Less than three months after she became New Zealand's youngest representative at the Women's World Cup, 16-year-old legspinner Amelia Kerr has become the youngest female cricketer from the country to earn a full-time central contract.
Kerr is one of two new inclusions in New Zealand Cricket's 15-member list of contracted players for the 2017-18 season, along with allrounder Maddy Green. Anna Peterson, the 27-year-old allrounder, has also made her way back to the list, having missed out on a contract last year. Morna Neilsen, Liz Perry and Sam Curtis have been excluded from the list.
In August last year, a three-year Memorandum of Understanding was signed between NZC and the New Zealand Cricket Players Association, confirming retainer contracts for 15 of the country's top women cricketers, with the pay ranging between $20,000 and $34,000, an increase from $10,000 to $12,000.
Having made her international debut in November last year, Kerr has made great strides in her fledgling career, bagging 25 wickets from 15 matches across the ODI and T20I formats. She was one of the top performers for New Zealand at the recent Women's World Cup, although the side failed to make it to the semi-finals. Her knack for snaring big names brought her 10 wickets in six matches - the joint highest for the side with Leigh Kasperek - at an economy rate of 4.48.
"I've always wanted to be a professional cricketer and to play for the White Ferns regularly," Kerr, a student of the 12th grade in Tawa College, told the Black Caps website. "The last year's all happened pretty fast, but I've really enjoyed the experience and I'm excited about the future."
Lauding Kerr's achievements, New Zealand coach Haidee Tiffen said the teenager represented the next generation of cricketers from the country.
"I think we all know what a precocious talent Amelia is and she certainly showed that with her performances at the World Cup," Tiffen said. "She's extremely skillful and confident, especially considering her age, and I think we're seeing that more and more in the players that are coming through."
Tiffen also praised Auckland's all-round pair of Green and Peterson, who, too, made it to the contracts list.
"Maddy's shown plenty of promise in her limited opportunities and we've been impressed by her all-round skills and athleticism," she said. "Anna's made it back on to the list through pure performance. She's taken her chances when they've come and obviously claimed that memorable hat-trick in our Twenty20 series win against Australia earlier this year."
Tiffen pointed to Kerr, offspinner Kasperek and fast bowler Hannah Rowe as the side's rising stars after their showing in the World Cup.
"We've got a group of experienced players currently leading the way for the White Ferns, but we know they won't be around forever.
"What the likes of Hannah, Leigh and Amelia showed in the UK is that there are players coming through who are ready to take up the mantle."
New Zealand, who ended their World Cup campaign in June with a fifth-place finish, are scheduled to play Pakistan in the UAE next month, with the itinerary of the tour set to be announced soon.