A huge 2017-18 season for Australia's top female cricketers will begin Friday when the Women's National Cricket League gets underway in Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra.
The 50-over competition will be launched with an action-packed opening weekend of matches, featuring seven matches across three days. It’s the only round of domestic matches before the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes, so there is plenty on the line for players hoping to nab a spot in the squad to tackle England.
To make sure you're ready to follow Australia’s best in the WNCL, here's all you need to know.
What is it and where?
The WNCL will again be played as three mini carnivals throughout the 2017-18 summer, beginning with a rematch between last season’s finalists NSW and Queensland on October 6 and culminating in the final on February 24. The tournament features seven teams, with matches played across Australia at international venues including Manuka Oval and the MCG, and suburban venues including Jubilee Park (Melbourne), Murdoch University (Perth), Blacktown (Sydney), Lindisfarne Oval and Kingston Twin Ovals (Hobart), and Allan Border Field (Brisbane).
After each side has played six matches, the teams placed first and second will meet in the final. Last year, the Lendlease NSW Breakers claimed their 18th title from 21 editions of the WNCL, cruising to victory over the Konica Minolta Queensland Fire.
The Abode Hotels ACT Meteors have landed a major coup, signing star South Africa pair Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp.
South Africa captain van Niekerk was the leading wicket-taker at the recent Women’s World Cup in the United Kingdom, capturing 15 scalps at 10 with her leg-spin, ahead of speedster Kapp who took 13 wickets and is currently the world’s No.1-ranked ODI bowler.
Full contracts: Sam Bates, Maitlan Brown, Erin Burns, Nicole Goodwin, Nicola Hancock, Clara Iemma, Hayley Jensen, Marizanne Kapp, Claire Koski, Emily Leys, Katie Mack, Erin Osborne, Ange Reakes, Dane van Niekerk
The Lendlease Breakers have named a new-look squad, with seven fresh faces on the contract list for 2017-18. The Breakers have named a 19-player squad for their WNCL title defence including six teenagers who’ve earned their first state contracts: Carly Leeson (18), Hannah Trethewy (18), Mikayla Hinkley (19), Rachel Trenaman (16), Saskia Horley (17) and Tahlia Wilson (17).
The rookies are balanced by a wealth of international experience, including Australian contracted players Alex Blackwell, Rachael Haynes, Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy and Lauren Cheatle.
CA contracted players: Alex Blackwell (c), Lauren Cheatle, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry
Full contracts: Sarah Aley, Nicola Carey, Rene Farrell, Maisy Gibson, Lisa Griffith, Mikayla Hinkey, Saskia Horley, Carly Leeson, Lauren Smith, Naomi Stalenberg, Hannah Rachel Trenaman, Trethewy, Belinda Vakarewa, Tahlia Wilson
Top-order batter Kirby Short will captain the Konica Minolta Queensland Fire this season after taking over from allrounder Delissa Kimmince during the 2016-17 season.
She’ll lead a 14-player squad featuring Australian contracted pair Jess Jonassen and Beth Mooney, while two new players join the Fire – Carly Fuller and Josie Dooley.
CA contracted players: Beth Mooney, Jess Jonassen
Full contracts: Kirby Short (c), Jemma Barsby, Haidee Birkett, Tess Cooper, Josey Dooley, Holly Ferling, Carly Fuller, Grace Harris, Laura Harris, Courtney Hill, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Delissa Kimmince, Georgia Prestwidge, Kara Sutherland
South Australia Scorpions
South Australia have secured the services of one of the country’s brightest young talents, with Australia allrounder Ashleigh Gardner moving across from NSW.
The Scorpions have made five additions to their 2017-18 squad, with Gardner joined by Eliza Doddridge, Ellen Falconer, Annie O’Neill and Tabatha Saville – with all four earning their first state contracts.
CA contracted players: Megan Schutt, Amanda-Jade Wellington
Full contracts: Samantha Betts, Eliza Doddridge, Ellen Falconer, Ashleigh Gardner, Brooke Harris, Sarah Lowe, Tahlia McGrath, Tegan McPharlin, Annie O’Neill, Bridget Patterson, Brittany Perry, Katelyn Pope, Alex Price
Overseas: Sophie Devine (NZ)
Tasmania’s WNCL squad features four newcomers. With Erin Burns departing for the ACT and former Australian seamer Julie Hunter retiring, the Roar have recruited Stefanie Daffara from NSW and signed locals Erin Fazackerley and Courtney Webb to their 2017-18 roster.
Full contracts: Stefanie Daffara, Emily Divin, Erin Fazackerley, Katelyn Fryett, Corinne Hall, Brooke Hepburn, Isobel Joyce, Meg Phillips, Veronica Pyke (c), Celeste Raack. Georgia Redmayne, Courtney Webb, Laura Wright
Australia leg-spinner Kristen Beams will lead a new-look Commonwealth Bank VicSpirit side with regular captain Meg Lanning sidelined for up to eight months after undergoing shoulder surgery.
She’ll be assisted by vice-captain Molly Strano and will be in charge of a revamped team, which has signed seven new players and bid farewell to five in addition to the absence of Lanning.
CA contracted players: Kristen Beams (c), Meg Lanning
Full contracts: Makinley Blows, Hayleigh Brennan, Nicole Faltum, Emma Inglis, Alana King, Anna Lanning, Sophie Molineux, Rhiann O’Donnell, Chloe Rafferty, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Gemma Triscari, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
The Alcohol.Think Again Western Fury have named a 15-player contract list for the WNCL season with Sheldyn Cooper and Amy Edgar the only new additions, while Emma Biss has lost her contract.
The Fury possess two internationals in the set-up, with Elyse Villani and Nicole Bolton both retaining their Australian contracts for 2017-18.
CA contracted players: Nicole Bolton, Elyse Villani
Full contracts: Megan Banting, Melissa Cameron, Mathilda Carmichael, Piepa Cleary, Sheldyn Cooper, Bhavisha Devchand, Amy Edgar, Heather Graham, Katie Jane Hartshorn, Emma King, Tanaele Peschel, Chloe Piparo, Emily Smith
Overseas: Kate Cross, Amy Jones (Eng)
Every member of the Australian squad will feature in the WNCL bar injured captain Meg Lanning. This summer, there will also be an international flavour to the competition, with four teams fielding international players.
The ACT Meteors caused a stir when they announced the signings of South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk alongside fellow Protea and the world’s premier ODI bowler Marizanne Kapp.
South Australia have regained the services of Sophie Devine, who last played for the Scorpions in 2015-16, while former Ireland captain Isobel Joyce will again turn out for the Roar.
Western Australia have recruited two England players, seamer Kate Cross and wicketkeeper Amy Jones.
Neither Cross nor Jones are part of England’s Ashes squad, but the pair have represented their country in the not-so-distant past and will be eager to remind selectors of their skill, lest injury strike.
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How can I follow the WNCL?
All matches will be scored live on cricket.com.au, while we'll also provide added written coverage throughout the tournament and the final will be live streamed.
The NSW Breakers will provide free live streaming of their first two matches against Queensland and Victoria, so tune in on cricket.com.au or through the CA Live App.
What about going to a game?
Not only can you see international superstars including Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy in the WNCL, you can watch them for free in person! So get along to your nearest venue and support your state.