Having being at the helm as Tasmania's Women's team reached new heights in their first season as Tigers in 2018-19, falling 14 runs short of a first-ever WNCL Final appearance, coach Salliann Briggs was on local ABC Grandstand over the weekend to update fans on the initial stages of pre-season.
Briggs touched on player recruitment and the need to train her players' mentality to make the most of winning positions - in Tigers colours as well as Hurricanes purple, having identified eight matches they lost from being in a strong position last summer.
The best of her chat is below.
Firmly in the depths of winter, how early do you get stuck into training? What's it like training at the moment?
It's perked up a little bit because of the marquee and it's probably the warmest place in Hobart in there - it's pretty much like a greenhouse.
We've been training quite a while, the girls came back early for all their S&C (strength and conditioning) and fitness work and we've probably been doing the cricket skills for five to six weeks now.
You're in your groove a bit I suppose then and feeling like you've got a good little lead-in period to the season?
We've changed it up a little bit I suppose to what the girls are normally used to.
Because we finished so early in February, we wanted to finish training for no purpose so we came back a little earlier too which has given us time to work a bit more on the areas we needed to and work the girls a little bit harder.
How important is it to get that timing right - so you're going into the season not feeling under or over prepared but just feeling right?
I think mainly with the bowlers, we wanted to make some big in-roads and we've done that in the recruitment that we've done but we've also got some great local players in Tasmania.
They showed that last year when we got into some really good, tight games with both the Hurricanes and the Tigers. We just felt we needed a little bit more time grooving those skills so once they're instinct we can get some real confidence from them.
You did get into a lot of winnable positions in those WBBL games last year - you did win a few but didn't win some after being in really strong positions but probably should have. What sort of things do you do in pre-season to make sure you can complete the job when you find yourself in that situation again?
We identified that of the games we lost, eight of them were from winnable positions.
We spent a lot of time looking at those positives with the players to ensure we're moving forward with a lot of confidence. Then we looked at why we couldn't keep the pressure on and get home, so we've had some honest conversations and now we're addressing them, the girls are very clear on what the expectations are and what they're working on.
We've probably broken it down into smaller chunks so the girls can see those progressions a lot clearer. But I think we're very happy and I think the girls are on this journey where they know where they want to get to and I think they feel well supported and challenged through this process as well.
Was there a key factor which stood out from peeling those eight games back in terms of a lapse - be it a physical thing, a fitness thing or a mental thing or execution, was there one consistent theme?
It was interesting that whenever we got into that winnable position that we couldn't hold onto it. It's definitely a combination of mental skills and seeing it as an opportunity - we were going too quickly to what's the worst that could happen rather than what's the best can happen is.
It takes a while to train that process to the required level and in those games we identified it was probably a little both of mental and skill execution. But we know what we need to work on and the girls are working hard, so I'm excited with the new recruits and the girls that we've got, it's going to be a tough contest as it always is but we're looking forward to it.
Nicola Carey and Belinda Vakarewa come into the team, two really good players. As the coach, was it you who said "I want these two, let's get them in" to those higher up or how does that process work in identifying what players the team needs and then going out and making sure they sign on the dotted line?
From a leadership point of view in my line management, we're very clear on what we want to do and then I'm given the autonomy to make the team work - so there's no pressure from that end. But it's a collaboration of things.
We know we need to recruit some players because particularly with our bowlers, they're all quite samey, so we needed a point of difference and we wanted players who want to reach the highest level.
We also couldn't ignore the fact that there's an opportunity in Tasmania to be contributing in the top order or bowling your full quota of overs, so we had to look at the balance of the squad and we know the players that are here and what they want to achieve so it's about given them opportunity and about balance. So you know, I'm really happy with where we're at and it wasn't a matter of we'll see who we get - we identified the players we got and it came through.
That's the bit of a shift that's taken place I suppose - where Tasmanian cricket can now say to a player we want you and make it attractive enough for them to come and they're more than happy to come because they see the environment as somewhere they want to be. Is the women's program getting to that point too?
Yeah I think so, we've had a lot of investment over the last 12 months so I feel very fortunate to be in Tasmania at the right time actually, there's been a massive shift under Nick (Chief Executive Nick Cummins) and Drew (GM of High Performance Drew Ginn).
It's not been just about resources, we have a lot of great staff that have put a lot of time and effort in to developing a high performing environment.
We wanted to get that professionalism and get the girls to be able to show that on the field as well and I think the hard work that the girls did in the performances we did get it made people realise that there is something realise going on in Tasmania and raised a few eyebrows and people showed their interest in wanting to come here - so it's been a lot of hard work and collaboration from a lot of people really.
Is there a sense now that the Women's Program needs to start delivering a bit of silverware and that's something that now needs to happen following a few years of development?
It is a long journey and we're always wanting to win games of cricket but we're also about improving and if we lose sight of the things we do control I think we fall back a step. We've got high aspirations and we want to inspire people to play cricket through winning trophies but we've got to make sure we're sticking to task and improving all the time and if we do that I think there could be some very exciting times ahead for women's cricket in Tasmania.
How important is spin in the women's game? A real, world-class slow bowler. Was there someone that you looked at to bring into the program?
Yeah, massively important. And it's something we're still working on at the minute.
I think if you can get the right balance with your spin group, someone who can beat the outside edge and the inside edge it's a massive confidence boost for the team. It just gives you great balance.
In the 50-over game, we've done a lot of work as a batting unit because we know we're going to come up against at least 25 overs of spin, some teams have 40 overs of it. So you've got to have that in your bowling line-up, and you've got to know how to play it well.
And I guess having that player in the nets too so your batters can learn how to play spin that little bit better?
Yeah absolutely, and we've not had loads of spinners in our environment.
Poor old Dan Marsh (Assistant Coach) has bowled a lot of overs over the last 13 months. He's taken a few wickets as well! But yeah, to become better at it, you've got to face the best.
In our Tigers environment we've got Sam Bates and Maisy Gibson, who are great, and we've got Sasha, who I know only took up spin bowling 12 months ago but she was our leading wicket-taker in the WNCL, so she can really bowl and her real strength is that she spins the ball. She's just learning her craft so we just need to give her a bit more time.