WBBL preview: Thunder mix no-fear youth with wise pros
Coach Griffin backing generation next to blend with the more experienced members of the group in new-look squad
19 October 2020, 12:54 PM AEST
Sydney Thunder coach Trevor Griffin is backing his crop of young players to bring a fearless approach to the upcoming Rebel WBBL season.
The Thunder have eight players aged 20 or younger in their 15-player squad, including young guns Phoebe Litchfield and Hannah Darlington.
Batter Litchfield (17) and pace bowler Darlington (18) cemented their spots in the Thunder XI during their maiden Big Bash campaigns last summer, and are joined by fellow youngsters Anika Learoyd, Olivia Porter, Kate Peterson, Rachel Trenaman, Saskia Horley and Tahlia Wilson.
"The plus side is what we might lack in some experience in terms of the competition, they bring in hunger and their desire to want to play," Griffin told cricket.com.au of the Thunder's youngsters.
"In my experience they will also bring this no-fear mentality – they will back themselves to go out and play their game.
"That's very much my message to the team, that they've been selected because of the way they play and that's what I want them to do.
"So those younger players will be champing at the bit to either play or make their debut, that will generate competition for places and drive performances forward, and that can only be good for us."
The mix of youth and experience adds an interesting dynamic to the Thunder line-up; with the exception of new off-spinner Lauren Smith (24) the remaining squad members are aged between 27 and 33.
Adding experienced players was a critical goal in the WBBL|06 contracting period, Griffin said, following the retirements of former Australia reps Alex Blackwell and Rene Farrell.
Coming into the squad are England captain Heather Knight and top-order batter Tammy Beaumont, South Africa pace ace Shabnim Ismail returns, and the Thunder also won the battle for the prize signature of former Heat allrounder Sammy-Jo Johnson.
"I'm really excited by the list we've pulled together," Griffin said.
"To have Shabnim come back, she had a great first year with us and showed that competitiveness and pace she has to put batters under pressure.
"Getting her back was a priority, and then with Alex and Rene retiring, one of the things that stood out was that we were a young unit anyway, and without those players we needed to bring in some experience.
"I've had the pleasure of working with Heather for nearly five years now and she is a true professional.
"Players will learn a lot from just being around her, about how she prepares and goes about her game … she's a world-class player who knows her game really well and has won games for teams, whether that's international or WBBL or (the Super League) back home."
It is the signing of pace bowler and hard-hitting batter Johnson that has Griffin particularly excited.
"We knew we needed a seam option who was ideally an allrounder … we were looking for a game changer and that's certainly what Sammy-Jo is," he said.
"She's a serious talent, everyone knows how hard she can hit a ball and she can take a game away from an opposition."
Griffin's preparations for WBBL|06 have taken on a slightly different look this year.
While the Thunder players came together last Monday to begin training for the tournament, their coach was locked in an Adelaide hotel room undergoing quarantine.
"It felt very strange not to be with them but we are where we are, and we'll make the most of it," he said.
"It's less than ideal but it's a sign of the times we're in and the main thing is I'm fit and well and safe to be able to work with the players.
"I've got plenty of footage of centre wickets and net practice, so that's enabled me to have conversations with coaches and touch base with the players too."
Griffin, along with Knight, Beaumont and Ismail, were released from quarantine on Sunday and were due to fly to Sydney to join the WBBL hub on Monday.
Squad: Rachael Haynes (c) (Aus), Tammy Beaumont (Eng), Heather Knight (Eng), Shabnim Ismail (SA), Sam Bates, Hannah Darlington, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Saskia Horley, Anika Learoyd, Phoebe Litchfield, Kate Peterson, Olivia Porter, Lauren Smith, Rachel Trenaman, Tahlia Wilson
Ins: Heather Knight (Hurricanes), Tammy Beaumont (Renegades), Sammy-Jo Johnson (Heat), Anika Learoyd, Olivia Porter, Lauren Smith (Sixers)
Outs: Rachel Priest (Hurricanes), Alex Blackwell, Rene Farrell (both retired), Lisa Griffith (Sixers), Naomi Stalenberg (Hurricanes), Nida Dar
Possible best XI: Rachael Haynes (c), Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight, Phoebe Litchfield, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Tahlia Wilson (wk), Sam Bates, Lauren Smith, Rachel Trenaman, Hannah Darlington, Shabnim Ismail
Last year's result: 6th (5 wins, 8 losses, 1 no result)
The inside word with Kristen Beams on The Scoop podcast:
"Rachael Haynes is coming off the back of unbelievable form and if she can carry it in it will allow everyone else to bat around her, which will be really important for their success. They're going to have to make big totals, they're going to have to really take the game on and then I think they can definitely defend."
October 25: v Sixers, North Sydney Oval
October 26: v Stars, North Sydney Oval
October 31: v Strikers, Showground Stadium
November 1: v Heat, Showground Stadium
November 4: v Scorchers, Blacktown International Sports Park
November 7: v Renegades, Hurstville Oval
November 8: v Hurricanes, Hurstville Oval
November 11: v Heat, Blacktown International Sports Park
November 14: v Stars, Showground Stadium
November 15: v Scorchers, Showground Stadium
November 17: v Renegades, Blacktown International Sports Park
November 18: v Sixers, Blacktown International Sports Park
November 21: v Strikers, Drummoyne Oval
November 22: v Hurricanes, Drummoyne Oval