The Rebel WBBL will take an historic step onto the standalone stage on Friday night with a blockbuster Sydney Smash under lights at North Sydney Oval.
This summer’s WBBL season will be played across the next eight weekends, having shifted forward into its own window this season to shine a spotlight on the world’s top women’s domestic T20 competition.
For Sydney Sixers captain Ellyse Perry, there’s no better place than North Sydney Oval to launch the first standalone season, with the venue to also host a grand final rematch between the Sixers and Heat on Saturday night, before the Heat meet the Thunder on Sunday afternoon.
"We love playing here, in a lot of ways it’s our spiritual home ground at the Sixers but also in terms of women’s cricket, it’s the home of women’s cricket in Australia," Perry said on Thursday.
"They’re always really high scoring matches (here) that provide a lot of entertainment for the crowd and the people watching at home, so it’s the perfect venue and the best place to start."
Excitement levels through the roof! Here's what you've got to look forward to in the week ahead 🏏#WBBL05 #WatchMe pic.twitter.com/bXd2sMWtT8— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) October 16, 2019
This season will include seven festival weekends around the county before a Finals Festival Weekend on December 7-8, while matches will also be held in regional centres including Burnie, Mackay, Launceston and Ballarat.
"This (standalone season) gives us an incredible opportunity to build a really competent and exciting competition on its own," Perry said.
"I think we’ve got to be realistic and give it a couple of years (to grow), like the Big Bash for males, I don’t think that took off for a couple of years.
"It’s our role to cement in the public and cricket fans’ psyche that the WBBL is this time of year, it’s standalone, it’s a great product, it’s a unique product and it’s worth watching."
Two-time champions Sixers boast a star-studded line-up that’s the envy of the league, but they head into the opening weekend of the tournament without two key members of their best XI.
Left-arm quick Lauren Cheatle has been sidelined by injury, while South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk has yet to arrive in Australia. She recently missed the Proteas tour of India as she continued her recovery from the fractured right femur that’s kept her sidelined for much of 2019 to date.
The Thunder, meanwhile, are a new-look team coming together under the leadership of new coach Trevor Griffin and new captain Rachael Haynes.
They’ve had five departures from their WBBL|04 line-up, including the loss of Australia allrounder Nicola Carey to the Hurricanes and West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor to the Strikers.
"We’re happy with how our team is coming together," Thunder wicketkeeper Rachael Priest said on Thursday.
"We’ve had a few changes, we’ve got some really exciting youngsters coming into squad … and a couple of exciting internationals in Nida Dar and Shabnim Ismail."
The Sydney Smash kicks off at 7.40pm on Friday night and will be broadcast live on the Seven Network, Fox Cricket, Kayo and the CA Live app.
This weekend’s other action will see Melbourne Stars host Hobart Hurricanes at Junction Oval (Saturday and Sunday, 2pm AEDT) and Adelaide Strikers play Melbourne Renegades at Karen Rolton Oval (Saturday and Sunday, 2pm ACDT).
Sixers squad: Sarah Aley, Alisha Bates, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Maddy Darke, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jodie Hicks, Emma Hughes, Marizanne Kapp, Ellyse Perry (c), Hayley Silver-Holmes, Lauren Smith
Thunder squad: Samantha Bates, Alex Blackwell, Nida Dar, Hannah Darlington, Rene Farrell, Lisa Griffith, Rachael Haynes (c), Saskia Horley, Shabnim Ismail, Phoebe Litchfield, Kate Peterson, Rachel Priest, Naomi Stalenberg