Western Australian Fury's Megan Banting in action
The Women's National Cricket League is set to begin tomorrow at Allan Border Field, before games across the weekend in Brisbane and Perth will close out the opening two rounds of Australia's national competition.
Set as a major agenda item in August's Delegates Conference, the WNCL was shortened last year to accommodate the WBBL entering the female schedule.
Players have expressed concern that not enough one-day cricket was being played, with each team playing just six regular season games before the December 3rd Final.
Without a long-format competition like the Sheffield Shield, the female playing group indicated at the Delegates Conference that the WNCL was the most important competition of the domestic schedule.
ACA Manager of Female Operations Jodie Fields will again be competing in the competition in 2016-17, running out for the ACT Meteors after a 16-year career with the Queensland Fire.
Fields said that the ACA female Delegates were unanimous in their belief that the WNCL season should be lengthened and protected.
"The longer format of the game gives you an opportunity to test your skills in the best format for development and gives younger players any opportunity to step up in the elite environment," Fields said.
"Obviously the WBBL was a fantastic tournament that demonstrated the skills of our female players and was an opportunity for people to watch the women's game, but as is the nature of T20 cricket, some players didn't get adequate opportunities to bat or bowl for extended periods during the competition."
Western Australian Delegate Megan Banting was at the conference in August, and agreed with Fields that the WNCL was the pinnacle of domestic cricket in Australia and needs to be played more frequently.
"The main issue with it [the shortened WNCL season] is that we want to be playing it and we don't want it to be taken over by the WBBL," Banting said.
"At the moment we only play six games, so a lot of the girls' train eleven months of the year, for just six games."
"So obviously we need to see that increasing, while still letting Big Bash thrive."
Vic Spirit all-rounder Molly Strano said that while the WBBL had heightened the profile of female cricket, the WNCL was still a vital part of the female schedule.
"While Australia is contesting for 50-over World Cups and playing in the longer format of the game, we need to develop the next generation of Aussie cricketers through the WNCL," Strano said.
Strano, who spent the first half of last season out with a back injury, indicated that the six-game season stopped her from playing any long form cricket in 2015-16.
"The bad thing is, with everything so congested at the moment, that if you have an injury in this early part of the year, you miss the entire season.
"I was unlucky enough to experience this last year. It would have been nice if after Big Bash, I could have come back to represent my state."
Similar to the Sheffield Shield, Strano saw an opportunity for the future of the WNCL: "If I was to draft the schedule, I would like to see six games pre-WBBL and six games post-WBBL."
The ACA is set to begin MOU negotiations with CA shortly, with an eye to protecting the WNCL moving forward.
To see full fixtures for the WNCL, please click here.