Wellington Blaze, defending Super Smash champions, are aiming to complete a hat-trick of T20 titles while also attempting to secure their first one-day championship in 15 years when their campaign begins this weekend.
Blaze announced a strong 18-member squad full of international and domestic talent, including nine players who have been offered their very first domestic contracts. These contracts are meant to provide the players with financial support, compensating them for their playing time and training time in an attempt to make the domestic setup semi-professional.
“The women’s domestic contracts and the New Zealand development contracts are a really exciting development in the growth of the women’s game,” said Robbie Kerr, Wellington Blaze performance manager. “It’s really encouraging to see the number of players that we have who aspire to play at the next level and these contracts are only going to improve the development and overall quality of women’s players in the country.”
Blaze has as many as five contracted New Zealand players, including Rachel Priest, the wicket-keeper-batter, who has finally returned to the national setup. She will be joined by Sophie Devine, Amelia Kerr, Maddie Green and Leigh Kasperek— the last two of whom made the move to Wellington during the off-season. Their presence will further strengthen a team that already looks mighty powerful with the bat.
However, with four of the five internationals— Devine, Kerr, Priest and Green— involved in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, it is likely that only Kasperek will be available for the first round of the one-day tournament. The entire group will be involved in the Super Smash which begins on December 13.
Amongst the squad, Thamsyn Newton, Liz Perry— both of whom have international experience— and Jess Kerr— who has earned a development contract— will add further experience and firepower to the squad. They will be assisted by the likes of Rebecca Burns, who hit the most number of sixes last season, and Deanna Doughty, the up-and-coming leg-spinner.
“We have a great mix in the squad with the five White Ferns, a number of established domestic players and some exciting young talent who will be looking to breakthrough and establish themselves in the squad,” Kerr added. “We’ve worked really hard during the pre-season and we’re now looking forward to putting that into action come next Saturday.”
Blaze play their first match of the one-day tournament against Auckland Hearts on November 16.
NZC centrally contracted: Sophie Devine, Amelia Kerr, Maddie Green, Leigh Kasperek, Rachel Priest.
NZC development contracts: Jess Kerr.
Domestic contracts: Rebecca Burns, Deanna Doughty, Allex Evans, Liz Green-Perry, Caitlin King, Beth Molony, Jess McFadyen, Thamsyn Newton, Maneka Singh.
Not contracted: Whetu Campbell, Natasha Codyre, Xara Jetly.