Queensland Cricket has approved the expansion of its Women’s First Grade in the Premier Cricket Competition, with the admission of Ipswich/Logan as the sixth team in the 2018-19 Katherine Raymont Shield.

The Hornets will join Twenty20 and One Day premiers Western Suburbs, Gold Coast, Valley, Sandgate-Redcliffe and University of Queensland in the competition after winning the past two Jodie Fields Shields in the Women’s Second Grade, going through undefeated in 2017-18.

Like the other five Katherine Raymont Shield clubs, Ipswich/Logan will continue to field a team in the Jodie Fields Shield in the coming season.

Konica Minolta Queensland Fire and WBBL Brisbane Heat coach Pete McGiffin welcomed the elevation of the Hornets, which featured several Queensland female youth representatives in their ranks last season.

“It can only help increase the depth of our talent pool by exposing more young players to a higher level of competition,’’ he said.

“It is also exciting that the ties which Ipswich/Logan has forged with Toowoomba Cricket means that there is a clear pathway for talented girls from the Darling Downs to gain exposure and experience as they develop their game, and come into contention for the Fire and the WBBL Brisbane Heat.”

State Female Talent and Pathways Manager Andy Richards said the Hornets elevation came after many years of dedicated work from cricket volunteers in the area.

“Ipswich/Logan has had a strong presence in girls and female youth cricket for several years and a team in the Katherine Raymont Shield will enhance that growth in the region, with a girls’ cricket hub proposed that will encompass areas like Boonah, Fassifern and Laidley as well as clubs and schools in and around Ipswich and the western corridor to Logan.”

“It’s a credit to the club that they have taken such an inclusive approach to build their playing depth. They have worked with other sports like vigoro as well as schools and local clubs to provide opportunity for women and girls to play.

“Further afield, the introduction of a girls’ cricket hub last season in Toowoomba saw more than 50 girls playing in the Toowoomba junior competition. That will only expand further as participation numbers continue to grow as we work to make cricket the leading sport for women and girls.”

Among the Hornets players from Toowoomba and the south-west who have made rapid strides in the past two seasons are Jodie Fields Scholarship holder and Queensland Under-18 player Ruth Johnston, fellow U-18 representative Georgia Voll, and State Under-15 players Kira Holmes, Ellie Johnston and Chloe Murphy.

Johnston and Voll, who had a top-score of 151 last season for the Hornets, are both members of the Cricket Australia U15 girls’ talent squad.