WOMEN'S cricket has again been dealt another duck in Ballarat as the women's sporting landscape continues to grow in staking a claim for attention.
In a shattering blow, the city has lost another marquee team in what can best be described as being a victim of its own success.
The Bolts were a fantastic pathway for this region, offering emerging talent a boost and field to be seen by Victorian Premier Cricket ranks and a place for other players wanting to take their game to a higher level in Cricket Victoria's Women's Community Cricket Competition.
They played in Shield One - the next step up being premier cricket, a level only hosted in Ballarat for men's exhibition or country round clashes. The only regional-based Victorian Premier Cricket club is Geelong.
Six players have moved into women's premier competition. Top junior talent would likely always find its way but the Bolts' impressive success also introduced premier clubs to potential in players such as Eve Righetti, Ella Young, Ruby Gardiner and Megan O'Beirne, who might otherwise not have been scouted.
Other players have been absorbed into Ballarat Cricket Association competition, which this season adds a second division.
But middle ground has been lost.
The Bolts, which have claimed three successive WCCC titles, have always been about offering female cricketers opportunities.
Marquee teams add depth and improve grassroots competition. This is a fact that cannot be reiterated enough for our city, which has long lost state level football and netball representation.
The loss of a marquee team means access for young players to test their games gets tougher.
While country players are generally travel great distance to play their sport, for those able to make the journey, requires enormous discipline. This is a lot tougher when it is to play in that middle sporting ground with more options closer to home.
Losing the Bolts adds to an already tough cricketing blow for Ballarat this season with not one Women's Big Bash League match to play in regional Victoria this summer.
Given we have elite facilities and are an hour from the state's capital - where all Melbourne Stars and Renegades home games will be fought - and we have a strong record in support for hosting WBBL matches, this is incredibly disappointing.
This is a time when female cricket should be growing in regional Victoria. Our national women's team won the Ashes about the same time the Matildas were putting women's sport firmly on the national agenda with their soccer prowess.
And we have plenty of talent in regional Victoria.
Australian leg-spinner Georgia Wareham, who hails from Mortlake, has this week returned to WBBL action for the Renegades after 14 months sidelined with injury.
Australian under-19 pace bowler Milly Illingworth, from Port Campbell, announced her WBBL debut last week with a 118-kilometre an hour delivery for a wicket in her maiden over for Stars.
This is a time when Cricket Victoria should be finding ways to reinforce pathways in regional Victoria because even a team like the Bolts were igniting belief in young cricketers in their patch.
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