High performance coach Leah Poulton has had a glimpse into Australia’s fast-bowling future – and it looks bright.
The former Australia player, who took over running Cricket Australia’s elite female program last year, is spending the winter overseeing the women’s National Performance Squad at Brisbane’s Bupa National Cricket Centre.
In its second year, this year’s women’s NPS mirrors the men’s program, with 13 players who’ve been identified as the future of Australian cricket spending an total of nine weeks in Brisbane during the preseason, training with national coaches and working alongside Australian contracted players.
Of those 13, eight are pace bowlers – a situation that’s partly to do with the best talent on offer, and partly to do with bolstering the Southern Stars’ fast-bowling stocks; an area that’s been hit by retirement and injury in recent years.
"It’s a bit of both, it does happen in waves like that,” Poulton explained to cricket.com.au.
"We’re really fortunate that we’ve got a lot of really good young fast bowlers coming through the system at the moment who all deserve their place, but it’s also an area we’re looking to develop more for Australian cricket.
"We had a couple of senior fast bowlers retire in Rene Farrell and Sarah Coyte, and then Holly Ferling got injured so the fast bowling stocks were a little low.
"If there’s any skill you do need stocks in, it’s fast bowling because injuries happen."
The NPS group includes three quicks with international experience already under their belts in NSW pair Lauren Cheatle and Belinda Vakarewa, and South Australia allrounder Tahlia McGrath.
Cheatle and McGrath are already familiar with the trials that come with being a young quick, both on the comeback trail from back injuries.
They’re joined by Victorian young guns Annabel Sutherland and Tayla Vlaeminck – who both made a big impact for Australia’s Under 19s in South Africa in April.
Poulton oversaw Vlaeminck, Sutherland and young NSW pace bowler Stella Campbell, who isn’t in the NPS group, on the successful tour of South Africa and what she saw bodes well for the Australian team for years to come.
"They did an excellent job on wickets that weren’t very conducive to them,” she said.
"It’s a pretty good indication of what’s to come in Australian cricket. And then we have someone like Lauren Cheatle, who was still eligible for that tour but was injured.
"The stocks coming through are exciting. The thing about Vlaeminck, Sutherland and Campbell, they’ve got genuine pace and a real knack of taking wickets."
Western Australian Piepa Cleary, Tasmanian Erin Fazackerley and the ACT’s Maitlan Brown, who weren’t eligible for the Under 19s tour, round out the pace group in the NPS.
They’re joined by spinners Georgia Wareham and Saskia Horley, wicketkeeper Josie Dooley, leg-spinning allrounder Rachel Trenaman and seam-bowling allrounder Heather Graham.
Victoria allrounder Sophie Molineux was part of the inaugural program last year before making her international debut in India in March and winning an Australian contract.
For Poulton, there’s no better example for the current group of how they can make the most of their opportunity.
“The girls are also training up here alongside the best in the world,” she said. “We’ve had Meg Lanning up here, Megan Schutt is based here, Beth Mooney and Rachael Haynes have been training here.
“They’re fantastic role models for them and it allows them to see what’s required to get to the next level. They’re not just training partners, but mentors as well.”
Commonwealth Bank T20I series v NZ
September 29: First T20I, North Sydney Oval, Sydney
October 1: Second T20I, Allan Border Field, Brisbane
October 5: Third T20I, Manuka Oval, Canberra
Commonwealth Bank ODI series v NZ
February 22: First ODI, WACA Ground, Perth
February 24: Second ODI, Karen Rolton Oval, Adelaide
March 3: Third ODI, Junction Oval, Melbourne