Down, Mair earn maiden contracts; Rachel Priest back in the mix

Rachel Priest in action. ©ICC

Lauren Down and Rosemary Mair have earned their maiden national contracts for the 2019-20 season and will join a 17-strong contract list that also sees the return of Rachel Priest and Anna Peterson.

Priest, who last played for New Zealand in 2017, has been since plying her trade as a ‘freelance’ cricketer, making herself available for foreign T20 leagues, while having to skip the New Zealand domestic season. Having played 154 internationals for her country, the wicket-keeper was dropped after New Zealand’s early exit in the 2017 World Cup with the coaching staff explaining it was for fitness reasons.

This contract will end the 34-year-old’s two year hiatus from the national set up as New Zealand look to build towards the T20 World Cup next year.

Down, who made her ODI debut against West Indies in 2018, has already played nine ODIs for New Zealand. Most recently, she was a member of the team that toured Australia in March this year.

Following the announcement of contracted players on Thursday (September 26), Down admitted that she was excited to be able to focus on cricket full time.

“I’m thrilled to be offered a contract for the upcoming season,” said the 24-year-old. “The experience I’ve already had with the White Ferns has been great and I’m looking forward to spending more time in the environment. It’s a great chance to develop my cricket and I’ll be working hard throughout the season and looking to take any opportunities that come my way.”

Mair, also quite young at the international level, having made her international debut earlier this year, echoed Down’s thoughts.

“I want to bowl fast, so my training will be centred around that and working with bowling coach Jacob Oram to get the best out of my action,” she said. “I’m excited for what’s ahead and this contract gives me the resources and time to really commit and focus my energy on cricket.”

Newly appointed coach, Bob Carter, who is only at the start of his two-year tenure with the team, said he was excited to be able to work with the players and help them explore their potential.

“It’s great to be involved with the White Ferns and see who will put their hand up and demand selection over the coming months,” Carter said. “It’s a big few months ahead as we look forward to the South Africa series here in New Zealand, then the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia next year.”

With a good blend of youth and experience in the list of players, Carter believes the contracts will help create a healthy competition within the group which will in turn help raise the standard of the game in New Zealand.

“Competition within a team is most certainly a positive for the environment. It’s natural when you have professional athletes wanting to improve and play for their country.

“The new Master Agreement gives us coaches more face-to-face time with players which can only serve to improve skills and create a positive team culture.”

Among the other players, Amy Satterthwaite has retained her contract after announcing her pregnancy last month, while Jess Watkin and Kate Ebrahim have been excluded from last season’s list.

Contract list: Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Sophie Devine, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu

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