In a season where women’s cricket took centre stage with the Brisbane Heat winning a thrilling Women’s Big Bash League final in front of record television numbers and Australia claiming the T20 World Cup title, female participation grew by 11 per cent across the state, highlighted by positive increases at junior levels.

2018-19 saw the implementation of new entry level programs in Australia with Woolworths Cricket Blast launched in September, bringing simplified programs and financial models that appeal to and reward clubs. 1,673 girls participated in entry level Woolworths Junior and Master Blaster programs across Queensland, a rise of 18 per cent from 2017-18, while all-girls competitions saw significant growth with teams increasing from 157 to 188.

QC’s Community Cricket staff continued to focus on engaging clubs and volunteers to provide them with the tools to run quality centres and programs. Souths Junior Cricket Club (SJCC) was one club that excelled in growing their junior base through the development of Cricket Blast.

Awarded the Queensland ‘A Sport For All Junior Program of the Year’ in 2019, Souths led the way in running programs and initiatives that were fun, inclusive and easy to manage for volunteers.

Souths developed the Schools Master Blaster Program in 2018-19, a five-week entry-level initiative that sees the club run Woolworths Cricket Blast sessions at South Brisbane schools. The program is designed to break down some of the barriers associated with cricket, with SJCC supplying equipment and paying for junior cricketers to complete their Community Coach Course (Level One) to run the sessions, while also creating a legacy pathway between school and club cricket.

Across the season, SJCC’s junior base grew by 21 per cent to include 51 teams, with two all-girls teams added for the 2018-19 season. The club also saw a 12 per cent rise in entry level participants with 296 juniors playing Woolworths Cricket Blast programs.

SJCC President Brett Gillespie said Cricket Blast was proving to be the perfect program for bringing junior participants and families into cricket.

“We have a philosophy at Souths that is based on skill development, fair play, participation and above all, enjoyment of the game of cricket. Every player in our junior programs is offered the same opportunities to bat, bowl and field as much as each other.

“This creates an environment where players and their families want to be involved season after season, which not only sees our participant numbers increase, but also the number of parents who are keen to volunteer and contribute.

“Each season we have more and more girls join our entry-level programs and we are finding just as many are staying in the game and moving onto junior cricket in our all-girls teams.”

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QC State Cricket Manager John Stock said the release of the National Cricket Census results showcased a positive outlook for cricket in Queensland.

“We’re very encouraged by the results of the recent census as it shows that the hard work our staff and volunteers are doing to grow our game is paying off. The increased exposure of women’s cricket and the expansion of the Big Bash into new markets continues to play a vital role in growing cricket as a sport of choice for girls and juniors.

“While a lot of work is being done by QC’s Community Cricket staff in the field, we need to pay due credit and thanks to the dedication being shown by our volunteers and club administrators. These are the people who develop our junior players so they can achieve their dreams, run programs that cricketers of all levels can enjoy, apply for funding grants so facilities can be built and generally ensure cricket has a bright future.

“We have seen with clubs like South Brisbane how cricket can have a positive impact on our communities, and we look forward to continuing this good work for the next years and beyond as our game keeps growing,” Mr. Stock said.

Overall, Queensland participation numbers grew by 10 per cent to 336,402 in 2018-19, with female players making up 33 per cent of this.

Cricket’s status as a sport for all Australians was reinforced in Queensland, with multicultural (22 per cent increase), Indigenous (18 per cent) and all-abilities (17 per cent) participants all rising from the 2017-18 census.