Classy Whanganui allrounder Jess Watkin will set aside thoughts a must-win Super Smash clash with the Otago Sparks this weekend as she guides her young Central Districts side through the national U15 Girls tournament during the Cricket Express Whanganui Festival of Cricket.
The Central Hinds skipper has taken time out of her busy Super Smash series commitments to coach the young side she selected herself from the Central Districts region.
They will be up against representative teams from all New Zealand cricketing zones - Northern Districts, defending champions Auckland, Wellington, Otago and Christchurch.
The competition began with one match each on Tuesday afternoon at Whanganui Collegiate School, where CD played Otago.
The match went well into the evening and beyond Chronicle deadline.
This will be Watkin's second season coaching CD, although she has stepped in as mentor on numerous occasions over the years.
The U15 tournament has long been a nursery for future first-class players, producing quite a few White Ferns over the years including Hannah Rowe, Amelia Kerr, Lauren Down and Watkin.
Some of the country's best female players have attended the tournament over the years as mentors to the younger up-and-coming stars. This season Auckland Hearts player Arlene Kelly will accompany the defending champions. Her Hearts team-mate and White Fern Lauren Downs was also meant to appear, but is still on the injured list after suffering concussion in a Super Smash game, ironically against the Hinds.
"I have a good solid team to work with this year," Watkin said of her CD side.
"We have Charlotte Stent from Whanganui and Emma McLeod [Wairarapa] and Lottie Fuller [Manawatū], who have just finished playing in the U18 tournament that finished on Monday. We finished third last season, I think, but we have the fire power to do very well this year," Watkin said.
Watkin has been leading the Hinds by example in this season's Super Smash series and is hoping her form does not desert her this weekend when taking on the Sparks in Dunedin in a must-win game to make the final.
"We know what to expect from the Sparks. We beat them earlier, although they were without some of their better players, including [White Fern] Suzie Bates and a couple of their Aussie imports. They are all back now, but not unbeatable," Watkin said.
Her red hot Super Smash form this season may well be enough for Watkin to receive the call up for White Fern duty during the ICC T20 World Cup series in Australia from February 21 to March 8.
Dilan Raj, who has taken up a role with Manawatū Cricket, is Watkin's one-on-one Central coach and believes his charge may have done enough to warrant selection.
"I can't say for sure, but Jess's Super Smash form has been white hot and I think she may have done enough," Raj said.
Watkin said she was keen to rejoin the White Ferns and was eagerly awaiting the team to be named.
"I haven't played for the White Ferns since last season's T20 World Cup. I went through a bit of a mental struggle last season, but I have been working with (Whanganui-based) sports psychologist Jan Blair and feel I have come through the other side now. Jan works with a lot of high-performance athletes.
"I'm feeling great and my form through the Super Smash probably reflects that. We have won four games in Super Smash this year and we couldn't win one last year," Watkin said.