Two Australian hockey stars have launched an ambitious cross-code bid to translate their skills into top-level cricket ahead of the second season of the Women's Big Bash League this summer.
Former Hockeyroos star Kate Hollywood has confirmed she is trialling for a rookie contract with either the Sydney Sixers or WBBL|01 champions Sydney Thunder, while fellow former Hockeyroo Mathilda Carmichael has signed with Perth Scorchers for the coming season.
Carmichael had already signed with the Western Fury for the Women’s National Cricket League after missing out on the Hockeyroos squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
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Hollywood, a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and 2008 Olympian, will take part in a Cricket NSW initiative that is hoped will convince other leading female athletes to try their hand at cricket.
The 30-year-old says the similarities between the two sports are obvious.
"Cricket is an exciting sport, I think it is very similar to hockey which is a sport I obviously love, especially the hand-eye coordination," she said.
"Since playing hockey, and being around that team environment, it is something that I’ve loved about the sport.
"I think cricket is very similar – it’s a nice team feel, you always celebrate together and the team cohesion is important.
"I will always sign up for anything and have a crack at it. That’s the best thing about being an athlete, being able to test yourself and try different things.”
Cricket NSW is encouraging elite female athletes from all sports to apply for their 'WBBL Futurestars' program with two rookie WBBL contracts – one with the Sixers and one with the Thunder – on offer. A spot in Cricket NSW Women’s High Performance Cricket Academy is also up for grabs.
The program is being viewed by Cricket Australia as a pilot for a possible nationwide initiative in the future.
Carmichael, 22, says she's hoping to play both cricket and hockey going forward, a dual-code balancing act made famous by Southern Stars allrounder and talented soccer player Ellyse Perry.
"If I get opportunities to play higher levels of hockey again for Australia, I’m definitely still striving for that," she said. "Hopefully along the way I balance both of them, but obviously I’m just focusing on one thing at a time.
"With the success of the Big Bash last season for the women, I think WBBL02 will be another success."
Meanwhile, the Thunder have fought off five other franchises to complete the historic signing of India vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur for their WBBL title defence this summer.
Kaur is the first Indian, male or female, to sign a Big Bash League contract and is looking forward to taking part in what she says is the world’s premier women’s competition.
"I have watched clips online because this tournament is a huge platform for all women cricketers all around the world,” she said. "I hope there will be a huge push for women’s cricket in India after this.
"When an Indian cricketer is going to play in foreign leagues, there would definitely be an increase in support for women’s cricket in India."
The second season of the WBBL gets underway on December 10.
Women looking to apply for the WBBL Futurestars program can do so through the Cricket NSW website.