EYE IN: Emma Jackson is one of nine Hornets to strut their stuff in the Rookie Challenge Series.
EYE IN: Emma Jackson is one of nine Hornets to strut their stuff in the Rookie Challenge Series. David Nielsen

Hornets up to Rookie Challenge

THE hard work is over, now comes the nervous wait to learn of their representative fate.

Nine Hornets stars joined a 48-strong field of the best young female cricketers in the state at Western Districts Cricket Club this week for the Rookie Challenge Series.

The live-in camp from Sunday to Wednesday split the 48 players into teams of four, across three days of high octane matches.

It served as a key selection process for Under 15 and U18 Queensland sides, set to be announced early next month.

Leanne Bichel, the Hornets' Jodie Fields Shield captain and teammate to the nine Ipswich hopefuls, was present at the Graceville grounds as the girls were put through their paces by Queensland Cricket coaching staff.

"There was a lot of young talent out there with a great standard of girls playing other girls, which is what you want,” Bichel said.

"The benefit (to the players) is obvious. From the nutrition side of things to the before and after game preparation, they're being taught a lot of things they wouldn't at club level.

"They have Queensland Cricket coaches, physios - the whole works.”

Bichel said a number of her young teammates gave themselves every opportunity at selection to the next level.

"I think we fared very well actually, there was a number of girls who made runs and put their hand up,” she said.

"There's only one more step now, getting selected into that next team. Hopefully we can have a few of our girls in the U15s team.”

August and September are particularly busy months on the junior cricket calendar, as the state governing body turns its attention to player development programs.

With a large Hornets contingent involved in such programs, Bichel has yet to have anything resembling a full squad at training so far this pre-season.

And as the opening match of the season on October 1 fast approaches, the captain admitted the crowded schedule had made preparations for a title defence difficult.

But Bichel is not concerned.

"We've managed maybe five or six at training so far,” she said.

"It's not ideal, but Queensland Cricket have all these things in place and we just have to go with the flow.

"It always happens at this time of the year, with school holidays.

"(But a lot of the team) just had three days of cricket, so it's not like they haven't been doing anything.”

Further disruptions come in the former of QC's academy program, which calls three Ipswich players into camp "every two or three weeks”.

The next such camp is at Toowoomba Grammar next week, meaning it is very likely the first time Bichel's team is together as a whole will be their season opener at home to Sunshine Coast.

Despite the rollercoaster off-season, Bichel said the team is still primed to defend their maiden Jodie Fields Shield from last season.

An early indication of their form will come tomorrow, in a trial game against Western Suburbs.

Callum Dick

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