A 13-player squad has been confirmed for the New South Wales Breakers to start their title defence of the Women’ National Cricket League crown on the Gold Coast this Friday and Sunday.

Only one change has been made from the squad that was named for the WNCL final against Western Australia last season. Promising fast bowler Lauren Cheatle returns to the squad for the two matches against Queensland Fire and Tasmania Roar. Australian allrounder Ashleigh Gardner has been ruled out with concussion.

Breakers captain and Australian wicketkeeper, batter Alyssa Healy will lead the team for the first time in the match against Queensland on Friday at Bill Pippen Oval followed by Tasmania on Sunday at the same venue.

Breakers Head Coach Jo Broadbent said it had been an incredibly difficult process to decide on a final squad of 13 players.

“Our players are performing so well which makes it really hard,” Broadbent said.

“In our six practice games, what we’ve done is we’ve looked at certain roles with certain players to see how they’re performing.

“We have an awesome pace bowling attack, we’ve got some really good young spinners and our batting depths are just fantastic, so even just doing a batting order is going to be difficult.

“We’ll have to look at things like conditions and, the opposition we’re playing against, and the match-ups before we decide on a final XI.”

Broadbent said the feeling within the group leading into these two matches was really good after what has been a very productive and enjoyable preseason.

“It’s been a long time in the gym and doing work with lifting, running and so forth, and then we’ve tied that in really nicely with our skills,” she said.

“We’ve also had the luxury of working with our sports psychologist, and we’ve done some good work in relation to leadership off the field, as well as players working one-on-one with him for game specifics.

“I think there has just been a really good balance in our program so far.”

The Breakers defeated Queensland in a recent trial match on the Sunshine Coast, but Broadbent firmly believes it will be a much tougher test on Friday.

She said that despite the loss of Australian left-arm orthodox spinner Jess Jonassen, Queensland will have several current and former Australian players like Beth Mooney and Delissa Kimmince in its team.

“These girls are great players,” Broadbent said, who was also a former coach with Queensland.

“We’re not going to take any team lightly in this competition, we are looking forward to the match, and we love to play Queensland."

Broadbent said the tight two-day turnaround between matches will not be a concern for the Breakers.

“We’re used to playing one day, then a rest day the next, and then playing again.

“What it does is it forces the players to have that intensity and mentality to just show up on the day, and don’t worry about any other day than what’s in front of you, and I think our players do that exceptionally well.”

The WNCL matches will be an important lead-up for the four Australian players in the Breakers squad this weekend, who are also involved in the T20 International series against New Zealand, starting on 29 September at North Sydney Oval.

Healy, Ellyse Perry, Nicola Carey and Rachael Haynes will all be a part of that three-match series.

NSW Breakers WNCL squad, 21-23 September

Alyssa Healy ( c )
Sarah Aley
Nicola Carey
Lauren Cheatle
Rene Farrell
Maisy Gibson
Lisa Griffith
Rachael Haynes
Ellyse Perry
Lauren Smith
Naomi Stalenberg
Rachel Trenaman
Belinda Vakarewa