Bolton leads the way for Fury
Leadership seems to bring out the best in Nicole Bolton. After a steep learning curve last summer in her first season in charge of the Western Fury, Bolton started this season with her maiden state century, and has been named the Australian Cricketers Association Women's Player of the Month for October.
At 23, Bolton is already a veteran of state cricket, having debuted for the Fury a week after her 16th birthday. But until this season, she was still searching for that breakout summer that would not only catch the eye of the national selectors, but more importantly help her side challenge the two dominant forces in Australian women's cricket, the New South Wales Breakers and the Victorian Sprit.
An innings of 121 in her first match of the season, a big win over Tasmania, was just the start she wanted. To back it up with 104 in her next game, an away win over Victoria, was an early sign of the kind of consistency she has long desired.
"I've been waiting for a bit of a breakout season," Bolton told ESPNcricinfo. "To start so well this season and two tons, it's just with all the preparation I've put in during the off-season it's good to see some results going my way. With the Fury starting so well, scoring runs is giving us a pretty good opportunity to compete.
"I learnt a lot last year and performance wise I didn't do as well as I would have liked, so I put a lot of emphasis on leading from the front and making sure that I'm the leader the girls are going to follow. Batting at the top of the order, the onus is on me to set the tone and keep scoring runs to give us an opportunity to win."
Bolton's performances gave the Fury the ideal start to the WNCL, and while a pair of losses since then has seen them slip to the middle of the points table, they remain firmly in contention for the title. Bolton is second only to Meg Lanning on the competition run tally and she knows she will need to keep pace with the likes of Lanning and Alex Blackwell to give herself the best chance of a call-up to the national side.
"You look at the players that are in the Australian team at the moment and they're there for a reason," she said. "The stats don't lie and they've been able to be consistent for a long time now and especially when it matters. I look at some of those girls and try to base my game on them and keep trying to improve. I'm only 23 now and hopefully over the next few years I'm hitting my peak and not just having one good season but putting together two or three."
Away from the game, Bolton works for the Fremantle Dockers in the AFL, promoting the Dockers brand at school and community level. She won the Player of the Month title for October with 66% of the votes, ahead of Alyssa Healy on 12% and Erin Osborne and Laura Wright tied for third with 8% each.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here