Hornets buzzing: Ellie and Jack inspire other cricketers
ONE of Ipswich's most experienced and loyal mentors summed it up perfectly when he said "Jack and Ellie are good news stories''.
"For the new merger of Ipswich cricket, it's absolute perfect timing,'' Hornets women's head coach Wayne Bichel said.
During the off-season, the Ipswich/Logan Hornets men's and women's teams in Brisbane first grade competitions have been building stronger ties with clubs in the Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Association.
A planned merger between grassroots and representative cricket is designed to strengthen the pathway to higher level cricket.
After sharing in the delight of Hornets wrist spinner Jack Wood securing an historic Queensland Bulls contract, Bichel was eager to highlight the achievements of his captain Ellie Johnston.
She has a Queensland Fire contract.
Both players have bolstered their representative careers being part of Ipswich/Logan's development structure the past six years.
Laidley-bred Wood has displayed his resilience to prove wrist spinners can still be called into the Bulls squad.
Johnston, from the Darling Downs, has shown her loyalty and highlighted how the Hornets can provide a pathway to higher honours.
"The whole reason that the Hornets exist is to give local players the opportunity to come through,'' Bichel said, pleased with the platform the Ipswich-based club is now providing.
"What people don't realise is to get players to that level is not an overnight thing.
"Ellie and Jack are five years of hard work but they've reaped the rewards of putting things in place to get the players to that level.''
Bichel helped set up the Hornets women's program in 2015.
He said 17-year-old right-handed leg spinner and top order batter Johnston deserved to be recognised by the Queensland Fire selectors.
"She's a very young skipper,'' Bichel said.
"She's got a very good head on her shoulders.
"She's quite settled and she's one of those players who actually is a very good thinker about the game. And she reflects a lot on what's happening in the game.''
Bichel said a positive for Ipswich was how having players like Wood and Johnston receive recent contracts would inspire their teammates.
"We are a very young squad from the women's side,'' Bichel said.
"This is just a shot in the arm to all our players, to know Ellie plays with them, around them.
"She has been able to get there and it is just a great signal for them to put in the hard work and realise we've now got players who they (Queensland selectors) are going to be looking at.''
Johnston has also underlined her commitment by travelling regularly from Dalby to play and train.
With her family relocating to Withcott to help out, Ellie's travel time will be greatly reduced in coming months.
Bichel said Johnston's success showed how far the Hornets development program had come since the first winter program for girls in May 2015.
From eight girls starting out, the Hornets program grew to 14 the following year with 12 of those players going on to play grade cricket.
That has continued in recent seasons.
From working with former cricket icon Les Kinnane in 2016 and through junior Paul Pink Shield matches and the winter academy, the Hornets girls gained wider exposure.
A number of players have progressed from second division to become regulars in the Katherine Raymont Shield series, the premier competition in Brisbane.
Former junior state player Johnston has been with the Hornets program since 2016. She is the first "home-grown'' club player to receive a Queensland Fire contract for the next national league competition.
"The girls had nowhere to go and it's been about trying to build competition for the girls to play in,'' Bichel said.
"Everything we've done at Ipswich, Ellie has been part of our program. Everything that we've done with our academy . . . getting into these competitions . . . Ellie has been on that full journey.''
Former Ipswich international player Jodi Dannatt has also played a pivotal role in the current Hornets coaching set-up.