Alyssa Healy hopes the Sydney Sixers’ "bittersweet" end to the Rebel WBBL season will hand back some confidence to the club’s players after they missed finals for the first time in the competition’s history.
The two-time reigning champions ended the season fifth on the ladder and had been knocked out of contention before their final match of the home-and-away season – against Adelaide Strikers at Hurstville Oval – had even begun, after the Renegades sealed fourth spot with a win over the Thunder on Sunday morning.
Following a run of five consecutive defeats, their longest stretch since they lost their first six games of WBBL|01, Healy said the Sixers had shut out the outside noise as they went into the Hurstville game, only learning the Renegades’ result – and the fact their season was over – at the innings break.
"We put it aside," Healy said of the finals equation. "We knew we had to come out and play with freedom and show everyone what we can do and what we should have been doing all along.
"We found out at the break it wasn’t going to happen, but full credit to the girls for the effort they put in, even in the fielding innings, and hopefully we can take that forward next year."
WBBL Finals: Allan Border Field
First semi-final: Strikers v Scorchers, Saturday 10.10am (11.10am AEDT)
Second semi-final: Heat v Renegades, Saturday 1.50pm (2.50pm AEDT)
Final: SF1 v SF2, Sunday 1.40pm (2.40pm AEDT)
For a squad comprised of Australians Healy, Ellyse Perry, Ashleigh Gardner and Erin Burns, alongside South Africans Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk – as well as former internationals Sarah Aley and Lauren Cheatle – the Sixers missing finals would have seemed unthinkable to most at the start of WBBL|05.
Losing Perry towards the tail end of the season, after the Sixers captain suffered a low-grade AC joint injury in a fielding mishap on November 17, hurt the two-time champions.
But missing Perry for the final five matches wasn’t the only factor impacting the Sixers.
Left-arm quick Cheatle missed the entire season due to injury, while van Niekerk came in lacking match practice after spending much of the year on the sidelines nursing leg and foot injuries.
Loss of form at different points of WBBL|05 from key batters Healy (383 runs at 29.46), Gardner (275 at 21.15) and Burns (175 at 19.44) also made it difficult to cover the loss of Perry’s batting.
The star allrounder finished the season their highest run scorer, with 469 at 93.8, despite playing just nine innings.
With five teenagers in their squad of 15, their less experienced players were forced to step up in the absence of others, while the retirement of New Zealand import Sara McGlashan at the end of last season also hurt their batting depth.
But with the Sixers expected to retain the bulk of their squad next season, including their enviable cast of international stars, Healy can see positives for the future.
"Hopefully we can take that confidence into next year, that we can play this way and we should be doing that for 14 games for the competition," she said.
Sunday’s games sealed a top four comprised of the Brisbane Heat, Adelaide Strikers, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades.
It's the first time in women's domestic cricket league history that a NSW team won't feature in the finals of a competition, dating back 22 years to the start of the Women's National Cricket League in 1996-97, the women's Twenty20 Cup (from 2009-10) and WBBL (from 2015-16).