The Under 14 and 17 Female State Challenge carnivals, held at Raby Sports Complex this week, represented more than just selection trials for several emerging teenage cricketers in NSW.
Performances during the four days of T20 matches will form the basis of selection for the NSW Metro and ACT/NSW Country teams to compete at the Under 15 and 18 National Championships respectively next season.
However, as Cricket NSW Female Talent Manager Steve Jenkin explained, the State Challenge carnivals were also a good opportunity for selectors to look to the future.
“In the Under 14s we look more at potential, we want ability, but we try and look at the big picture for a couple of years down the track (and) we can see that potential this week,” Jenkin said.
“(This season at the Under 17 level) we’ve also been able to bring in a number of players and let them see what the higher level is like probably a year before they normally would.
“There were eight girls from Country not here, one of them is injured, but the other seven we’ve given them time off (due to workload) and seven Metro girls that we’ve also given time off, most of whom played in the Australian Under 19s (that toured New Zealand recently).”
The Under 14 and Under 17 T20 competitions each involved four teams, Sydney Thunder Metro and ACT/Country and Sydney Sixers Metro and ACT/Country.
Jenkin was impressed by what he saw during the week and said the Women’s Premier Cricket system has played a key role in the overall improvement of underage female cricket throughout NSW.
Under 17 Metro Thunder pace bowler, Stephanie Ellsmore, and her captain for the week, allrounder Dharmini Chauhan, are examples of that.
Both were part of the Campbelltown-Camden squad that won the Women's First Grade Premier Cricket title this season.
“The fact that they’re playing First Grade … is great for their development,” Jenkin said.
“The likes of Shivani Mehta (Under 17 Metro Sixers captain), who played First Grade for Northern District this season, she has come through the roof with her development.
“A lot of the Country girls come down to play Grade cricket in Sydney and you can see those players improving as well.”
Ellsmore, a member of the NSW Metro squad that claimed the One-Day title at the 2018/19 Under 18 Female National Championships, was among numerous stand out performers during the Under 17 State Challenge, held on Wednesday and Thursday.
The right-arm quick bowler claimed just the three wickets, but maintained a miserly economy rate, and averaged less than nine, opening the bowling on most occasions.
Lily Campbell (Metro Sixers) was the leading wicket takers across the four matches of the Under 17 State Challenge. She returned six wickets at less than eight.
Other Under 17 players to impress selectors were Riverina pace bowler and Country Thunder captain Gabbie Sutcliffe, Alisha Bates (Country Sixers) and Penrith batter Claire Moore (Metro Thunder).
Opening batter Bates and Sutcliffe were both part of the ACT/NSW Country team that made the T20 and One-Day finals at the Under 18 nationals in January.
Sutcliffe captained that ACT/NSW Country side. Moore led the Under 15 NSW Metro team to the national title of that age group in late February.
She was the second leading run-scorer for NSW Metro at the Under 15 national titles, with 199 runs at 33.17, 52 behind medium pace allrounder Frankie Nicklin.
Nicklin had the best bowling average of any bowler in the Under 14 State Challenge completed on Monday and Tuesday.
She claimed five wickets at 2.8 from her four matches for Metro Sixers.
Promising Under 14 allrounder Aimee Longhurst from Dubbo also impressed for Country Thunder.
Maintaining peak fitness will now be a priority, during the off season, for all girls vying for selection.
“That’s the biggest point of difference NSW has around Australia is the level of fitness,” Jenkin said.
However, even for young athletes rest and recovery is vital, said Jenkin.
“You’ve still got to maintain your fitness during the week, but you have to have lots of rest periods.
“People get physically, mentally and emotionally tired … as coaches we have to make sure we give them downtime.”