WBBL hub life not sustainable: Perry

Australian women's cricket star Ellyse Perry says living in a bubble will be mentally tough.
Australian women's cricket star Ellyse Perry says living in a bubble will be mentally tough.

Ellyse Perry believes hub life may not be sustainable beyond this WBBL season as she and other players prepare for a unique mental-health challenge in the coming five weeks.

Rachel Haynes senses some WBBL players will thrive and others will struggle, suggesting finding a way to create downtime away from cricket will be crucial.

Gun allrounder Perry will captain two-time champions Sydney Sixers in the world's premier women's Twenty20 tournament that starts on Sunday, when her side face the Haynes-led Sydney Thunder.

Meg Lanning and Beth Mooney, now at Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers respectively, headline a long list of players to change clubs during the off-season.

But the biggest changes to the leagues have been brought about by COVID-19.

The 59-game season is being staged entirely in Sydney, where players and officials have shifted into a biosecurity bubble at Olympic Park.

Foreign stars and Victorians have spent a fortnight in hotel quarantine, some players are juggling school commitments with hub life, and others have made professional sacrifices.

Even if none of the above apply, entering a hub means surrendering plenty of freedom.

"There's going to be various struggles for people at different points of time, for all different reasons," Perry told AAP.

"There's going to be lots of ups and downs, both on and off the field this season ... it's hard to know exactly what is going to pan out until we go through it.

"I don't think it's a sustainable option. Obviously this is a unique season and year, but I think there is probably a limit on what we can put people through.

"Speaking more broadly, I don't think it's an entirely sustainable way of living for anyone at the moment. Particularly in states that have more restrictions. The way we approach living with it will evolve, as we get more information, and it's exactly the same with sport."

Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association have boosted mental-health resources amid the pandemic, wanting to ensure players have psychologists and other support staff available during the summer.

It is one of many pieces of the puzzle that have come together to ensure the event goes ahead.

"I'm really confident in the fact there is a lot of support around and people are aware that is there," Perry said, preparing to make her long-awaited return from hamstring surgery.

"That's really pivotal to all this."

Melbourne Renegades allrounder Sophie Molineux, who took a mental-health break a year ago, suggested the sport's focus on wellbeing was already applaudable prior to the pandemic.

CA has since sharpened its focus on the area; creating a new role overseeing mental health at the organisation soon after 40 jobs were slashed.

"The things put in place over the last couple of years around mental health, hopefully they now play a role in this next little bit," Molineux said.

"It's going to be a really different way of living for the next few months ... and a lot of people have spent a lot of time and effort in planning these situations.

"When I got to the point that I realised I needed to take a bit of a break and head home to spend time with family, everyone at Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria was amazing."

The importance of continuing the rise and rise of women's cricket in Australia - perhaps best reflected by the fact that six years ago the WBBL remained an idea and little else - is also at the forefront of players' minds.

CA has been forced to cut costs this year, yet invested heavily to ensure a full WBBL season is staged.

"In many respects they have put their money where their mouth is," Haynes said.

"It's really important that our female players and role models are visible.

"It will have little challenges along the way for everyone. I'm sure individuals will have good and bad days in there, but for the most part we're all just excited."

Haynes suggested the most resilient team would win this summer's WBBL, while Perry expressed similar sentiments.

"There's going to be some really tricky circumstances at times. Whatever team is able to maintain a bit of perspective and keep things in check will probably be really successful," Perry said.

Australian Associated Press