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Tassie aiming to enhance legacy after 'toughest' season

Tasmania’s hopes for a WNCL three-peat come amid what skipper Elyse Villani has termed the most competitive season in a “long, long time”

They've won the past two Women's National Cricket League titles but a third in a row tomorrow could be the sweetest of the lot with Tasmania captain Elyse Villani describing this season as the "toughest and tightest" in a long time.

The Tigers are seeking to become just the second state to lift the Ruth Preddy Cup three seasons in a row after NSW, who won 20 of the league's first 23 titles since its inception in 1996-97.

Just two points separated Tasmania and Queensland – their opponents in Saturday's decider at Blundstone Arena – at the end of the regular season, with five of the competition's seven teams winning at least half of their 12 home-and-away matches.

It’s the first time that's happened since the competition moved to a 12-game regular season, although fifth-placed Queensland did win four of eight matches when the Tigers won their first WNCL title in 2021-22.

Eight of the 42 matches this season have also been decided by inside 30 runs or three wickets, and after winning 24 of their past 26 games, the two-time reigning champions have dropped two of their last four leading into the decider.

While it will be hard to top the spectacular finish to last summer's final where then Tigers' seamer Sarah Coyte successfully defended four runs from the last over, claiming three wickets and two run outs in six balls to secure victory, Villani said they weren't taking anything for granted.

"This has been I would say the toughest and tightest WNCL competition for a long, long time and I don't expect anything different other than a really good game on Saturday," she said on match eve.

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"Before our first final victory a couple of years ago I was reminded I'd been a part of eight finals losses (with Victoria and Western Australia), so for me personally, I know that getting to the grand final is an amazing achievement and it's really tough to win.

"Winning the last two means nothing come tomorrow.

"So we're making sure that we're really level headed, sticking to our processes and just trying to put our best foot forward as a team.

"Ultimately, there's people in our team that haven't been in this position as well so although it's an amazing achievement for the organisation, it's a brand-new team each and every year."

The 34-year-old has been cleared to return for tomorrow's final after missing their last game of the regular season due to inflammation in her shoulder, and she's also confident star spinner Molly Strano will play despite still recovering from a broken hand suffered on February 1.

"I'm feeling really good, I'm really thankful that the flare-up happened while I was in Melbourne, which is where my surgeon was and my physio was as well," Villani said.

"In a way, I felt like it was meant to be. If there was going to be a flare-up, I was in the perfect place.

"I managed to stay in Melbourne (after the game against Victoria on February 14) a little bit longer than the rest of the team and get myself sorted, put a few things in place and then fly back.

"After a few days here, I was feeling pretty comfortable. Over the weekend I was a little bit unsure of where I was going to be at but (I'm) really thankful that the treatment sort of kicked in and I've been feeling really good this week."

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While Tasmania look likely to welcome back two gun senior players in Villani and Strano, Queensland have lost three of their own for the decider with Jess Jonassen, Grace and Laura Harris all unavailable due to Women's Premier League commitments in India.

But skipper Georgia Redmayne is confident they have enough depth to cover the absence of the star trio.

"We'd love to have our three girls still playing for us but … we know we've got really good depth. We've been leaving some really good players on the bench throughout the season, so it's really great to have those players come in," Redmayne said.

"We think back to our final three years ago when we won the WNCL final, it's not too dissimilar to that team really.

"We've got a lot of girls come in who performed really well in that final. We've got Mikayla Hinkley coming back, she had a little (hamstring) injury, so she'll be back in the team and she's got some really good experience in finals.

"Georgia Voll, Charli Knott, we've got a pretty consistent group and we're really happy with our squad."

WNCL 2023-24 standings

Team
Matches played
M
Wins
W
Losses
L
Ties
T
No results
N/R
Net Run Rate
NRR
Deductions
Ded.
Batting Bonus
Bat
Total points
PTS
1 Tasmanian Tigers Women Tasmanian Tigers Women TAS 12 9 2 0 1 0.98 0 5 43
2 Queensland Fire Queensland Fire QLD 12 8 3 0 1 1.224 0 7 41
3 Victoria Women Victoria Women VIC 12 7 5 0 0 0.013 0 4 32
4 Western Australia Women Western Australia Women WA 12 6 6 0 0 -0.113 0 4 28
5 NSW Women NSW Women NSW 12 6 6 0 0 -0.105 0 2 26
6 South Australia Scorpions South Australia Scorpions SA 12 4 8 0 0 -0.063 0 3 19
7 ACT Meteors ACT Meteors ACT 12 1 11 0 0 -2.006 0 0 4

M: Matches played

W: Wins

L: Losses

T: Ties

N/R: No results

NRR: Net Run Rate

Ded.: Deductions

Bat: Batting Bonus

PTS: Total points