Welsh Fire: Former coach and pupil Nicholas and Griffiths join

By Ffion WynneBBC Sport Wales
Claire Nicholas celebrates taking a wicket
Welsh Fire have announced former Western Storm players Sophie Luff, Claire Nicholas (pictured), Alex Griffiths and Georgia Hennessy in their squad for the first year of The Hundred

They used to be coach and pupil, but now Claire Nicholas and Alex Griffiths are the first Welsh signings for the Welsh Fire squad to compete in the Hundred.

Nicholas, from Llanelli, and Port Talbot's Griffiths are both members of the Wales Women's squad and were also part of Western Storm's side that won the final edition of the Kia Super League in 2019.

Their connection goes back a little further, however, in that Nicholas was Griffiths' first coach in the Welsh pathway when she joined the Wales under 11s squad as a promising eight-year-old.

A senior player at age 12

"It was clear she was something special as soon as we selected her," Nicholas says of her now teammate. "I have no doubt she will play for England in the future."

At the age of just 12, Griffiths joined her coach in playing for the women's senior side. Despite her youth and some initial nerves, she soon became a regular in the squad.

Claire Nicholas and Alex Griffiths - archive photo of one coaching the other
Claire Nicholas coaching Alex Griffiths

As a teenager, her summer holidays differed from those of her peers as she juggled with representing Wales at three age group squads and for the senior team.

"It was definitely challenging at times," she admits. "But I wouldn't be where I am now without that experience - the sacrifices were totally worth it."

Griffiths' dedication resulted in signing her first professional contract at the age of 17, as she was signed by Western Storm for the 2019 Kia Super League, something she still describes as "pretty surreal," with the team going on to win a second title in three years.

Griffiths was joined in Storm's title-winning squad by Nicholas, who had been a key member of the team since 2017.

"It was really emotional taking the field and then eventually winning the league with Alex last summer. I've seen all her hard work pay off over the years, which makes me immensely proud," Nicholas says.

'The strides we've made are incredible'

Claire Nicholas and Alex Griffiths - archive photo of one coaching the other
Claire Nicholas and Alex Griffiths are teammates after previously being teacher and pupil

Whilst her teenage teammate enjoyed the freedom of a first summer of independence, Nicholas' experience was slightly different - not only does she work as a full-time primary school teacher; she is also mum to three-year old Harri.

Despite the long days, Nicholas says that she has waited a long time for such an opportunity that it has all been worth it.

The pair are relishing the challenge that presents itself in July 2020, when they will join forces again as part of Welsh Fire's campaign for The Hundred, the ECB's new franchise competition where the men's and women's sides mirror one another.

Their games are being held across Cardiff, Taunton and Bristol in order to maintain the support gathered for Western Storm over the past four years.

Welsh Fire's head coach Matthew Mott, formerly of Glamorgan and Australia women, secured a huge signing in his first move - that of Australian captain Meg Lanning, alongside her international teammate Jess Jonassen.

"When I started playing for Wales back in 2005, I never thought I'd be able to play the sport that I love professionally. The strides we've made are incredible. It's definitely a tough balancing act, but my partner is so supportive and we're happy with how we've made it work for us all," she added.

Until Welsh Fire's first game on July 25, away to Trent Rockets, Griffiths will continue her studies at college alongside travelling to and from Loughborough University for her England Junior Academy training sessions, a pathway into which she was selected following her impressive Storm performances.

Nicholas will have her hands full teaching and parenting, whilst juggling Wales' training commitments before the Fire sessions commence.