Renegades riding the wave into WBBL finals

Sophie Molineux
Melbourne Renegades captain Sophie Molineux says the side will put the recent losses behind them and focus on WBBL finals. (Image: Melbourne Renegades/Twitter)

The Melbourne Renegades are ready to contest the WBBL finals, moving on from the losses at the back-end of the tournament that stripped them of first place and the easy path to host the Final. 

It means they will take on the Adelaide Strikers, the winner of last night’s Eliminator, in tonight’s Challenger Final with the victor to progress to Saturday night’s Final in Perth. 

While they were the first to secure a top four finish, and looked likely to hold top spot through the tournament, it unravelled in two final matches in Mackay. 

The Renegades lost just two games before the final weekend of the tournament – to fellow finalists the Adelaide Strikers and the Perth Scorchers – but also had two abandoned without a ball being bowled. 

They were sitting top of the ladder and looked all but certain to move straight through to, and host, the Final. 

However, in the final round they had a reality check with losses to the Hobart Hurricanes by 52 runs and the Brisbane Heat by 43 runs. 

On both occasions, the Renegades’ batters struggled to stay at the crease, bowled out within 19 overs, just ticking over the 100 run mark when their opponents had scored more than 150. 

While it was disappointing for the regular season to finish as it did, Renegades captain Sophie Molineux said that it’s all part of the Big Bash tournament and they’ll be able to move on.

“I suppose [in the] Big Bash, you ride the wave of it and it just so happens to be that last week wasn’t really our week in Mackay,” she said.

“We have to sort of try and move on. I think everyone has their ups and downs and we’ve definitely learnt a lot from it and we’ve sort of put it to the side and we’re looking forward now.”

Bowlers standing up and thriving in WBBL

When Australian leg spinner and allrounder Georgia Wareham tore her ACL while fielding in just the second match of the season, a huge hole was left in the Renegades’ attack. 

However, since Wareham returned home to Melbourne to have further scans and start the recovery process, the Renegades have found some brilliant contributors with the ball. 

It was always going to take a group effort to fill the shoes of such a talented young player, but the Renegades were up for the challenge. 

As Molineux points out, it’s been bowlers who have would have gone otherwise unused that have instead seized their opportunities. 

“Wolfie (Georgia Wareham) is pretty irreplaceable, but I’ve been really proud of the way the girls have stood up,” she said. 

“We’ve found some bowlers that we probably weren’t planning to play and getting four overs out of, the girls like Rhiann O’Donnell, Courtney Webb. 

“That, I think, has been the beauty for us this season, is just to see different people step up at different times.”

Webb has taken nine wickets with the ball across seven innings, with an economy rate of 7.43. While in her return WBBL season, O’Donnell has taken six wickets in five innings, with best figures of 2-25. 

Key to these discoveries and different players being handed the ball, has been the belief from new head coach Simon Helmot. 

“Simon Helmot has been really good in giving the whole squad confidence to be able to go out there and play on any given day and do anything.,” Molineux said.

“It’s been great to see those girls thrive in the Big Bash.”

This season has been the first with Helmot at the reigns and the very successful regular season saw him named as head coach of the WBBL Team of the Season

Helmot, a key influence in the Renegades’ rise from second-last to second in the standings, was already a familiar coach as he was head coach of the men’s side for the first four seasons and returned as an assistant coach for WBBL|06 and BBL|10. 

“[He] is a bundle of energy and just gives the girls so much confidence,” Molineux said. 

“He’s been great for the squad, the way he approaches the group and makes everyone feel comfortable and confident in their own game.”

While Helmot parted ways with the BBL team in early 2015, he has spent time as a high-performance coach in Bangladesh and an assistant coach in the Indian Premier League. 

In the last 18 months, he returned to the Melbourne Renegades as an assistant coach before his promotion to coach of the women’s squad. He also coached St Kitts and Nevis Patriots to success in the Caribbean Premier League.

Having such recent triumphs in the CPL may be the advantage that takes the Renegades over the line, should they progress to the Final against the Scorchers on Saturday. 

“He’s had a lot of experience around the world in finals series, so I think he’s going to be great for us to lean on him and feel comfortable and confident around him,” Molineux said.

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A home away from home

The best part about Adelaide Oval is that the South Australian border opened to double-vaccinated Victorians on Tuesday, allowing family and friends to travel across and see the side play.

“Not being able to get to Victoria wasn’t ideal, but the borders are opening up and we’ll get some family over here and it’s going to feel like home I think,” Molineux said.

The opportunity to re-connect with family and friends has been welcomed by Molineux and her Renegades, who have been on the road for the entire tournament. 

“A lot of us haven’t been home for a long time, just the thought of being able to see parents, sisters, brothers, partners and everything – it’s a bit of a motivator for us. 

“It’ll be really cool over the next few days to re-engage with them.”

Wareham was among those who travelled across on Tuesday to join up with the group and support them as their quest for success heats up tonight.

The Melbourne Renegades will play the Adelaide Strikers in The Challenger Final this evening, with play starting at Adelaide Oval from 7:10pm AEDT.

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