Commonwealth Games 2022
Kiwis hoping ex-Aussie coach's inside info provides an edge
Ben Sawyer knows the ins and outs of the Aussie stars after years coaching alongside them with Australia and the Sixers, but will be on the opposite side tonight
Laura Jolly in Birmingham
6 August 2022, 12:37 PM AEST
For years Ben Sawyer worked with Alyssa Healy, Ashleigh Gardner and Australia's pace attack, playing a significant role in winning World Cups and WBBL titles.
On Saturday, he will be in the unusual position of plotting against them, as head coach of the New Zealand side that will meet Australia in the Commonwealth Games semi-finals.
The former Australia assistant and Sydney Sixers coach took over as New Zealand's head coach in June and has successfully steered his side back into the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time since 2016.
"I'm immensely (proud), some of the girls have said that they haven't been in a semi-final before, so that's a great achievement," Sawyer told reporters ahead of New Zealand's semi-final against Australia tonight (3am Sunday AEST).
Sawyer knows exactly what to expect from the Australian pace attack he played a significant role in developing across a three-year period, while he has also worked closely with both Healy and Gardner throughout his time at the Sixers.
"It does (help) a little bit (with planning) ... I've obviously spent a bit of time with (Healy and Gardner) and thrown lots of balls to them," he said.
"So if I can give any of the girls a little bit of inside knowledge, I definitely will.
"It's strange in the hotel sitting near them a little bit at the moment – I've got lots of friends there and I wish them well, just not in the next game.
"Australia are a world-class team but they're playing for a gold medal as well as us, (and) they've been on the big stage before but still it's a little bit different, it's a different kind of pressure (at the Commonwealth Games) so hopefully we can take advantage of that."
Australia spearhead Megan Schutt also admitted it would be strange seeing Sawyer on the opposing side, joking: "I was actually thinking that today, I wonder if Benny's told them all my secrets, all the balls that I've been working on."
"But he's awesome, like the structure that he has, he's going to be so beneficial to that team," she continued.
"I already know at that camp that they're super happy with what he's doing.
"But it will be very strange, it's obviously the first game against them since Benny's been coach and it'll be strange shaking his hand at the end of the game but hopefully, it's after we win."
New Zealand were humbled by England in their final group match, restricted to 9-71 which England chased with seven wickets in hand.
But Sawyer said the quick turnaround for tonight's semi-final would help his side brush off the result.
"We can't dwell on it too much, it's a one-day turnaround," he said.
"With the bat, we just made mistakes, it was just a bad day at the office and with the ball I thought we did okay, actually ... and our batters will do better.
"We didn't get off to a great start, (but) I was proud of the fact that we pushed it all the way.
"But it's a pretty young team and you've got to go through a few of those (losses) probably to get better."
2022 Commonwealth Games
Australia's squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington
Group A: Australia, India, Pakistan, Barbados
Group B: England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka
August 3: Australia beat Pakistan by 44 runs
Semi-finals: August 6
Bronze medal match: August 7, 10am local (7pm AEST)
Gold medal match: August 7, 5pm local (2am Aug 8 AEST)
All matches played at Edgbaston Stadium.