Sydney's Women's Big Bash League clubs have added two new elite athletes from non-cricket backgrounds after a new initiative to draw more talent to the burgeoning league.
The WBBL is gearing up for a second summer after surpassing all expectations in its inaugural season, and the Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder are benefiting from a Cricket NSW imitative.
The FutureStars program threw open the doors to more than 20 elite female athletes from 11 different sports to compete in a series of specially-designed tests. The prize was a rookie training contract, with the Stars and Thunder taking on one player each.
Baseballer Renee Straumietis (Sixers) and rising tennis star Laura Kent (Thunder) were the players selected after the testing, and now have the opportunity to forge a new career as professional cricketers.
Former baseball player Straumietis was Australia's fastest female pitcher, and now has her eyes set on being a fast bowler.
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"It's amazing, I never expected it," said Straumietis. "I saw the article (about the program) then got in contact with Hamish Solomons from Kingsgrove Sports and he's been cramming as much of his cricket knowledge into me (as possible) over the last four weeks."
Sydney Sixers WBBL coach Ben Sawyer was impressed with the talent on display before selecting Straumietis to join his club's ranks.
"These are athletes of the highest level and each demonstrated skills of the highest standard – despite most never having picked up a cricket bat or bowled a ball before," Sawyer said.
"I was particularly impressed with Renee's bowling today. She was bowling at speed and her pitching skills and experience transferred well."
The Thunder's WBBL coach, Jo Broadbent, said Kent's tennis skills transferred naturally to cricket.
"I was running the batting accuracy drill today and Laura was the last person that I saw and her accuracy was 100% which blew me away," said Broadbent.
"Tennis is a sport that demands agility and accuracy from its players, and these skills came through beautifully in Laura's batting. Her bowling was also impressive so I think we have got a natural all-rounder here."
Kent was keen to follow in the footsteps of former Wimbledon junior champion Ashleigh Barty, who made a splash in the first WBBL season. .
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"I used to play some tennis with Ash Barty so I was pretty interested last year when she was in the Big Bash League," Kent said.
"It's just unreal, I really can't believe it at the moment. I'm so excited and I can't wait for this opportunity.
"My grandparents live near some cricket nets and I played with my brother and my Dad, we used to go up there a little bit," she said.
"I played one event in primary school."
The pair will also join the Cricket NSW Elite Female Pathway Program, and CEO Andrew Jones was rightly thrilled with the results.
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"What today has demonstrated is the depth of the talent pool in women's sport and that a professional pathway in cricket is a real possibility for the talented sportswomen of NSW," Jones said.
"The FutureStars initiative is another step towards growing cricket for women and girls and as a leader in women's sport, something which we are firmly committed to achieving."