Women's Hoofdklasse gets under way
The Women’s Hoofdklasse season gets under way this Saturday, in what promises to be another close and exciting competition.
But a shadow has been cast with the news that the opening match between VRA Amsterdam and Quick Haag has been postponed because VRA was unable to put out a team – a worrying sign at this stage of the season.
Defending champions Rood en Wit Haarlem will kick off their attempt to win a third successive title at home to VOC Rotterdam, while promoted side Quick Nijmegen will entertain Hermes-DVS Schiedam.
Rood en Wit will again have New Zealander Michelle Mitchell in their squad, and with a line-up which includes current internationals Violet Wattenberg, Pauline te Beest, Cheraldine Oudolf and Annemarie Tanke and former Dutch player Carly Verheul they will again be a tough team to beat.
They also have one of the largest cohorts of younger players coming through, ensuring a bright prospect in the longer term.
Quick Haag, led by national captain Helmien Rambaldo, finished a close second last year, and despite the retirement of the experienced Caroline Hes and the initial unavailability of youth international Merel Krulder, who is studying in the United States, they are likely to remain among the Haarlem club’s toughest rivals.
Their strong batting line-up also includes Helmien Rambaldo’s elder sister, left-hander Caroline, Alarda Mol and Marijke Overhoff, while the attack may again rely on Elena Verzijl as well as Krulder and the Rambaldos.
Hermes-DVS will, like Rood en Wit, have the benefit of an overseas player-coach, in 28-year-old South African off-spinner Nathanael Christiaans, a member of the Boland side which won last season’s domestic six-a-side competition.
She will bring variety to an attack with a strong seam department, including national team members Mandy Kornet, Carlijn de Groot and 18-year-old Marloes Braat, once of the youngest members of a young but increasingly experienced squad.
Marijn Nijman was to have taken over the captaincy but is likely to miss much of the season through injury; the task will fall to Christiaans in her absence, but Hermes are hopeful that Nijman will be fit in time for the play-offs.
Despite their early-season troubles and their collapse in last year’s play-offs, VRA still have enough quality players to hold their own and make another challenge for the top four.
They welcome back Carolien Salamons, who missed the whole of last season through pregnancy, and she rejoins an experienced batting line-up which also includes former Dutch players Martje Köster and Birgit Viguurs and current international Jacqueline Pashley.
Leading bowlers Jolet Hartenhof and Teuntje de Boer are both recovering from injury, Hartenhof having fractured a finger during the World Cup qualifier in South Africa in February, and the side will need them to be available soon if they are to mount a serious challenge for a place in the play-offs.
The challenge to the established order will come from VOC, who did reasonably well last year in their first season in the Hoofdklasse, and Quick Nijmegen.
VOC will again rely on the experience of allrounder Carolien de Fouw – nominated one of two Players of the Tournament at the World Cup qualifier – Leonie Hoitink, and skipper Danielle Coster, but they also have plenty of talented youngsters, including national development squad members Aalima Hasan Burney, Fleur Fischer, Tamara Boddé and Mies van Everdingen.
It would come as no surprise were the Rotterdam side to go one better this year and claim a place in the top four.
Quick Nijmegen, too, have a good blend of youth and experience, and their squad, captained by Debbie Kooij, includes one of the most promising of the emerging Dutch players in Lotte Egging, who did the hat-trick in The Netherlands’ match against Pakistan in South Africa.
With seamer Katja Thannhauser returning to join her sister Kim in the Nijmegen side, allrounder Nicole Zegers, and batter Mireille van Haaren, Quick will be hoping that they can produce enough good performances to maintain their position in the top flight.