Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick has stepped down from her position, opting not to renew her contract when it expires in May.
Fitzpatrick, a former strike bowler with the national side who has been coach since May 2012, oversaw three successful ICC World Cup titles in her tenure but has decided to focus her efforts on coaching at the youth level.
“I think it’s the right time, it’s the right time for me and the right time for the (Southern Stars) girls,” she said.
“The girls are due to go on their player leave period and then once they come back they’ll have a fresh approach and a fresh voice to listen to.”
And that fresh voice is something Fitzpatrick believes is important as the Australian side begin their preparations for the Ashes later in the year.
“Not that they would have had any doubts leading into it (Ashes), but they can just get a fresh start,” she said.
Fitzpatrick’s departure comes after a remarkable three years at the helm of the Southern Stars, during which the team has welcomed a new generation of young players and achieved various triumphs.
“I look fondly on all of those achievements, being a bit more of a cricket traditionalist the ODI final that we contested in India it was a tough one to make the final,” she continued.
“It’s quite surreal and now I’m getting goose bumps just remembering it.
“Watching the girls run out in India to claim that title was a pretty special moment.”
Pat Howard, CA’s Executive General Manager of Team Performance, praised Fitzpatrick for the role she has played in establishing the Southern Stars as the world’s best limited-overs side.
“Cathryn has achieved great things with the national squad as head coach and before that as an assistant. She’s been instrumental in the team’s success,” Howard said.
“She leaves her post with the team clearly at the top of its game and as one of the country’s most admired sporting sides. We’d like to thank her for her great contribution.”
CA Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland also paid tribute to Fitzpatrick.
“Cathryn is an all-time great of women’s cricket and her achievements as a coach have only enhanced her legacy,” Sutherland said.
Fitzpatrick, 47, is keen to continue coaching and is hoping to help develop the next crop of Southern Stars, through her work with the Shooting Stars.
“I’m really excited by that, I think the way cricket is moving for girls, it’s exciting and I’d love to be able to hopefully guide and influence some of those young girls to hopefully reach their potential and their dreams,” she said.
She is also hoping to get involved in the newly announced Women’s BBL tournament.
“I would love an opportunity if it came about, if it doesn’t I’m going to be a huge consumer of it anyway,” Fitzpatrick said.
“I’m so excited by this competition and I think there are a lot of players that are yet to play for their states at a senior level.”
And Fitzpatrick believes there’s no better time to be playing cricket as a female.
She knows more acutely than most how times have changed.
“Certainly back in the day when we were touring we were taking leave, a lot of us, leave without pay from work and for me when I was renting at that point I was thinking where was the money coming from to pay rent, so you were having to make sacrifices on the financial front,” she said.
“The money just allows the girls to play and train.”
Fitzpatrick also believes the benefits of that extra support and the salary increase has been clear to see.
“I think this is a team on the up,” she said. “They’re a very good team now and they got lots of trophies in the cabinet as it is, but I think the best is yet to come for this group.”
The Southern Stars coach said it has been a privilege to watch the girls grow into women and players.
“Your baby-faced Jess Camerons and Elyse Villanis, over time I’ve seen the braces come on and off, I’ve seen some different haircuts, it has been a really good journey for me and one that I hope will continue,” she said, before adding that, for players like Meg Lanning, the future is limitless.
“She’s already at the top of the game within the rankings, she’s already recognised as one of the best T20 players in the world.
“We think she’s got the potential to be an outstanding player and I’d expect if she continues the way she’s going she will finish as pretty much a player that’s looked upon as one of the best Australia has ever produced.”
The Southern Stars are yet to announce a replacement for Fitzpatrick to lead the women to what they hope will be an Ashes win later this year.