Central Districts Cricket has announced the formation of a new women's cricket competition, designed to "take the CD female game to the next level".
Launching in November, the Central Super League will help bridge the gap for up and coming cricketers looking to make the Central Hinds squad.
Four new franchise teams — New Plymouth Power, Palmerston North Tui, Tararua Kotahi and the Coastal Challengers Levin have been created to contest the inaugural Central Super League (CSL) that will begin in Palmerston North on Saturday, November 28.
Players from throughout CD's widespread region — which stretches from Hawke's Bay to New Plymouth and the top of the South Island — will be able to play in the league, with a 52-player draft to take place on October 23.
"This is a hugely exciting opportunity for female performance cricket in Central Districts," said Jamie Watkins, Central District's Coach, Female Performance and Pathways and head coach of the Hinds.
"Currently we have a big gap between the level of cricket at The Shrimpton Trophy and the jump to Hinds level, as well as the fact that only four of our eight Districts have Shrimpton Trophy teams — largely due to the logistics involved, with our geographic spread across the North and South Islands.
"The Central Super League will give an opportunity to the best players from all eight of our districts to be involved in an evenly-matched competition, no matter where they are based within CD."
Central Hinds Player of the Year Jess Watkin will star for the Coastal Challengers.
The first edition of the CSL will begin with two rounds of 50-over one-dayers across the inaugural weekend in Palmerston North, followed by four T20 rounds in Levin on the weekend of February 27-28.
"As well as providing a more competitive level of competition between Women's List A cricket and district level, it will also provide players with more opportunity to be seen so that they can push for selection to our Hinds and our CD Under-19 squads," said Watkins.
Central Districts chief executive Pete de Wet said the league had been developed as part of his Association's strong commitment to elevate the female game throughout the region, ultimately benefitting the Central Hinds side.
"We have an outstanding group of nine contracted Hinds, plus our four NZC contracted players, who juggle work and study to play the sport they love.
"Despite being the smallest domestic squad in the country, they have won a national title together — the 2019 Hallyburton Johnstone Shield.
"We're committed to now finding ways to increase both the depth of the squad and the quality of preparation we can provide to those domestic players and aspirants, as part of our overall strategy to grow the number of women playing and engaging in cricket."
CD Under-21 representative Kate Gaging, a talented 19-year-old from Nelson, says she can't wait for the first ball.
"It will be so exciting not just for myself, but for all the girls from the Nelson region to have this opportunity to play alongside and against the North Island players," said Gaging.
"The standard is going to be good for sure. I really want to get up there and it's exciting, 12 matches in which all of us from across CD are competing together, instead of us just hearing snippets of what's going on up north."