Previous WBBL|03 previews:
- Adelaide Strikers
- Melbourne Renegades
- Sydney Thunder
- Melbourne Stars
- Hobart Hurricanes
- Brisbane Heat
- Perth Scorchers
The squad: Ellyse Perry (C), Sarah Aley, Erin Burns, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jodie Hicks, Emily Leys, Ange Reakes, Lauren Smith, Carly Leeson, Marizanne Kapp (SA), Sara McGlashan (NZ), Dane Van Niekerk (SA), Clara Iemma
In: Erin Burns (Hurricanes), Lauren Cheatle (Thunder), Clara Iemma
Out: Rhiannon Dick (Strikers), Lisa Sthalekar, Haylee Hoffmeister
The inside word with coach Ben Sawyer: "Day one, we had everybody in and we spoke a bit about (having won the title), obviously with the internationals, they flew home pretty much straight after the game. So, in a way we celebrated that again, and then basically said that was it. We handed out this season’s jerseys, and that was sort of the line in the sand that it was done and dusted. We strengthened it (our list) with an extra batter in Erin Burns, then unfortunately Cheats (Lauren Cheatle) fell over, but we’re pretty confident going into the season that we’ll be able to push for the semis again and then see what happens there. We’ve got lots of variations, if we need someone to bowl wide of off-stump, we’ve got that, and someone to attack the stumps … I think we’ve got a lot of variations with our bowling that we can match-up against pretty much anyone we come up against. Batting-wise, we’ve got really attacking batters who enjoy hitting the ball hard."
The talking point: The reigning champions look as strong as ever, with the likes of Australia Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes heroes Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy leading an all-star cast of internationals. South Africa duo Marizanne Kapp and Dane Van Niekerk will again hit out for the team in magenta, along with New Zealand’s Sara McGlashan. Both Ashleigh Gardner and - after a long, long wait - Sarah Aley have made their Australian debuts since last season, and the talent again runs very deep in the list. Who can knock them off? Crosstown rival Sydney Thunder will be hopeful, and Perth Scorchers will be out for redemption after narrowly losing to the Sixers in the WBBL|02 final, but undoubtedly the reigning champions are the early yardstick.
The WBBL|02 result: Champions. The Sixers finished top of the ladder at the end of the regular season, smashed the Hurricanes with a 103-run win in the semi-finals and followed up with a hard-earned seven-run win over the Scorchers in the decider. It was just reward for the team which had come so close in the inaugural WBBL decider, and refused to take a backward step in the second season. Healy (479 runs), Gardner (414), and Perry (384) – the last of whom missed three games, including the finals through injury – were in the top seven highest run-scorers, while Aley led all wicket-takers with 28. Healy also topped the most disposals by a wicketkeeper with 17 – nine catches and eight stumpings.
The one to watch: Ellyse Perry. Yes, she seems the blatantly obvious choice, but after her efforts in the Ashes, how can you go past the dual sports star? She missed out on playing in the Sixers’ championship win last summer with a hamstring injury, and will be eager to be part of a title win this summer. Before the injury, she had been in great form, making 384 runs (taking her WBBL total to 814) and claiming five wickets on the back of some economical bowling. Can she go even better in WBBL|03? She made an unbeaten stand of 213 in the Test against England, claimed 12 wickets across the seven-match multi-format series and recently notched up 127no for NSW in the WNCL.
The rising star: Ashleigh Gardner. The 20-year-old allrounder took a big stride forward in WBBL|02, pounding out 414 runs at 27.60, but was also handy with the ball, claiming 10 wickets during the season. She has captained the first Indigenous women’s cricket team and played a vital role in Australia’s first ODI win in the Ashes, with a match-winning knock of 27 off 18 late in the innings to go with her three wickets.
The changes: The reigning champions look as strong as ever, with in-form star Australia allrounder Perry again at the helm for WBBL|03. The Sixers have lost just a few players, including former Australia captain Lisa Sthalekar, who returned to retirement following last summer’s title win. Rhiannon Dick has crossed to Adelaide Strikers, but the Sixers have picked up Hobart Hurricanes allrounder Erin Burns. The Sixers were dealt a blow in the lead-up to the WBBL season, however, with prized young recruit Cheatle ruled out for at least the remainder of 2017 with a back stress fracture. The former Thunder star bowler was part of Australia's Ashes squad without playing a match before the injury cut her series short and cast her in doubt for the third edition of the WBBL.
December 9 v Stars – North Sydney Oval
December 10 v Thunder – North Sydney Oval
December 12 v Scorchers – North Dalton Park, Wollongong
December 17 v Hurricanes – Blundstone Arena
December 23 v Hurricanes – SCG
December 30 v Scorchers –Lilac Hill, Perth
January 2 v Renegades – Camberwell Sports Ground, Camberwell
January 3 v Renegades – GMHBA Stadium, Geelong
January 13 v Thunder – SCG
January 18 v Heat – SCG
January 19 v Heat – Hurstville Oval, Hurstville
January 21 v Stars – Casey Fields, Cranbourne East
January 27 v Strikers – Hurstville Oval, Hurstville
January 28 v Strikers – Hurstville Oval, Hurstville