Future is bright for cricket
CRICKET: Australian women's cricket team fast bowler Holly Ferling expects females to nudge the 130km/h barrier as the game continues to grow.
Not only are more girls playing cricket in Australia than ever before - 394,000 - but those at the highest level have never been more committed.
Due to a debilitating elbow injury, the 21-year-old Queenslander did not play a game between Boxing Day and October 6 but that didn't stop her paying for flights to Hobart and Perth to support the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL last year.
Ferling's rehabilitation was long and at times arduous.
Having pushed herself to bowl up to 120km/h when she was a teenager, injury struck at precisely the wrong time.
Although she is back playing in the WNCL, she is "very unlikely” to be called up with so little cricket under her belt.
But her absence from the elite level has not diminished Ferling's love for the sport or her expectations of what she and other women can achieve in the coming years.
"I honestly don't doubt that there will be women in the next bit - and I hope it's me - that can really push the 130km/h boundary,” Ferling said.
"At the moment I am somewhere between 105km/h and 110km/h. I have a bit of room to move and hopefully that happens when the rhythm clicks in. One thing I've learned is that if you force it, it never happens.
"I bowled at my quickest when I was 17 or 18 and just ran in and went at it. Finding that groove will be the thing for me. It's exciting.”
One thing Ferling has, aside from raw talent, which helped her take a hat-trick on her first-grade men's debut for Kingaroy Services Cricket Club when she was 14, is worldly perspective on women's cricket.
Her ambitions to bowl quick and hit long are as bold as her hopes for the sport's growth.
"Why can't we sell out the MCG for a World Cup final?” she said.
"Why are we putting these boundaries in place? What's to say what is going to happen over the next three years? I even think we will see the emergence of an IPL-like competition over the next few years, which will be cool.”
Locally, Ferling is heavily involved in grassroots development of the sport. Having played Kanga cricket as a child, she's watched participation numbers sky-rocket annually.
According to Roy Morgan research, one in five girls between the ages of six and 13 play cricket, while female participation in the sport has risen 27.5 per cent from last year. Nearly 90 per cent of those females are school-aged.
The next generation willhave a talent pool thathas never seen beforeand perhaps never expected.
Although Ferling wouldn't concede it, her presence in suburbs and clubs around Brisbane has drawn girls to a game that didn't televise women's matches until very recently.
Now Australians can sit back in their armchairs and watch the best female cricketers in the country compete for the Ashes on free-to-air TV.
"The movement of women's sport is quite unstoppable really,” shesaid.
"I went to a clinic here at Valleys a few weeks ago, there were literally hundreds of girls at a girls-only program.
"To see that evolve over time is incredible.
"I played against boys and men in Kingaroy right until I finished Year 12, so to see that there is one club with over 100 girls doing a grassroots program, I honestly couldn't put it into words.”