Ireland allrounder Kim Garth could represent Australia in the future after leaving Irish cricket to accept a two-year with Victoria.
Garth, 24, has played 34 ODIs and 51 T20Is for Ireland but has considerable experience in Australia following WBBL stints Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers. She has played club cricket in Melbourne; last season, here she was named Dandenong's most valuable player.
"While I have accepted the offer, it was not an easy decision to make," Garth said. "To leave family, friends and the whole Irish cricket community was a very difficult decision and one I did not take lightly. However, my ambition has always been to be a full-time professional cricketer and to play at the highest level. A chance like this doesn't present itself too often, so I am keen to seize this opportunity."
"I will miss being part of the Irish squad, and indeed all the staff I have worked with at Cricket Ireland - I am very grateful and conscious of the opportunities afforded to me by Cricket Ireland over the years. But I have also learned a lot living and playing cricket in Australia and hope that, at some future time, I can bring this experience home and give back in some way."
I have always wanted to play cricket for a living and that's something I just couldn't turn down at this stage in my career, which is why I made the decision. Excited to start with @VicStateCricket but obviously bitter sweet and will really miss all at @Irelandcricket— Kim Garth (@kim_garth) June 24, 2020
Shaun Graf, Cricket Victoria's general manager of cricket, said. "Kim has played a lot of cricket within Australia in recent seasons and brings further international experience to the squad. She will play as an overseas player initially however she intends to apply for permanent residency allowing her the opportunity to hopefully one-day play for Australia."
It is a significant blow for Ireland who will hope to secure a place in the 50-over World Cup if the qualifying event, which has been postponed from July in Sri Lanka due to Covid-19. Cricket Ireland is working towards being able to offer full-time contracts to their female players, but that remains some time away.
"This is obviously a blow, there is no way around that," head coach Ed Joyce said. "To lose one of your leading players anytime is a challenge, but I can understand Kim's decision-making and she has been quite open with her ambitions."
"Ambition is a good thing, though - I want our players to be ambitious for Ireland and for their careers. However, the reality is that it will take a few years for us to be in a position to offer our women cricketers full-time opportunities. We're on that road, like we did with the men's contracts, but I am optimistic we will get there with patience and commitment."
Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland's performance director, said: "We are obviously disappointed to be losing such a senior player during the transition we are going through, but can appreciate Kim's desire to take this opportunity to play professionally in Australia. While she will step away from Ireland duty, this does not necessarily close the door on her Irish career, and we hope that we may see her in Irish colours once more at some stage in the future."
"The contract agreement has been in the pipeline for a little while now, and we had hoped that Kim would have played for us at the World Cup Qualifier before starting with Cricket Victoria. With the postponement of that tournament, the timing will no longer allow this."