News Analysis

WBBL previews: Squads, player moves and ones to watch

The WBBL begins this weekend in Sydney. Here's how the eight teams shape up after a hectic lead in

Getty Images

Getty Images

Adelaide Strikers

Captain: Suzie Bates
Coach: Luke Williams
WBBL history: 2015-16: 7th, 2016-17: 8th, 2017-18: Semi-final, 2018-19, 6th and 2019-20: Runners-up
Squad: Darcie Brown, Suzie Bates (NZ), Sarah Coyte, Ellie Falconer, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Katie Mack, Tegan McPharlin, Tahlia McGrath, Annie O'Neil, Bridget Patterson, Madeline Penna, Alex Price, Megan Schutt, Stafanie Taylor (WI), Laura Wolvaardt (SA)
In Madeline Penna (Stars), Laura Wolvaardt
Out Sophie Devine (Scorchers), Tabatha Saville
How will last season's runners-up cope with losing the talismanic Sophie Devine? They have brought in Laura Wolvaardt, the South Africa batter who is one of the most exciting young players in the game, but Devine's 2019-20 haul of 769 runs and 19 wickets will require the squad to dig deep. They will hope to see far more of West Indian Stafanie Taylor than last season.
Player to watch
Bridget Patterson had a very solid tournament last season with 319 runs - putting her fourth behind the Strikers' big three of Devine, Suzie Bates and Tahlia McGrath - and that form was enough to earn her an Australia A call-up to face India. She is the type of player - now secured on a three-year deal - that will need to kick her game on again to help fill the void left by Devine's exit.

Brisbane Heat

Captain: Jess Jonassen
Coach: Ashley Noffke
WBBL history: 2015-16: 6th, 2016-17: 3rd, 2017-18: 5th, 2018-19: Champions and 2019-20: Champions
Squad: Maddy Green (NZ), Nicola Hancock, Grace Harris, Laura Harris, Mikayla Hinkley, Jess Jonassen, Amelia Kerr (NZ), Delissa Kimmince, Nadine de Klerk (SA), Charli Knott, Lilly Mills, Georgia Prestwidge, Georgia Redmayne, Courtney Sippel, Georgia Voll
In Nichola Hancock (Stars), Nadine de Klerk, Georgia Redmayne, Georgia Voll
Out Haidee Birkett, Sammy-Jo Johnson (Thunder), Beth Mooney (Scorchers), Kirby Short (retired)
There has been significant change for the defending champions as they prepare to attempt the hat-trick. Captain Kirby Short has retired with Jonassen promoted to lead the side, while Beth Mooney made one of the high-profile switches by moving to the Perth Scorchers and Sammy-Jo Johnson has gone to the Sydney Thunder. Whether the Heat can replace Mooney's runs will be key - a task that will fall in part to Georgia Redmayne who has joined from the Scorchers.
Player to watch
Grace Harris is entertaining in whatever she does, whether it's with bat, ball or with microphone. However, last season's return of 212 runs at 17.66 and six wickets at 49.66 was perhaps a little below expectation. With the loss of such a key figure in Mooney, Harris will be one of the senior players who will need to take up the slack with the bat. With two ferocious WBBL hundreds to her name - her second coming off just 42 balls - and an overall strike-rate of 137.40, it will be interesting to see where she is used in the batting order.

Hobart Hurricanes

Captain: Corinne Hall
Coach: Salliann Briggs
WBBL history: 2015-16: 2nd, 2016-17: 4th, 2017-18: 8th, 2018-19: 8th and 2019-20: 7th
Squad: Nicola Carey, Maisy Gibson (injured), Corinne Hall, Brooke Hepburn, Erica Kershaw, Hayley Matthews (WI), Sasha Moloney, Rachel Priest (NZ), Chloe Rafferty, Amy Smith, Naomi Stalenberg, Emma Thompson, Chloe Tryon (SA), Tayla Vlaeminck (injured), Belinda Vakarewa; Replacements Hayley Jensen (NZ), Chloe Abel, Nell Bryson Smith, Emily Smith
In Erica Kershaw (Renegades), Rachel Priest (Thunder), Chloe Rafferty, Amy Smith, Naomi Stalenberg (Thunder), Emma Thompson
Out Stephanie Daffara, Erin Fazackerly (Renegades), Katelyn Fryett, Heather Knight, Meg Phillips, Emily Smith
The Hurricanes' story has been one of steadily diminishing returns after starting out as competition finalists and then returning to the semi-finals the following year. Last season saw more inconsistency, with the distraction provided by the wicketkeeper Emily Smith's minor integrity infraction and the extremely harsh ban that Cricket Australia chose to hand down in response. Smith is only on the fringes of the squad this time around as a replacement player, with the gloves taken by New Zealand's combative Rachel Priest. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the Hurricanes this time around will be the fact that Tayla Vlaeminck has already been ruled out of the entire tournament. That came due to her long and challenging recovery path from a foot fracture which had ended her T20 World Cup campaign before it began. Australia had to change their tournament plans considerably without Vlaeminck - and the Hurricanes need to do likewise.
Player to watch
Nicola Carey is one of the national team's more underrated contributors, offering parsimony with the ball and intelligent middle-order batting when required. She is not competing with anywhere near as many box office names at the Hurricanes and showed last season that the responsibility suited her, offering up numerous performances with both bat and ball that suggested she could step up similarly for Australia if ever required to offer something more than cameos.

Melbourne Renegades

Coach: Lachlan Stevens
WBBL history: 2015-16: 8th, 2016-17: 7th, 2017-18: 6th, 2018-19: 4th and 2019-20: 4th
Squad: Makinley Blows, Maitlan Brown, Josie Dooley, Jess Duffin (unavailable), Erin Fazackerley, Ella Hayward, Lizelle Lee (SA), Carly Leeson, Sophie Molineux, Courtney Neale, Amy Satterthwaite (NZ), Molly Strano, Lea Tahuhu (NZ), Georgia Wareham, Courtney Webb
In Erin Fazackerly (Hobart Hurricanes), Ella Hayward, Lizelle Lee
Out Tammy Beaumont, Erica Kershaw, Claire Koski, Danni Wyatt
The return of Amy Satterthwaite as captain looms as a major source of encouragement for the club as they seek to graduate from a pair of semi-final appearances to become the first Melbourne team to take out the title. Lizelle Lee's arrival from South Africa will provide plenty of big hitting and still greater experience to the batting line-up - which will be missing Jess Duffin following her pregnancy - while in Molly Strano, Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham, the Renegades boast all but one member of the Australian team's enviable spin bowling quartet. There remain doubts over Lea Tahuhu's fitness though.
Player to watch
Satterthwaite's quality was on display as she acquitted herself best of all New Zealand's players in their recent drubbing by Australia over twin T20 and ODI series in Brisbane. Her resumption as the leader of a Renegades combination that was able to maintain their league position without her in the 2019 tournament makes the club undoubtedly one of the chief obstacles for any WBBL trophy aspirants this time around.

Melbourne Stars

Captain: Meg Lanning
Coach: Trent Woodhill
WBBL history: 2015-16: 5th, 2016-17: 5th, 2017-18: 7th, 2018-19: 7th and 2019-20: 8th
Squad: Katherine Brunt (Eng), Lucy Cripps, Sophie Day, Bhavi Devchand, Nicole Faltum, Holly Ferling, Tess Flintoff, Georgia Gall, Alana King, Meg Lanning, Erin Osborne, Mignon du Preez, Nat Sciver (Eng), Annabel Sutherland, Elyse Villani
In Katherine Brunt, Sophie Day, Bhavi Devchand (Scorchers), Georgia Gall, Meg Lanning (Scorchers), Nat Sciver
Out Kristen Beams (retired), Nicola Hancock (Heat), Emma Inglis, Lizelle Lee (Renegades), Madeline Penna (Strikers), Angela Reakes (Sixers)
Were the Melbourne Stars' men's team to have maintained the sort of wretched record their women's equivalent have managed over the WBBL's first five seasons, little short of a Royal Commission would have been called. It remains a source of enormous frustration though that the Stars have not been able to prosper, and the return of Meg Lanning from a stint with the Perth Scorchers will undoubtedly help. Lanning performed well as the Stars began their existence as a mid-table team finishing just out of the semi-finals, and it will now be a question of whether the Stars and their new coach Trent Woodhill have been able to assemble an effective group to operate around her. The arrival of two seasoned England internationals in Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver bode well for these plans, offering Lanning a pair of highly dependable operators with the ball and the bat, respectively. More will be expected of Annabel Sutherland, with Elyse Villani given the chance to score a little more freely without the responsibilities of captaincy.
Player to watch
It's hard to look past Lanning as key to the Stars improving their fortunes, after two impressive seasons with the Scorchers saw a strong combination with Villani in particular before she moved to the Stars the season before Lanning chose to follow. There is a sense at the Stars that the club is finally committing the kinds of resources and attention to the WBBL that it should have done long ago, and Lanning's return is a measure of that resolve.

Perth Scorchers

Coach Shelley Nitschke
WBBL history 2015-16: 4th, 2016-17: Runners-up, 2017-18: Runners-up, 2018-19: 5th and 2019-20: Semi-final
Squad Megan Banting, Jemma Barsby, Samantha Betts, Nicole Bolton, Mathilda Carmichael, Piepa Cleary, Sophie Devine (NZ), Sarah Glenn (Eng), Heather Graham, Amy Jones (Eng) Emma King, Beth Mooney, Taneale Peschel, Chloe Piparo, Georgia Wyllie
In Megan Banting, Sophie Devine (Strikers), Sarah Glenn, Beth Mooney (Brisbane Heat), Georgia Wyllie
Out Kim Garth, Kath Hempenstall, Meg Lanning (Stars), Georgia Redmayne (Heat), Nat Sciver (Stars)
It would be hard to argue that anyone did better business than the Perth Scorchers as they brought in both Devine and Beth Mooney, while also signing England legspinner Sarah Glenn who has impressed this year. They have lost Meg Lanning but with Amy Jones and Nicole Bolton also in the batting line-up, they will be confident of getting runs on the board.
Player to watch
You would think the batting would look after itself, but what about the Scorchers bowling? Heather Graham was their leading wicket-taker last season with 15 and shapes as being a key component of the attack again if they want to go deep into the tournament. She had a brief taste with Australia last season but was not part of the expanded squad recently against New Zealand. She scored an unbeaten half-century against India A in the series before Christmas and took 3 for 40 to help Western Australia win the WNCL.

Sydney Sixers

Captain Ellyse Perry
Coach Ben Sawyer
WBBL history 2015-16: Runners up, 2016-17: Champions, 2017-18: Champions, 2018-19: Runners up and 2019-20: 5th
Squad Sarah Aley, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Lauren Cheatle, Maddy Darke, Ashleigh Gardner, Lisa Griffith, Alyssa Healy, Jodie Hicks, Emma Hughes, Marizanne Kapp (SA), Ellyse Perry, Angela Reakes, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Dane van Niekerk (SA)
In> Angela Reakes (Stars), Lisa Griffith (Thunder)
Out Alisha Bates, Lauren Smith (Thunder)
The Sixers were one of the quieter teams during a hectic contracting period as they look to respond the surprising fifth-place finish last season, the first time they ended outside of the top two. Pace-bowling allrounder Lisa Griffith has jumped across down from the Thunder with Lauren Smith heading the other way, while Angela Reakes returns to her original club after a spell with the Stars which included missing the whole of last season due to an Achilles injury. There will be plenty of attention on the recovery of Ellyse Perry from the hamstring injury which has sidelined her since the T20 World Cup after she suffered a setback while training with the Australia squad in Brisbane.
Player to watch
If Perry is available she will form an enviable opening pairing with Alyssa Healy, but it feels as though Ash Gardner is taking her game to a new level and could be set for a big tournament. She struck the ball very cleanly against New Zealand, especially in the well-constructed 61 in the opening T20I when Australia were in trouble, as she allies her strength and timing with the nous of building an innings - even in the short format. Coupled with her more-than-handy offspin and dynamic fielding, she is the ideal T20 all-round package.

Sydney Thunder

Coach Trevor Griffin
WBBL history 2015-16: Champions, 2016-17: 6th, 2017-18: Semi-final, 2018-19: Semi-final and 2019-20: 6th
Squad Sam Bates, Tammy Beaumont (Eng), Hannah Darlington, Rachael Haynes, Saskia Horley, Shabnim Ismail (SA) Sammy-Jo Johnson, Anika Learoyd, Phoebe Litchfield, Heather Knight (Eng), Kate Peterson, Olivia Porter (injured), Lauren Smith, Rachel Trenaman, Tahlia Wilson
In Tammy Beaumont, Sammy-Jo Johnson (Heat), Heather Knight, Anika Learoyd, Olivia Porter, Lauren Smith (Sixers)
Out Alex Blackwell (retired), Nida Dar, Rene Farrell (retired), Lisa Griffith (Sixers), Rachel Priest (Hurricanes), Naomi Stalenberg (Hurricanes)
After a disappointing sixth place last season, allrounder Sammy-Jo Johnson was a significant signing as she moved from the defending champions Brisbane Heat. England pair Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont should provide a strong top order - which will have a new look this year after the retirement of Alex Blackwell and loss of Rachel Priest - alongside captain Rachael Haynes and the hugely talented Phoebe Litchfield.
Player to watch
Nineteen-year-old Hannah Darlington was the Thunder's leading wicket-taker last year with 16 at 21.31, which earned her the young player of the tournament title. She then headed across the Tasman and was the leading wicket-taker for Otago in their Super Smash campaign with 13 wickets in 11 matches. She will form a potentially potent seam attack alongside Shabnim Ismail and Johnson.