If last season was all about excitement for Emma Hughes, the theme of 2021/22 is determination.
Hughes is feeling as comfortable in her game as she ever has as she plans to make a major impact with the Sydney Sixers in the seventh edition of the Women's Big Bash (WBBL|07).
The Dubbo product and former Macquarie quick savoured a dream moment last season when making her WBBL debut, taking her first wicket for the Sixers in the process, but only made one more appearance in the magenta as she watched the bulk of the competition from the sidelines.
But after putting in a huge amount of work during the off-season to make her game more well-rounded, the 20-year-old can't wait for the new campaign to start on Thursday.
"I feel really good about this season. I've put in so much work towards my bowling, batting, and fielding," Hughes told the Daily Liberal from the WBBL hub in Tasmania.
"You can never be perfect in cricket but I feel pretty confident in myself and I have more knowledge behind me and I know what to expect from this season.
"I'm coming in with a lot more confidence in my game compared to previous seasons."
The Sixers will play in the WBBL-opening fixture on Thursday night against the Melbourne Stars.
Hughes is a strong chance of earning selection after putting in so much working during the winter and in pre-season.
I'm trying to become a bowling all-rounder.Emma Hughes
While earning more game time with the Sixers is one goal, being a more complete player is the biggest focus for Hughes as she looks to take the batting and fielding aspects of her game to a new level in the fast-paced and dynamic Twenty20 format.
"I'm trying to become a bowling all-rounder. You get that status by putting runs on the board," she said.
"I've put in so much work so I can be relied upon when needed and I've put in massive efforts in the field. I've been training so hard for so long to improve my fielding game.
"You've got to be expecting to play every game and you've got to be prepared to be called upon at any moment, and you'e got to know what to do to certain batters or where you've got to be on the field and stuff like that."
Given the ongoing COVID situation around much of the country, the first 20 matches of the WBBL|07 competition will be played in Tasmania.
Hughes and her Sixers teammates finished their two weeks of quarantine last Thursday and have been making the most of the chance to train together since.
While it may seem like a limited build-up, the circumstances have done nothing to dent the desire within the Sixers camp.
"I don't think it has made it any more tricky. I think it's motivated us," she said of quarantine and limited training.
"We've spent so much time training and now we're really into it. That two weeks (of quarantine) gave motivation because we've sacrificed being at home, being with fans in Sydney, and I've left all my family in Dubbo just to be here and play games.
"I think it's a motivation for us."
The Sixers will be captained by star all-rounder Ellyse Perry while fellow Australian representatives Alyssa Healy, Ash Gardner, Maitlan Brown, and Stella Campbell will also be in magenta after finishing up the recent series against India.
Indian players Shafali Verma and Radha Yadav are also staying in Australia and will link up with a Sixers squad which missed the finals in WBBL|06.
"I think we have a really, really good team," Hughes said.
"It's obviously quite a young team but I'm excited to see what the new players bring. On paper we seem quite strong and as a team, I think, we'll work together quite well."
The Sixers take on the Stars from 7.40pm at Hobart's Blundstone Arena on Thursday night.
The match will be shown on Channel 7 and Fox Sports.
- SYDNEY SIXERS: Ellyse Perry (C), Jade Allen, Nicole Bolton, Maitlan Brown, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Emma Hughes, Matilda Lugg, Claire Moore, Angela Reakes, Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav.
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