Australian women’s domestic cricket history will be changed on Saturday when Victoria and Queensland go head to head in the WNCL final at the Junction Oval.
With no New South Wales side participating in the big dance, the stage is set for a new domestic champion to rise in the one-day format.
Southern Stars selection for the impending T20 and ODI series in New Zealand has changed the look of both sides, meaning the title is wide open for both sides to snatch.
Ahead of tomorrows final, we look at the key points and factors that might decide the match.
Can the Vics, and Villani, finish off a wonderful campaign?
From the opening rounds, the Victorian side has stamped itself as a dominant force in the WNCL. With Elyse Villani leading from the front with numerous tons and a run-scoring spree, Victoria will be hoping she can cap off a record-breaking tournament with another match-winning century.
With no Meg Lanning accompanying her at the top of the order, the pressure sits firmly on Villani’s shoulders. Her off-side game has returned to its vibrant best, while her aerial prowess against any short bowling means she possesses the perfect game to tear a final apart.
Queensland will be preparing for Villani – after such a remarkable campaign she looms as a vital part of the Fire’s planning in thwarting a Victorian onslaught.
Can Queensland continue its fairytale run?
A few games ago, the Queensland Fire looked like narrowly missing second spot and a place in the final. But a remarkable burst to finish the home and away rounds saw them sneak ahead of Tasmania by two points.
Up until that point, Tasmania had been the clear second-best side, with the likes of Nicola Carey and Heather Graham leading them to plenty of wins. But Queensland’s grit shone through – the evolution of young players in Georgia Redmayne and Georgia Voll has changed the capabilities of the Fire’s top order.
With veterans Jess Jonassen and Holly Ferling also finding their groove with the ball, Queensland destroyed both Tasmania and New South Wales by eight wickets in both matches to finish the season in rapid fashion. Grace Harris’ rollicking unbeaten century against Tasmania proved the versatility and fight Queensland possesses.
With a largely unchanged side, the Fire has a golden chance to go one further and claim a remarkable title from nowhere.
Can Victoria cover the international losses?
When Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning relocated to Victoria, their new state looked to have recruited an unbeatable side. With Lanning also returning to lead the Melbourne Stars in the WBBL, she seemed to have revived the franchised before falling short in a horror final. Lanning would have been intent on going one better and making amends in the WNCL until the clashing Southern Stars tour of New Zealand disrupted her chance at redemption.
The onus will shift shoulders to a group of solid contributors throughout the season. Kim Garth has been handy with both bat and ball during the tournament, but she’ll have to go to another level on Saturday if she is to fire her state home. Wicketkeeper Nicole Faltum has also produced handy runs and will be required to guide her younger teammates to the title.
Tess Flintoff and Sophie Day both have a big task ahead of them, leading a bowling lineup that now lacks the imperious spin duo of Georgia Wareham and Sophie Molineux.
Will their last meeting matter?
The two finalists last met at Junction Oval earlier this month, with the Vics getting home by six wickets. It signaled the last win Victoria had before multiple losses to the bottom of the ladder Western Australia.
The match was won comfortably with Elyse Villani (118) and Ellyse Perry (62) making significant contributions with the bat after Georgia Wareham (4-46) ripped through Queensland’s middle order.
But despite being played on March 5, there’s little to read into this game. Victoria’s bowling attack is now completely decimated with Victoria’s first choice attack all on international duty. Leaving Villani as the only experienced hand left on the batting lineup. In the meantime, Georgia Redmayne has churned out bulk runs for Queensland and enters the final as the player most in form.
It’s hard to go past the Victorians after such a dominant season. At home at the Junction Oval and Villani surprisingly overlooked for the New Zealand tour, the home side has one last trump card they can rely on to fire them to the title.
But if Villani fails, expect Queensland’s all-round strength and form to get them to the win, even without Jonassen’s valuable spin and captaincy.