Having celebrated the World Cup not long ago, in some ways it's hard to believe that the Ashes series are upon us! It's a hugely exciting time for the men's and women's squads as they prepare for two highly anticipated contests.
Our recent Ashes series in the British Isles have been captivating, absorbing and fiercely competitive and I've no doubt many of us back here in Australia are resigned to losing sleep as the "just one more over" attitude takes us into the early hours of the morning.
For the men, their Test form has been very good and the run-up to the Ashes featured a convincing 2-0 win in the Caribbean, with the World Cup also affording the players a recent opportunity to perform with success on a big stage. I'm sure the disappointment of the past away Ashes series will add further steel to Michael Clarke, Darren Lehmann and their troops.
Pleasingly, the squad has plenty of depth at the moment, which should allow them to cover the loss of the wonderful warrior, Ryan Harris. He has been such a force for the team in the past five years and a great example of where skill, persistence and an iron will can take you. Ryan is just another of those players to prove that, even at 30, you can make a telling contribution at international level.
While I'm sure Ryan will be missed, it's great that he will be around the team in the first few Tests and I've no doubt that he'll continue to contribute to Australian cricket.
Since their narrow loss to England in the 2013-14 Ashes, our women have been fantastic, taking out the World T20 in Bangladesh before defeating both Pakistan and West Indies 4-0 in home T20I series.
The structure of the Ashes points allocation means the Southern Stars will again have to be adaptable across all formats, however I'm sure the Test match will be a real focus after a very patient approach by England gave them the edge in the last series in the UK.
The 2015 series will be the third time that the women's Ashes have been contested across all three formats of the game - one Test match, three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 internationals. The points for winning the Test match has been reduced from six to four.
Two points will still be awarded to each side in the event of a drawn Test, and the ODIs and T20Is will still be worth two points each for a win.
Both sides have strong batting depth with the likes of skipper Meg Lanning and vice-captain Alex Blackwell looking to lead the way for the Stars. The pace bowling outfit is strong and I sense the spinners will play a pivotal role in breaking through the England line-up. New Southern Stars coach Matthew Mott will be able to provide plenty of advice on the conditions and can hopefully help steer the girls to their first Ashes series win since 2011.
Still on our female players, we're pleased that we've been able to work with Cricket Australia to agree on an updated and improved set of guidelines and contracts for them. The contracting process has been reasonably protracted, but we've managed to get things moving in the right direction. We still have some way to go before the women's contracts resemble those of their male counterparts in terms of support.
The key challenge of the contracting process was the absence of a broad collective agreement, which meant at times a scarcity of detail. Pleasingly, CA has agreed to enter into an official process to discuss a Female MOU, the establishment of which would mean a more straightforward process in the future and a further strengthening overall of women's cricket.
On behalf of all ACA Members, staff and Executive, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish both the men's team and the Southern Stars the best of luck in their respective Ashes series. We're all right behind you and can't wait to watch it unfold!