New skipper Devine eager to get season started
After a year off, returning Wellington Blaze all-rounder Sophie Devine says there is no reason she can't emulate her prolific 2010-11 summer.
There is added pressure, too, with Devine accepting coach Leigh Kelly's offer of the captaincy for a season that opens against the Central Hinds at Karori Park tomorrow.
Long-serving skipper Megan Wakefield has retired and Devine required some persuading to take the reins.
"I was a bit hesitant to start with . . . " Devine said.
"Leigh and [manager] Kev Pulley twisted my arm and now I can't wait for the season to start."
Devine was a runaway winner of the Blaze player of the year award two seasons back, scoring 255 runs at 42.5 and taking 14 wickets at 11.3 in the 50-over competition as Wellington lost to Canterbury in the final.
The 23-year-old sat out last summer to chase her Olympic hockey dream but when she narrowly missed the squad for London, she was back for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September.
"I was pretty fortunate that I was able to get back in the team without as much preparation as I would have liked. I thought I handled it all right over there.
"The last season I played was a pretty spectacular one for me and it's going to be tough to live up to that. But having had a really good buildup I don't see any reason why I can't accomplish similar numbers this year."
Batting will provide Wellington's biggest question mark in the absence of Wakefield and English import Sarah Taylor, who has international commitments. But they have a handy recruit in Scottish international Leigh Kasperek, Essex's player of the year who averaged 40 for Western Fury in Australia last season.
"This year a lot more younger players have come through. They were exposed to the game last year so hopefully this year they'll step up and play a dominant role in our side," Devine said.
"I've been really impressed with the depth in our squad. If everyone performs to their ability we should definitely be reaching finals and bringing home trophies."
Up-and-comers who could deliver this season include all-rounder Thamsyn Newton, batter Suzie McDonald and 16-year-old national indoor representative Gemma Krebs.
Wellington missed the 50-over final by a solitary point last season. This year's competition is a quickfire one with six weekends, each including one T20 and two 50-over matches. The respective finals are on January 12 and 13.
Central play the T20 match tomorrow, with back-to-back 50-over matches on Saturday and Sunday.
Wellington Blaze (from): Sophie Devine (c), Michelle Bunkall, Rebecca Burns, Lucy Doolan, Deanna Doughty, Allex Evans, Leigh Kasperek, Gemma Krebs, Renee Moffitt, Suzie McDonald, Thamsyn Newton, Sian Ruck, Andrea Stockwell.
Central Hinds (from): Rachel Priest (c), Kate Baxter, Kate Broadmore, Abby Burrows, Sarah Cowan, Maree Heal, Sandee Hui, Sara McGlashan, Kelly Rangi, Eimear Richardson, Hannah Rowe, Maneka Singh, Sonya Thompson.