Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Sian Ruck and Sara McGlashan have become the first New Zealand women players to be awarded professional contracts by the New Zealand board. The contracts are for one year each.
While New Zealand had previously contracted batsman Debbie Hockley, one of the biggest names to come out of women's cricket in the country, who played between 1979 and 2000, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that that instance was a one off. This, the board said, is the first permanent move to introduce women's contracts in the country.*
The contracts system was put forth by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NZC and the New Zealand Cricket Players Association (NZCPA). It is stipulated that each contracted player will work closely with a major association to help promote grassroots women's cricket, increasing awareness and interest in the game at various school and club levels. Bates will work with Otago Cricket, McGlashan with Auckland Cricket, and Ruck and Devine with Cricket Wellington.
Bates, who was the player of the tournament in the recently concluded Women's World Cup in India, believed the contract system signalled an important step forward. "These contracts give us some financial security and allow us to focus solely on cricket," she said. "It's a great honour to represent your national side, but we're also all very passionate about developing the grassroots of our game and the opportunity to be part of that is really satisfying."
NZC follows in the footsteps of other cricket boards that have awarded central contracts to their core of players, including those of England, Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
NZC chief executive officer David White said the contracts demonstrated the board's commitment to the women's game in the country. "Women's cricket is growing all around and it's important that NZC and the major associations provide resources to continue that trend," White said. "These contracts are a sign of our commitment to achieving that goal."
*11.45GMT, April 16: This article has been updated with the Debbie Hockley reference