Nitschke to take an 'if it's not broke, don't fix it' approach, in new era for Australian women's cricket team

It was announced this week that Matthew Mott would leave his long-standing role with the national women’s side to take charge of England’s men’s white-ball prospects.

The news meant assistant Shelley Nitschke will take over for the interim, as the world’s number one side prepares to head to the UK for a T20 International tri-series and the Commonwealth Games in July.

The former Australian all-rounder has been working under Mott for the past four years and is the current coach of the 2021 Women’s Big Bash champions, the Perth Scorchers.

During an international career that spanned from 2004 to 2011, Nitschke represented Australia at four World Cups and won trophies in both the 50-over (2005) and T20 (2010) formats.

Nitschke was instrumental for Australia in her playing days.(Getty: Mark Dadswell)

Nitschke was named the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year in 2010 and won the Belinda Clark Award as Australia’s best women’s cricketer four years in a row, from 2009 through to 2012.

Speaking with the ABC on the morning of the announcement of the team’s Commonwealth Games squad, Nitschke said she was overjoyed by the opportunity.

“I’m just really grateful to have been given the opportunity, to be honest. Obviously it’s an amazing team and it’s been awesome to be a part of their journey over the last four years,” she said.

“To get the chance to lead this side, I’m really quite honored.”

Matthew Mott Meg LanningMatthew Mott Meg Lanning
Matthew Mott and Australian captain Meg Lanning have had a lot of success together.(Getty: Kai Schwoerer)

Mott’s legacy leaves some huge shoes for Nitschke to fill in the coming months, after the team achieved a world record winning streak in ODI cricket (26 straight), clinched three World Cup titles, and have had a tight hold on the Women’s Ashes trophy under his tenure.

After seven years in charge, his departure makes way for a new era for the Australian team, with the opportunity to carry on down the same track or take a new path.

Nitschke said it is more likely to be the former than the latter, given all she has learned from Mott during their time together.

Perth Scorchers player Taneale Peschel holds the WBBL trophy with fansPerth Scorchers player Taneale Peschel holds the WBBL trophy with fans
The Scorchers won the WBBL title under Nitschke last summer.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

“We’re certainly going to miss his nice and relaxed approach, the game plan he’s set up and the relationships that he’s built… I’d like to think that I can carry on what he’s created and at times, add my spin on it , but I certainly think he’s set everything up really well for us to have sustained success, “she said.

“There are certainly things that I’ll put my spin on and do a little bit differently as a person, and we’ll reassess things as we go, but there certainly won’t be major changes.”

The hunt for Commonwealth Games gold

One thing the team have never had the opportunity to do is to win a gold medal, but with women’s T20 cricket being added to the schedule at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the team have set their sights on another accolade.

Australian cricket players hug each other after the women's ODI World Cup final against England.Australian cricket players hug each other after the women's ODI World Cup final against England.
Australia won the ICC Women’s World Cup last month in New Zealand.(Getty: Hannah Peters)

Nitschke said the sport’s introduction at the Games would help take it even further on the world stage and that she was looking forward to working alongside the other national teams in the Australian Commonwealth Games group.

“It’s really exciting for us, it’s something completely different. It’s obviously going to get the global game pushed forward some more for people to see,” Nitschke said.

“To be over there with other athletes and Australian teams is something really new to us, and the group is really excited about it, we can’t wait.”

Sustaining honest relationships within the women’s team

Mott is not only well-respected in the cricket community, but is well-liked for his happy-go-lucky personality, with his laid-back and warm approach as a coach.

All-rounder Ash Gardner said Nitschke’s personality was pretty similar, which should help the transition period under her watch go smoothly.

Ash Gardner baggy greenAsh Gardner baggy green
Last year, Ashleigh Gardner became the third Indigenous Australian to play a Test Match for Australia.(AAP: Jason O’Brien)

“She’s great to have around,” Gardner said.

“Even when you look at her playing record, she was so good back in her day… she didn’t win all the Belinda Clarks and ICC medals for no reason.”

The pair share a special bond after a tumultuous trip to India in 2016 with the national Indigenous women team, where Nitschke was coach and Gardner was the captain.

Shelley Nitschke with Beth Mooney debutShelley Nitschke with Beth Mooney debut
Shelley Nitschke has a similar laid-back personality to Mott, which seems to resonate well with the players.(Getty: Morne DeKlerk)

Nitschke is not the only option for a permanent gig

Nitschke is the likely front-runner for the permanent role and if the team are able to bring home gold, that might just seal the deal.

But Gardner said the opening is likely to draw the attention of some big-name candidates.

Ben Sawyer Sixers WBBL coachBen Sawyer Sixers WBBL coach
Ben Sawyer has coached the Sydney Sixers in the last seven seasons of the WBBL.(Getty: Matt King)

“I would assume that both assistants, Ben Sawyer – who I’ve had a lot to do with at the Sixers and actually coached me in the U18s – as well as Nitschke would fill the job nicely,” she said.

“In saying that, I know how much interest this job will get, considering we’ve been one of the most successful Australian sides in history, so I think that’s going to attract some exciting options and I’m keen to see who we get .

“If it was to end up being Shelley or Ben, I know none of us will be complaining.”

The Australian women’s team will play the T20 international tri-series against Pakistan and Ireland from July 16, before making the trip to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games where they’ll begin their campaign on July 29.

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