hancock took 17 wickets in 27 games for the Stars.
There is still plenty of returning talent for the Heat with Australian spinner Jess Jonassen (1,378 runs and 75 wickets) leading the way along with Australian medium-fast bowler Delissa Kimmince (74 wickets and 653 runs), who is very difficult to score from and who previously played AFLW with the Brisbane Lions.
Sisters Grace Harris (1113 runs and 44 wickets) and Laura Kimmince (466 runs), are explosive with the bat both having WBBL strike rates in the 130s. Laura recently married teammate Delissa.
White Ferns stars leg spinner Amelia Kerr and batter Maddy Green will be again be playing for the Heat. Don’t be surprised if Kerr delivers the goods with the bat as well, she scored 232 not out in a One Day International against Ireland.
The Heat’s third international signing is South African all-rounder Nadine de Klerk. In the T20 World Cup in March semi-final against Australia de Klerk took 3-19. Nadine is another multi-talented sportsperson – she competed at the national level in South Africa as a javelin thrower.
Georgia Prestwidge was an important contributor with the ball for the Heat during WBBL05 taking 11 wickets.
Young guns Mikayla Hinkley, Charli Knott, Lilly Mills, Courtney Sippel and Georgia Voll round out the squad.
The Heat will miss Mooney and Johnson but have made good signings in Redmayne and Hancock to fill those gaps and will be difficult to beat again in WBBL06.
Last season: Runner-up
WBBL06 brings an end to the Smash Sisters, with Sophie Devine moving west to the Scorchers. However, Suzie Bates is back for the Adelaide Strikers.
The New Zealand star has scored 1710 WBBL runs and taken 35 WBBL wickets. Bates recently injured her shoulder in the series against Australia. She is confident of being fit for the start of WBBL06, although she may not be able to bowl in the initial games.
West Indian captain Stafanie Taylor returns to the Strikers after playing two games last season. Prior to WBBL05 Taylor played 58 matches with the Sydney Thunder. In total, Taylor has scored 1074 WBBL runs and 49 wickets.
Australian right-arm medium-fast bowler Megan Schutt will again be the leader of the Strikers’ bowling attack. Schutt’s consistency at both the start of the innings and at the death is unparalleled for both Australia and the Strikers.
Schutt is the all-time equal leading wicket-taker for the Adelaide Strikers with 63 and has an economy rate below 5.7.
Leg spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington is a key for the Strikers during the middle overs. Wellington has taken the same number of wickets as Schutt and has also scored over 300 WBBL runs.
Another Australian representative, Tahlia McGrath’s all-round ability will be crucial for the Strikers having scored over 1000 runs and taken 45 wickets.
21-year-old South African batter Laura Wolvaardt joins the Strikers for WBBL06. Wolvaardt was selected in the ICC team of the tournament at this year’s Women’s T20 World Cup. Wolvaardt has scored 1871 runs in 50 ODIs for South Africa.
Sarah Coyte is another experienced and consistent performer. Coyte, in her second stint with the Strikers after a stint in the middle with the Sixers, has taken 59 WBBL wickets and scored 325 runs.
Bridget Patterson, a reliable contributor in the middle order, has scored 1117 runs. After spending four seasons with the Stars this will be Katie Mack’s second season with the Strikers. Mack has scored 902 WBBL runs. Watch for Mack’s speed and enthusiasm as she patrols the cover and midwicket boundaries.
Alex Price is usually protecting the opposite square boundary to Katie Mack. Price has taken 18 wickets with her off-spin. If you get the chance to watch one of the Strikers’ TV games and Price is on the player microphone you are in for some laughs (Price is up there with Brisbane’s Grace Harris and Sydney’s Alyssa Healy for entertainment value on the player microphone).
Experienced wicketkeeper Tegan McPharlin is a mainstay of the Strikers team. McPharlin is closing in on 50 dismissals and has scored over 300 runs.
New recruit Madeline Penna was signed as an injury replacement for the Stars in WBBL05 and was the Stars’ leading wicket take in WBBL05 with 12 wickets.
Right-arm medium bowler Ellie Falconer, young batter Annie O’Neil and teenage right-arm medium-fast bowler Darcie Brown round out the squad.
While the Strikers will miss Devine they have three quality overseas internationals, and they have core stability, consistency and experience within their Australian players. You would expect another WBBL finals performance.
Last season: Semi-finalist
The Perth Scorchers have lost Meg Lanning and Natalie Sciver from their team from WBBL05. On first glimpse, you might expect for the Scorchers to drop down the ladder.
How did the Perth Scorchers’ recruiting department fill the gaps created by the departures of the Australian skipper and the English allrounder? They recruited the second and third leading run-scorers in WBBL history.
They brought in Australian opener and former Brisbane wicketkeeper Beth Mooney (2576 WBBL runs) and New Zealander and former Striker Sophie Devine (2174 runs). Devine has also taken 60 WBBL wickets.
Nicole Bolton is the cornerstone of the Scorchers’ top order. Bolton has scored 1360 runs and taken 31 WBBL wickets. Bolton has also scored 1896 runs in 50 ODIs for Australia.
English wicketkeeper Amy Jones returns to the Scorchers. Jones has scored 689 WBBL runs and has played 54 T20Is, 44 ODIs and one Test for England.
21-year-old English leg spinner Sarah Glenn joins the Scorchers for the first time. Glenn has taken 22 wickets in 15 T20Is. She contracted COVID-19 earlier this year and was laid low for more than a month.
Jemma Barsby will be playing her second season for the Scorchers after joining from the Brisbane Heat. Barsby has scored 333 WBBL runs and taken 58 wickets. Amazingly, she can bowl with both her right arm and her left arm and is also tackling a multiple sclerosis diagnosis head-on. Barsby is the daughter of former Queensland opener Trevor Barsby.
Heather Graham has been an integral part of the Scorchers with both bat and ball. Graham has taken 72 wickets (eighth all-time in WBBL history) and scored 726 runs.
Chloe Piparo will bring plenty of experience to the batting line-up, having already played 60 WBBL matches. Right arm off-spinner Emma King has taken 41 wickets.
Piepa Cleary has taken 35 wickets with her right arm fast-medium bowling. Cleary’s WBBL05 was cut short with a broken leg, which was suffered while fielding on the boundary.
Taneale Peschel (28 matches), Samantha Betts (24 matches), Megan Banting (16 matches), Mathilda Carmichael (13 matches) bring a level of experience to the rest of the squad. Young all-rounder Georgia Wyllie rounds out the squad.
Perth Scorchers have had some big-name departures but the signings of Devine and Mooney more than cover the departures. They will press hard for a finals berth.
Last season: Semi-finalist
The Renegades have reached the semi-finals in the last two seasons. The Red and Black side of Melbourne welcome back New Zealand star Amy Satterthwaite after she missed WBBL05 because she was pregnant with her and wife Lea Tahuhu’s first child Grace.
Satterthwaite and Tahuhu are two of the Renegades’ star overseas players. Satterthwaite has scored 693 runs, taken 14 wickets for the Renegades and of course, has captaincy duties. Tahuhu has genuine pace and has taken 49 wickets for the Renegades. Tahuhu was injured during the recent series between Australia and New Zealand. Fingers crossed for the Renegades that Tahuhu will be fit for most, if not all of WBBL06.
The Renegades third overseas international is South African power hitter Lizelle Lee. Lee scored 1100 over the last three seasons with the Melbourne Stars. The Renegades say farewell to all-time Renegades run-scorer Dannii Wyatt (1,343 runs) and her English teammate Tammy Beaumont.
The Renegades’ early signing strategy was to sign a core of younger developing Victorian players and have other than the pace of Tahuhu, hitched their wagon to spin bowling. These strategies have paid dividends with two semi-finals appearances and also in developing players who have gone on to play for Australia.
Victorian spinner Molly Strano is the leading wicket-taker in WBBL history with 96 wickets, 13 more than her nearest rival. Sophie Molineux has scored 1078 runs and taken 46 wickets for the Renegades. Another spinner to play for Australia, Georgia Wareham has taken 28 wickets for the Renegades.
Another key plank to the Renegades bowling attack is Maitlan Brown. Brown has taken 44 wickets for the Renegades. All of these five bowlers also have very good WBBL economy rates ranging from 5.96 to 7.03.
The Renegades have recruited former Hobart Hurricane Erin Fazackerley. Fazackerley has scored just under 500 WBBL runs.
Josie Dooley will again be behind the wickets for the Renegades and Dooley also scored one fifty last season. Carly Leeson’s all-round ability enables her to have an impact with both bat and ball.
Courtney Webb has played 26 matches and scored over 300 runs for the Renegades. Makinley Blows has played 18 matches for the Stars, where she took four wickets but only got three opportunities to bat.
Fast bowler Courtney Neale may receive an opportunity if Tahuhu is not fit from Game 1 and the Renegades have also signed teenager Ella Hayward. With Jess Duffin’s withdrawal after giving birth to Georgie in June, there is a spot available on the list.
The Renegades have a core of their team returning from the last two seasons. The fitness and availability of Tahuhu may determine their fate in terms of a finals berth.
Last season: Fifth
The Sydney Sixers reached the first four WBBL finals, winning the WBBL02 and WBBL03 titles. In WBBL05 the season went off the rails when Ellyse Perry injured her shoulder acrobatically and somewhat ambitiously trying to stop a six in a game against the Renegades.
Perry seriously injured her hamstring during the T20 World Cup and had a setback which ruled her out of the recent series against New Zealand. Cricket fans will be hoping that Perry recovers in time for the start of WBBL06.
Perry is the all-time leading run-scorer in WBBL history with 2612 runs and has taken 32 wickets.
Perry isn’t the only Australian star that the Sixers have on their roster. Wicketkeeper and opener Alyssa Healy and allrounder Ashleigh Gardner are also mainstays of the Sixers roster. Healy is in the top five for WBBL runs scored, having scored over 2000 WBBL runs.
She recently passed MS Dhoni to set the record for most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in T20 internationals. Gardner has scored over 1500 WBBL runs and taken almost 30 wickets with her off-spin.
Another member of the Australian squad, Erin Burns, is a key member of the Sixers squad with the bat, ball and in the field. Burns, who previously played for the Hobart Hurricanes, has scored 1151 runs and taken 32 wickets. Burns’ brilliant fielding on the boundary in the WBBL04 semi-final with the help of Sarah Aley and Alyssa Healy forced a tie and a super over, where the Sixers ended up progressing to the final.
Speaking of Aley, she has taken 83 wickets, the second most wickets in WBBL history. Amongst those wickets is a haul of 4/23 in the WBBL02 final.
South African stars and married couple Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk return to the magenta. Kapp has taken the fourth most wickets in WBBL history (77 wickets) and scored 637 runs. Van Niekerk has taken 64 WBBL wickets and scored 795 runs.
In good news, left-arm fast-medium bowler Lauren Cheatle returns after a shoulder injury ruled her out of WBBL05. Cheatle has taken 34 WBBL wickets.
Jodie Hicks is a multi-talented sportsperson who has played 19 matches for the Sydney Sixers and has also played AFLW for the GWS Giants.
Angela Reakes returns to the Sixers after a stint with the Melbourne Stars. She missed WBBL05 with an Achilles tendon injury. Former Sydney Thunder pace bowler Lisa Griffith also joins the Sixers.
The Sixers have a number of youngsters who have gained valuable experience in the WBBL – 17-year-old Hayley Silver-Holmes (28 matches), fast bowler Stella Campbell (13 matches) and wicketkeeper/batter Maddy Darke (11 matches).
Promising young pace bowler Emma Hughes signed with the Sixers for WBBL05 but is yet to make her debut.
In the first four WBBL seasons, finals almost seemed a birthright for the Sixers. With the quality of the team, you would expect them to be placing plenty of pressure on last year’s top four teams.
Last season: Sixth
The Sydney Thunder have lost two stalwarts to retirement Alex Blackwell and Rene Farrell and have also lost Naomi Stalenberg and Rachel Priest to the Hurricanes and Lisa Griffith to the Sixers.
The Thunder’s three overseas imports this season are England captain Heather Knight, England top-order batter Tammy Beaumont and South African pace ace Shabnim Ismail.
Knight has played the previous four seasons with the Hobart Hurricanes. Knight has played 79 T20 internationals and 101 ODIs scoring 1256 runs and 2800 runs respectively. Knight also brings leadership to the Thunder squad which will help fill the void left by Blackwell and Farrell.
Beaumont played for the Renegades in WBBL05 scoring 277 runs. Beaumont has played 88 T20 internationals and 71 ODIs scoring 1382 and 2387 runs respectively in those formats.
This is Ismail’s second season at the Thunder. In WBBL05, Ismail took ten wickets at an economy rate of 5.88. Ismail has played 92 T20 internationals and 98 ODIs, taking 99 and 136 wickets respectively.
The Thunder have recruited bowler Sammy-Jo Johnson from the two-time defending champions Brisbane Heat. Johnson has taken 53 WBBL wickets and has scored 417 runs.
Skipper Rachael Haynes is a star for both the Thunder and Australia. Haynes has scored 1582 runs for the Thunder, which sees Haynes round out the top ten WBBL highest run-scorers.
Sam Bates is another mainstay of the Thunder line-up, taking 53 wickets in 59 matches at an average of 23 and an economy rate of 6.2.
The Thunder have recruited off-spinner Lauren Smith from crosstown rival the Sydney Sixers. Smith has taken 40 WBBL wickets and at the age of 24 is likely to continue to improve.
Tahlia Wilson, who recently turned 21, has played ten WBBL matches scoring 99 runs including a 47 not out.
Almost half of the Thunder’s squad are 20 years old or younger. 17-year-old Phoebe Litchfield has already played 11 matches and scored 187 runs, including a highest score of 52 not out. 18-year-old seam bowler Hannah Darlington has taken 16 wickets in 13 matches.
20-year-old Saskia Horley played four WBBL matches for the Thunder in WBBL05. 19-year-old Rachel Trenaman has played seven WBBL matches.
The Thunder’s squad also includes 18-year-old Anika Learoyd and 17-year-old Kate Peterson.
Unfortunately, another teenager Olivia Porter has been ruled out of WBBL06 with a leg injury. Like the Renegades, the Thunder have a spot to fill on their roster.
The Thunder have lost a lot of experience, so you would expect that a finals berth might be a tall order. Even if that is the case, watching their group of youngsters bloom will bring plenty of joy to Thunder fans.
Last season: Seventh
Corinne Hall will again captain the Hurricanes. Hall has scored 876 WBBL runs including scoring two fifties.
Nicola Carey continues to grow as an allrounder particularly as she gains more experience with the Australian team. The former Sydney Thunder player has scored 752 WBBL runs and taken 75 wickets, which is sixth on the WBBL wicket-taking list.
Belinda Vakarewa was a great recruit for the Hurricanes from the Thunder for WBBL05. Vakarewa took 20 wickets and won the Hurricanes’ most valuable player.
The Hurricanes have continued their “Sydney Thunder” recruitment policy. This season the Hurricanes signed former Thunder batter Naomi Stalenberg, who has scored 929 WBBL runs and will add poise to the Hurricanes batting line-up.
Recently retired New Zealand wicketkeeper Rachel Priest has joined the Hurricanes this year. She will bring a truckload of experience both internationally and in the WBBL, having previously played for the Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Thunder. Priest is the only wicketkeeper to score 150 runs in an ODI innings.
West Indies star Hayley Matthews will play for the Hurricanes this year. Matthews has scored 986 runs and taken 51 wickets in 55 T20 internationals.
Big-hitting South African Chloe Tryon returns to the Hurricanes. Tryon scored 248 runs for the Hurricanes in WBBL05 at an average of 35.43 and a strike rate of 178.42.
The Hurricanes have also signed another experienced New Zealander, Hayley Jensen. Jensen has played in the WBBL for the Melbourne Renegades, Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers.
Brooke Hepburn has taken 40 wickets for the Hurricanes. Amazingly Hepburn did not start playing cricket until she was 19. Sasha Moloney has also been a member of the Hurricanes squad for a number of seasons.
Erica Kershaw, who plays in the ANCL with the ACT Meteors has been recruited from the Melbourne Renegades. Chloe Rafferty has been recruited from the Melbourne Stars, Emma Thompson was in the inaugural Hurricanes WBBL squad and young leg spinner Amy Smith has also been signed. Smith was the youngest person to play for the Tasmanian Tigers at the age of 14.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, Tayla Vlaeminck and Maisy Gibson will miss WBBL06 due to injury.
The Hurricanes have continued to recruit well, and their performances should improve but may not improve by enough to make the finals.
Last season: Eighth
The Melbourne Stars are the only team to never reach the WBBL semi-finals. The Stars have some big-name recruits in WBBL, including a couple of familiar faces.
Australian and Stars captain Meg Lanning and England all-rounder Natalie Sciver both return to the Stars. Both Lanning and Sciver played for the Stars during WBBL01 and WBBL02 before heading off to the Perth Scorchers.
Lanning scored a total of 1062 runs in green for the Stars, and after sitting out WBBL03 through injury, scored over 900 runs for the Scorchers in WBBL04 and WBBL05. Sciver played for the Scorchers in WBBL03 and WBBL05. Sciver has scored over 900 runs and taken more than 30 wickets in the WBBL.
The Stars’ best finish to a season is fifth in both WBBL01 and WBBL02 when both Lanning and Sciver were part of Team Green. Hopefully, that is a sign that with their return the Stars’ results will improve.
Sciver’s fiancée Katherine Brunt also joins the Stars. Brunt will add some much-needed strike power to the Star’s bowling attack, particularly at the start of the innings.
This is one area where the Stars struggled last season. Brunt has played over 100 ODIs and almost 100 T20Is for England and has previously taken 49 wickets in the WBBL.
The Stars’ third overseas international is Mignon du Preez. The South African dynamo is the Stars’ all-time leading WBBL run-scorer with 1118 runs and with her first match in WBBL06 will become the third player to play 50 games for the Stars.
Other key players for the Stars will be the Stars all-time leading wicket-taker leg spinner Alana King (38 wickets), experienced allrounder Erin Osbourne who has scored 665 runs and taken 33 wickets for the Stars, Australian all-rounder Annabel Sutherland and the experienced Elyse Villani and Holly Ferling.
Katey Martin’s departure will provide young Victorian Nicole Faltum with more opportunities behind the stumps.
The Stars have signed another ex-Perth Scorcher in Bhavisha Devchand. After 13 games with the Stars, Tess Flintoff will lead the young brigade of Lucy Cripps, Sophie Day and Georgia Gall.
The Stars’ recruits should lead to a vastly improved performance and the Stars faithful will be hopeful of a first finals campaign.