Boom Geelong recruit Steph Townsend says the opportunity to provide further platforms for talented female cricketers in the south-west to enter Premier Cricket is the most enticing part of her move to the Cattery this coming season.
The dual Melbourne premiership player and Warrnambool local has joined the Cats after top-scoring for the Demons in the Premier grand final in 2021/22, crunching 41 against Carlton in the successful run-chase.
As part of the experienced campaigner's signing will be a coaching component, with the former Victorian rookie to work closely with director of coaching Stephen Field to lead the south-west training group out of Hamilton.
"It was a very well thought out process and an incredibly hard decision to leave MCC, they've been incredible and I owe them absolutely everything," she told The Standard.
"I'm so excited to jump on board with Geelong and hopefully have some success there, and keep building something special."
The right-hander said to expand on her coaching was a major drawcard and hoped to inspire the many talented female players from the south-west after coming through the system with limited opportunities to enter Premier cricket.
"It's something I'm really passionate about, and one of the main reasons I took this role on was when I was growing up playing cricket there wasn't as many avenues or pathways to Premier for the girls down here," she said.
"Way back then there wasn't a lot of women playing cricket out here and now we've got so many success stories. I'm excited to be a part of it and progress my coaching.
"I've been so lucky to achieve so many things through cricket from a personal level and some team success, but now it's all about what I can do to give back to these younger girls."
Townsend said the talent within the south-west was 'exciting' and hoped to work closely with the coaches, including Field and another recruit in Pomborneit's Grace Lee - to ensure players weren't lost to the game.
"I think south-west has some huge products, really talented players, and to make a name for yourself you have to really put in the hard yards," she said.
"Georgia Wareham (Mortlake export) is a prime example, she would have travelled every weekend and through the week until at some stage moved to Melbourne, so she's reaped the rewards.
"We have so much talent down this way that I'd love to expose to that type of coaching - you do have to do some travelling but it's ultimately worth it."
Geelong female director of coaching Stephen Field said Townsend was an important recruit on and off field for the club.
"Personally, I'm over the moon, I've known her since she was a little girl making her way through the Western Waves program," she said.
"It completes the cycle for us in many ways, she was one of the best, if not the best players the Western Waves has ever had, so it's nice for her to put back into the pathway she was the beneficiary of."
The Cats have been busy looking to bolster their list and add to the impressive array of talent already at the club as they seek promotion to the first XI competition this season, adding several local players such as former NSW first XI grade cricketer Tiegan Kavanagh (now living in Warrnambool), Annabelle Glossop (Nestles), Taylah Casson (Mortlake) and Eliza Jagger (Hamilton).
Field said adding Townsend - alongside many other talented south-west products to complement existing players such as the prodigiously talented Maddie Green from Port Fairy and many others - was exciting for the region.
"We're really excited to be working with all these players and add to our depth as well," he said.
Director of women's cricket at the club, Sarah Pike said Townsend was a quality person who would add tremendous value to the Cats.
"It's extremely exciting having someone of that calibre come into the club," she said.
"I think as far as what she can offer on and off field is going to be sensational for our young group coming through.
"Hopefully we can offer her as much as she can offer us so it's a great outcome."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.