New home for Priest as Hobart lock in stars
Rachel Priest swaps the Thunder for the Hurricanes, signing on alongside Belinda Vakarewa and South Africa's Chloe Tryon
28 July 2020, 06:00 PM AEST
Explosive New Zealand wicketkeeper Rachel Priest will add serious firepower to the Hobart Hurricanes’ top order, as one of a trio of signings the club has revealed for the upcoming Rebel WBBL season.
Priest, who spent the last three seasons with the Sydney Thunder having previously captained the Melbourne Renegades, will make Hobart her third Big Bash home.
Powerful South Africa allrounder Chloe Tryon will again don the purple after signing a new deal, while local Belinda Vakarewa, who was the competition’s leading pace bowler in WBBL|05, has also recommitted to the club.
The signings of Priest and Tryon mean the Hurricanes have now filled their quota of five marquee players for WBBL|05, joining Australians Nicola Carey and Tayla Vlaeminck and West Indies’ Hayley Matthews, who already held multi-year deals.
That means England captain Heather Knight, who was part of the Hurricanes squad last summer, could be bound elsewhere.
However Hurricanes coach Salliann Briggs said uncertainty around travel restrictions and player availability meant the player occupying their third international spot may change, adding Knight remained a player of interest to the club.
"Hayley has got to go to the ICC World Cup qualifiers, which at the minute is at the same time as the WBBL," Briggs said on Tuesday.
"We still don’t know if internationals can make it over, so we’ve got to keep conversations open."
Briggs suggested the fact that South Africa are set to tour England in September, ahead of the start of the WBBL on October 17, could mean players from both countries are able to travel directly to Australia at the end of that series.
"We know Chloe can highly likely get here from England," she said.
"We could look at (fellow South Africans) Lizelle Lee and Mignon du Preez … but the key thing in our recruitment is to make sure we use that overseas spot as someone who can make runs for us.
"The stats show we’ve been very dominant with the ball, we were probably second-best bowling team in the competition, so when you want to import someone, having an impact in the top order would be most beneficial to us."
With that in mind, the addition of opener Priest – who announced her retirement from international cricket earlier this year, and who now holds a state contract with Tasmania – is a boost for the Hurricanes, who struggled to settle on a solid opening partnership in a season that saw them finish seventh on the ladder with four wins from 14 games.
Their top run scorer was Knight, who finished 20th on the overall runs table averaging 23.5.
"We’ve struggled to establish our best opening combination at the top of the order, so we are pleased to fill one of the spots with a very talented and experienced campaigner," Briggs said of Priest.
"I’d like to think if we get that winning combination at the top of the order, that sets up our middle order to play their natural game.
"Unfortunately, they were in way too early last year."
Tryon scored 248 runs in WBBL|05 batting in the middle order, with a competition-high strike-rate of 178.41.
"It was a no brainer for us to re-sign Chloe," Briggs said. "She was unbelievable last year.
"Chloe is a genuine match winner and gives you the feeling that you are always in the game, she makes things happen.
"I don’t think I’ve ever worked or seen anyone who can hit a ball like she does."
Vakarewa was one of the breakout stars of WBBL|05 after making the move to the Hurricanes from the Thunder, collecting 20 wickets at 15.8 and earning a spot in the official WBBL Team of the Tournament.
She forms a potent pace attack alongside Australian speedster Tayla Vlaeminck and allrounder Nicola Carey.
Vakarewa said she had fielded several calls from other clubs, but leaving Hobart was never in her thinking.
"It was an easy decision to re-sign," Vakarewa said on Tuesday.
"I love the culture, the team, the girls.
"I had the most fun I’ve ever had in my last season, on and off the field, because it’s such a good environment to be in."
Briggs confirmed Erin Fazackerly would not play for the Hurricanes this season, after deciding to take a break from cricket when she turned down a state contract with Tasmania earlier this year.
Hobart currently have 10 players on their roster for WBBL|05, leaving just five spots to fill before the end of the contracting period on September 25.
Hobart Hurricanes squad: Nicola Carey (Aus), Maisy Gibson, Corinne Hall, Brooke Hepburn, Hayley Matthews (WI), Sasha Moloney, Rachel Priest (NZ), Chloe Tryon (SA), Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck (Aus).