Love and opportunity lead to Tassie sea change

New Tasmanian recruits discuss their hopes for this season having moved south to join the Tigers

Heather Graham and Naomi Stalenberg were opponents in last summer's WNCL final but will this year line up as teammates in Tasmania after off-season moves that offer a new beginning for both players.

Tasmania has made a splash with a string of high-profile recruits to its state program for next season with the Australian-capped women's stars following men's team recruitment of former Australia Test seamer Peter Siddle.

Graham and Stalenberg have joined the Tasmanian set-up for very different reasons, and both are spending the next fortnight in isolation to comply with the state’s COVID-19 restrictions after making the boat journey across Bass Strait, but share similar ambitions to make a new beginning and an immediate impact in the Apple Isle.

Graham was lured south by love, unwilling to do another summer in a long-distance relationship with her partner, the Tigers wicketkeeper Emily Smith.

The pair first met in WA, but Smith's move to Tasmania last summer has seen her partner follow suit this year.

"We went for a year doing long-distance and I had the decision to make whether I wanted to stay in WA and continue our long-distance relationship or come across to Tassie and play for the Tigers," Graham said.

Get to know Heather Graham

"It was a hard decision and also an easy decision in that I was with WA for nine years – I started there when I was 15 years old – and I felt like I needed a little bit of a freshen up."

Stalenberg joins after being cut by the NSW Breakers after seven seasons with the state, and despite her most productive season with the bat that yielded a career-best 255 runs in nine games.

"I actually felt like I had a really good season last year with NSW," the 26-year-old said this week.

"It was a bit of a shock (to be de-listed). Those decisions don't come lightly but for NSW they wanted to move in a different direction, and I understand that.

"For me, I'm staying positive and moving to Tassie will be a new adventure, the next chapter in my life.

"I will be embracing the new team and drawing from what I've learnt over the past seven years. I want to continue to build on who I am as a player and a person and make an impact on the Tassie team."

Tasmania now find themselves with a powerful top-order run-scorer in Stalenberg, who rates Hobart one of her favourite places to bat, and seam-bowling allrounder Graham, who has targeted an improved output with the bat as she looks to force her way back into the Australian picture after a solitary ODI last October.

"Last season wasn't a very good one with the bat," the 23-year-old admitted of a WNCL season that saw her average just 10.80, although she was far more productive with the Perth Scorchers in the WBBL.

"It's definitely an area for me need to nail down and score some big runs. As an allrounder you want to improve every part of the game, but batting is definitely my main focus.

"I really want to play more than one game for Australia," Graham said. "When you get that start, you want to carry on."

Heather Graham handed Australia ODI cap No.142

Stalenberg is eyeing a spot in the top three with Tasmania but knows first she must "earn my spot in the team and embrace everything that comes my way".

Stalenberg, who is staying quiet on her WBBL plans this summer, will instead be making noise with her two guitars, intending to spend her time in isolation in a new flat composing songs, and envisaging a showdown with her old team.

"I think there might be (a few scores to settle)," Stalenberg admitted with a laugh. "I will really enjoy coming up against my former teammates.

"There will be a bit of banter thrown about, but there's no bad blood there. This season is going to be a really bright one for me."

Tasmania have also added local product Chloe Abel, while delisting Katelyn Fryett, Stefanie Daffara, Erin Fazackerley and Emma Manix-Geeves this summer. They still have two vacancies on their roster.

Naomi Stalenberg: hitting sixes and hitting chords

Tasmania head coach Salliann Briggs said she was pleased to add experience and batting depth to the squad.

"Our priority for this year was to focus on adding depth to our batting line up whilst also providing further opportunities to young players who we feel add something different to our long-term success", said Briggs.

"Both Heather and Naomi are experienced players who know how to win games of cricket, and Chloe is a skilful aggressive bowler who can bat for long periods of time, which she's displayed at national age group competitions."

Tasmanian Tigers: Chloe Abel, Samantha Bates, Nicola Carey (Australian contract), Maisy Gibson, Heather Graham, Corinne Hall, Brooke Hepburn, Sasha Moloney, Meg Phillips, Emily Smith, Naomi Stalenberg, Emma Thompson, Belinda Vakarewa.