Ever since retiring from international cricket with New Zealand, Rachel Priest has been leading from the top of the order for the Tasmania Tigers and Hobart Hurricanes.
But the former White Ferns wicketkeeper is just one part of what has been a successful WNCL campaign for the Tigers thus far.
Tasmania has won four and drawn one of its seven games to currently sit at second on the ladder, meaning if the season were to end today it would be in the Final.
But Priest and Tigers aren’t getting ahead of themselves, especially since they have played more games than most other sides.
“That’s why we play, we want to give ourselves the best chance to make finals. It’s obviously going to come down to the last game I’d say with bonus points and things like that. We really are just concentrating on each game and doing what we can. It’s a little early for us to be looking at the table because some teams have played less games than us. It’s probably going to be a bit nerve-racking for us once we’ve played all our games, we’ll be watching the other games closely,” Priest told The Inner Sanctum.
Priest cites a good mix of experience and youth as one of the team’s real strengths.
The Tigers’ greatest example of the latter is 16-year-old spinner Amy Smith, who played beyond her years in the WBBL for Hobart and spun Tasmania to victory against Western Australia three weeks ago with her four-for and bowling at the death.
“Amy’s been absolutely amazing for us thus far. I really got to see her first mostly through the Big Bash and she just took international wickets for fun, and that was awesome to see on such a big stage as well,” Priest said.
“Just a couple of games ago (against Western Australia) she absolutely held her nerve and got as through the last couple of overs and got a one-run win for us. She’s got an amazing temperament and I definitely hope to see her pushing through to higher honours.”
Tasmania is set to lose Belinda Vakarewa and Nicola Carey to Australia’s white-ball tour of New Zealand in late March, but Priest is confident that the team has the depth to cover their departures if it makes the Final.
“Those two will be a huge loss for us, they’re two of our best players and they’ve been having great seasons for us so far. We’re really pleased for them and we’re wishing them all the best on that tour, but we’re brought in Sarah Coyte to bolster our attack. But look, these things happen when you’re playing in a tournament, you lose players to higher honours.”
In contrast to the Tigers’ record in the WNCL at the moment, Priest and the Hobart Hurricanes experienced a tough WBBL campaign.
The Hurricanes finished last on the ladder for the third time in four years, but there were still some highlights from the season.
Chief among them was Priest’s hot streak during the middle of the tournament, when she posted scores of 83*, 42, and 92* across three consecutive games.
“Obviously we were really disappointed at the end of that season with how it all panned out. But I was pleased to contribute, I had a slow start to the tournament but came good in the middle there and got some runs at the top of the order. It’s hard at times opening in a T20, it’s quite hit and miss especially when you want to be aggressive at the top of the order. So I was pleased it came off for me a couple of times and I was pleased I could contribute to a new group.”
She ultimately finished as the team’s leading run-scorer with 354 runs for the tournament and feels there were some positive signs for the group to build on in the future.
“The hub was obviously really difficult and something no one had ever done before. But we were just so pleased that we were able to play and have that tournament.
“It definitely didn’t go to plan but we made some big gains, like Amy (Smith) who had a great tournament. Our batting wasn’t where it needed to be and that’s something we’ll definitely work on for next season. But I think you have to take the good stuff out of a tournament and we’ll keep learning for the next season.”
Priest didn’t find the circumstances of the Sydney hub too difficult given her international experience, but said the club implemented some good strategies to keep everyone focussed and engaged.
“I don’t think it was too bad for me because it was a little like going on tour to India or Bangladesh where you’re not really allowed to leave the hotel.
“We just tried to have a few team activities, quizzes and some other stuff just to get away from cricket. We also made sure we gave people the time to have space away from the team if they needed it.”
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