Regina Lili'i will lead Auckland Hearts in their opening encounter of the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield against Central Hinds on Saturday (November 21) with regular skipper Anna Peterson having been ruled out with a concussion. The 34-year-old Samoan skipper will lead a young side that includes two newcomers in Yaz Kareem and Molly Penfold, and also sees the return of 19-year-old seamer Skye Bowden who missed last season with an injury.
“We have an exciting bunch of young players and we’ll be encouraging them all to enjoy the experience,” Lili'i said. “It’s great to see Skye back in the mix. We are looking forward to seeing her back doing what she does best for the Hearts.”
Peterson's exclusion aside, the defending champions will also be without the international trio of Lauren Down, Holly Huddleston and Katie Perkins. While they have returned from Australia where they served as replacement players in the Women's Big Bash League, all three are currently going through the managed isolation process.
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Additionally, all of Arlene Kelly, Natasha van Tilburg and Izzy Gaze will miss out on the opening rounds of the competition since they are recovering from injuries.
Despite the absence of the senior players, Lili'i said she was pleased with the way the squad have come together in preparation for the tournament. With Auckland having been forced into a second lockdown due to COVID-19 in September, she added that while there have been a few hiccups, it was nice to play a few practice matches in the lead up to the event.
"Preparation has been good considering the hiccups we had when we were first getting back together. We have been lucky to get a few warm-up matches under our belt and we will be looking to play with freedom when we finally get out there this weekend,” the skipper concluded.
Squad: Regina Lilii (c), Bella Armstrong, Jane Barnett, Skye Bowden, Sarah Carnachan, Amie Hucker, Fran Jonas, Yaz Kareem, Tariel Lamb, Roz McNeill, Molly Penfold, Jesse Prasad, Saachi Shahri