Retired Australian seamer Sarah Coyte is set to return to the playing field after a year away from the game, signing with Sydney Sixers for the remainder of the Rebel WBBL season.
Coyte is one of two new faces to join the table-topping Sixers for the business end of WBBL|03, alongside England international Amy Jones. The pair have replaced South Africa duo Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp, who have been called away on international duties.
Coyte is in line to make her return on Saturday when the Sixers meet Adelaide Strikers – the team she represented in WBBL|01 and WBBL|02 – at Hurstville Oval.
The pace bowler, who played four Tests, 30 ODIs and 47 T20I for Australia, started her domestic career with the NSW Breakers before moving to South Australia in 2015-16.
The 26-year-old walked away from international cricket in 2016 and turned down a Cricket Australia contract. She continued to play in the 50-over Women’s National Cricket League with South Australia and for the Adelaide Strikers in the Rebel WBBL, but in March last year announced her retirement from all forms of the game to focus on her health as she battled anxiety and an eating disorder.
Coyte said her return would be a matter of testing the waters, and she has no current plans to try and return to international cricket or play full-time again.
"Sometimes you've got to face the demons," Coyte told AAP. "This is the biggest challenge.
"I want to see what this last year has done for me ...to see how much stronger my mind's gotten and see how much better it's got to deal with the anxiety it all creates."
Coyte, a personal trainer who has openly and honestly shared her journey on her blog Operation Rebuilding, was approached by Sixers coach Ben Sawyer after playing grade cricket in Sydney this summer.
"I want people to know that it's not just as easy as walking in and saying I'm back," she said.
"My anxiety meant I didn't sleep for two nights when Ben called me and asked me about it.
"I can guarantee you Friday night I probably won't sleep because I'll be worried about what's going to happen on Saturday.
"How is my body going to feel, how is my mindset going to be?
"Am I going to be up to being on the field, what am I going to be up to being at the game? What am I going to eat before the game?"
So far, Coyte said she hasn't had any issues in either of her first two short training sessions with the Sixers, but she has vowed to put her health first after spending the past year dedicating her time to raising awareness for body image problems among elite athletes.
"I'm literally taking it session by session and anything I know is going to make me go backwards I won't put myself through it," she said.
"I have no doubt that Ben and the girls will make everything smooth sailing."
Sixers coach Sawyer said that while the South Africans left big shoes to fill, he felt Jones and Coyte would be more than capable of continuing the team’s momentum and contributing to the squad.
“We are very excited to have both Amy and Sarah join our squad after our South African duo left for their international tournament,” said Sawyer.
“Both girls have international experience for their respective countries and we believe that their skill set will complement our current squad and make us a competitive team going into the back end of the competition.”
Jones, 24, re-joins the Sixers after coming in as a replacement last season. With 20 ODIs and 15 T20Is under her belt for England, she brings international experience and an existing bond with the team.
The Sixers and Strikers both sit on 16 points heading into the final stages of the regular season. Six teams remain in the running for the top four spot in what looms as a thrilling race for semi-finals berths.
- With AAP