24 May 2017

Mariko Hill relishing HKCC Willow Wielders 8th straight title


Although only 21 years of age, Hong Kong women's captain Mariko Hill has won more titles than most would dare to dream about in a whole career. 

For the eighth straight season, Hill was a part of the victorious Hong Kong Cricket Club Willow Wielders team that won the Women's League. Prior to being knocked off this season by the HKCC Cavaliers in the women's T20 league, the Willow Wielders had also won seven straight titles in the short-form format. Tally that up and it's 15 senior titles that Hill has been a part of. 

“Winning eight in a row is a great achievement not only as an individual but as a club as a whole. We are probably one of the first teams to achieve this and shows how consistent we are,” Hill said.
 
“Definitely ranks up there with one of my proudest achievements, we actually didn’t realise it straight after the game but when you think about it, eight years in a row is incredible. We also won seven T20 leagues in a row, which would have been eight if we weren’t beaten this year, so it’s quite remarkable.”
 
“Over time one of the things that we struggled with was people coming in and out but after a while we’ve built team unity and cherished the time we do get with each other. The coaching staff across those years has helped build that unity and work on our skills.”

Although only 14 when she first came into the team, Hill made an impact from her very first season in 2009-10, scoring a century during that season against Little Sai Wan. Now a genuine all-rounder, she's a vital cog of not just the Willow Wielders, but also the Hong Kong women's set-up, which was reaffirmed when she was selected as the best batter for the tournament in the ICC Women's World Cup qualifiers Asia in 2016.

While captaincy duties with the Willow Wielders fall to Sara Young, Hill still plays a key role as a leader within the team.

“It’s different now, I used to be the young one that just turned up and had fun on the field but now being a senior player and Hong Kong captain and a role model, you need to bring a bit of maturity. But that’s not to say we don't still have fun!”
 
“We were all quite new a few years ago so it was quite tough as a few of us had to dig deep but looking at the team now we are quite experienced. Particularly Ashley Hung – she’s come a long way from where she was a few years ago and become one of our main bowlers. Each player knows their roles now and we are more structured with our batting and bowling plans.”

So what's the secret to the Willow Wielders success? Hill hints it might lie off the field as much as it does on it.
 
“Since Jasmine (Titmuss) came into the HKCC set-up as a coach, she’s brought the spirit of the game a lot more and we’ve really bonded as a team outside of cricket as well with dinners and people enjoying things rather than just cricket itself. This year meant a lot to all the club members after Anita Miles’ passing so wearing the club jerseys meant a lot to us.”
 
“There’s a lot coming for women’s cricket, the Hong Kong women’s squad have a lot of players from both our side and the HKCC Cavaliers, which shows the club have a great programme.”
 
And Hill will only have a short off-season with the Hong Kong women's squad setting themselves for two important tournaments in the second half of the year. She wants to make amends for the disappointment of 2016 World Cup qualifiers where the team started with two victories only to lose their next four and miss out on progression.

"Looking back at last year we didn’t graft it out, but we can take that into account and go forward," Hill said. 

"We don’t want that feeling again of disappointment so I’m looking forward to it.”
 
Aside from the World T20 qualifiers, the women's squad will also host Japan, Korea and China in the East Asia Cup, which will be hosted by Hong Kong in September.