Something special is brewing down in Tasmania.
That much was clear on Monday, when Cricket Tasmania announced they’d poached Australia allrounder Nicola Carey from NSW for the 2019-20 Women’s National Cricket League season, alongside fellow NSW players Belinda Vakarewa and Maisy Gibson, the ACT’s Sam Bates, and WA’s Emily Smith.
Tigers coach Salliann Briggs spoke of a fresh start for side which, since its inception in 2010, has struggled in the domestic 50-over competition – although she wasn’t getting too carried away.
"We’re kind of starting again really, because we’ve got a new group,” Briggs said.
“We’ve got to really work hard at making clear the expectations.”
One could argue that despite a new-look squad it’s not all about new beginnings at the Tigers. Rather, the side will be looking to build on the foundations that Briggs put in place at the beginning of last season that paid significant dividends.
A glance at the Tigers’ record in the WNCL is a telling place to start.
From 2010 until 2018, Tasmania recorded just five victories in eight seasons of the domestic 50-over competition.
Season 2018-19, the team’s first under Briggs’ guidance, started differently. For the first time in Tigers history, they recorded a win in their opening match.
The improved fortunes continued. Tasmania – without a single CA contracted-player to bolster their stocks – finished the season in third position, with four victories from six fixtures. It was their most successful season to date, having never previously managed to finish above seventh place on the table.
An agonising 14-run, final-round defeat at the hands of Meg Lanning’s Victoria cost them a maiden WNCL final berth, but the message remained - something had shifted in the Tasmanian camp.
This sentiment rang through loud and clear as new recruits Carey and Bates addressed the media on Monday.
Carey – a member of Australia’s 2018 World T20 winning squad, was named the Player of the WNCL Final back in February and has six ODI appearances to her name but is yet to confirm her status as a mainstay in an Australia XI.
Making the move from the star-studded New South Wales Breakers, Carey hopes to make the most of increased opportunities in Tasmania and prove her abilities on the field.
"I’ve heard really good things about this program," Carey said.
"I suppose for myself personally, I was looking for a fresh start and a new opportunity. I thought this setup was the best fit for me so I’m really looking forward to getting started.
"I’ve sort of been watching from afar, especially after last season. I saw the progress they made both for the Tigers and the Hurricanes. I was really impressed with what the group was doing, and I saw it as a really great opportunity to be a part of something pretty special."
More than words, it’s the migration of these five players to Tasmania from their previous state setups that speaks volumes of the strides that Cricket Tasmania has made in their elite women’s program.
A generous proportion of this Tasmanian turnaround is being attributed to the influence of Briggs.
Having carved out an impressive reputation for herself on the coaching circuit in the UK, Briggs was lured to Tasmania in 2018 after stints with the England Women’s Academy and the Loughbrough Lightning in England’s women’s domestic T20 competition.
Also making the move from the Breakers is left-arm spinner Bates, who also believes Briggs’ reputation is garnering player attention nationwide.
"This program has excelled in the past couple of years, especially since Sal’s come on board," Bates said.
"We had fitness training today and you can just see how the girls have really worked hard, even in the off-season. The expectations are getting higher, and the gaps are getting smaller each year."
Such is the nature of a squad shake-up, there were outgoings to account for the incomings.
Veteran Veronica Pyke, a stalwart of women’s cricket in Tasmania and the team’s inaugural captain, was delisted after dedicating more than a decade to the Tigers.
Briggs said with the limited opportunities presented to play WNCL, Cricket Tasmania must concentrate their efforts on developing players for the future.
"She (Pyke) is the longest serving player and she’s part of the reason Tassie’s achieved so much,” Briggs said.
"She’s older now, so we’ve got to be looking at the younger players coming through because this is a long journey and we’ve got to give them opportunity.
"My job is to create long term success, and I’m pretty confident in my players to deliver that."
Briggs and co. are changing the way things are done down south. Armed with a new-look squad, a reinvigorated program and one eye on the future, Tasmania’s rise means this summer’s WNCL season is shaping up as a fascinating one.Tasmania Tigers squad: Sam Bates, Nicola Carey (CA contracted), Stef Daffara, Erin Fazackerley, Katelyn Fryett, Maisy Gibson, Corinne Hall, Brooke Hepburn, Emma Mannix-Geeves, Sasha Moloney, Meg Phillips, Emily Smith, Emma Thompson, Belinda Vakarewa, Courtney Webb