Cricket Australia has announced it is committing AUS$4 million to growing the female game at grassroots level ©Cricket Australia

Cricket Australia has announced it is committing AUD$4 million (£2.3 million/$3 million/€2.7 million) to growing the female game at grassroots level.

Every year for the next four years, AUD$500,000 (£287,000/$380,000/€340,000) will go directly to clubs, associations and secondary schools through the "Growing Cricket for Girls Fund".

The other AUD$500,000 will be used to employ full-time female participation specialists across the country to provide ongoing support to clubs, associations and secondary schools.

The money will help foster more all-girls teams and competitions around Australia, according to Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, who said the record number of girls' participation in cricket was fuelled by the launch of the women's Big Bash Twenty20 league last summer.

"Whilst cricket has had a national female competition for 70 years, we are committed to further investment to grow the female game with the Women's Big Bash League at the forefront," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"And our female cricketers are deservedly the best paid of all women's team sports in our country.

"Our female cricketers are wonderful role models and we are delighted to see their increasing exposure is inspiring more and more girls to play cricket."

Fast bowler Holly Ferling, a member of Australia’s women’s team who are known as the Southern Stars, came through the ranks in men’s teams in Queensland, not even realising there was a national women's team.

The 20-year-old is delighted to know the next generation could have the option of playing in women’s competitions at all age groups.

Holly Ferling is delighted by the new support for women's cricket ©Getty Images
Holly Ferling is delighted by the new support for women's cricket ©Getty Images

"When I started playing I had no idea girls even played cricket," Ferling, who famously took a hat-trick on her debut in men's cricket at the age of 14, said.

"I had a very positive experience playing with men’s teams.

"I enjoyed it, it was a challenge - always a challenge.

"But I can completely understand why it can be quite scary, coming into a boys' or a men's team.

"I’ve seen such a massive transition in the nine years I’ve been playing cricket.

"I went from not knowing girls played and now I’m going along to clinics where girls are telling me they want to play for the Southern Stars and the Brisbane Heat."

The investment follows research into female participation commissioned by Cricket Australia, which revealed a need for more local girls' competitions, allowing girls to play alongside people of similar age and ability, for associations and clubs to actively support female competitions and for better coaching and facilities at a club and school level.

Through the Growing Cricket for Girls Fund, clubs and secondary schools have access to AUD$2,000 (£1,100/$1,500/€1,400) of funding annually, while associations may receive $10,000 (£5,700/$7,600/€6,800) over two years.

The investment in female participation follows the announcement in April of a pay increase for Cricket Australia’s top female players in a bid to encourage more women to play the game.

Their player payment pool was increased from AUD$2.36 million (£1.4 million/$1.8 million/€1.6 million) to AUD$4.23 million (£2.4 million/$3.2 million/€2.9 million), making them the best paid of any women’s team sport in the country.