PINT-sized cricketer Hannah Rooke is 13.
With pads almost as long as her legs, she walks onto the pitch with no fear.
She’s already celebrated her first hat-trick for Warrnambool and District Cricket Association club Brierly-Christ Church and is working hard to better her game as she prepares to represent Western Waves at the state championships for the first time.
The pathway is there - clear as day - for her to see.
She can switch on the TV and watch trailblazer Ellyse Perry smashing sixes and snaring wickets for the all-conquering Australian team.
On the same screen is a fellow south-west Victorian teenager in Georgia Wareham, feeling her way on the international stage with ball in hand, plotting opponents’ downfalls with her crafty leg-spin.
Hannah won’t remember a time when male and female sporting pathways were different.
She is part of a new generation which will benefit from changes made by those who loved the game before her.
Grace Lee and Alicia Drew will remember the time, when opportunities were limited and resources scarce.
But with wide smiles they’re celebrating a new era.
The Great South Coast Regional AFL, Cricket and Netball Draft Strategy, released on Thursday, found female participation in football (183 per cent) and cricket (102 per cent) skyrocketed in 2017.
Lee, 23, will coach Hannah and her under 14 Western Waves teammates at the state titles.
Not long ago she was in Hannah’s shoes, playing for her region.
Only then picking a team was easier.
“It’s extremely exciting how much it’s changed and how it’s becoming so big,” Lee, a Camperdown College teacher, says.
“When I was going through Western Waves you’d have one or two trainings and most of the kids that turned up got in.
“Now there’s full development squads, they have pre-season training and there’s kids making the Victorian side.
“I have coached for the past five years at the under 14 level and this year’s team was by far the hardest team to pick because the average skill level is so much higher.”
Drew, 32, has witnessed the same competition for spots in representative football squads.
The female pathway to the elite level is now inline with their male counterparts.
V/Line Cup at 15 is the first step.
Under 16 national championships, TAC Cup and under 18 national championships are goals AFLW aspirants then tick off on the way to the draft.
“Even the first couple of years I was involved, for the V/Line Cup the kids were coming from no club,” Drew, who coached South Warrnambool in its first two Deakin University Female Football League seasons, says.
“We were picking kids out of no club and sending them to rep footy.
“Within four years, we’ve gone from dragging kids on a bus to having a full-blown tryout process.”
Sporting bodies have had to step up to make those pathways viable for south-west girls.
AFL Western District helped launched the DUFFL competition, which started with eight teams in 2017 and jumped 10 in its second season.
Plans are now in motion for a women’s league.
Warrnambool and District Cricket Association started its under 17 and under 14 Renegades competitions last year.
Participation is high and Drew and Lee can already see the wider benefits.
“The improvement comes so quick for the girls,” Drew reflects.
“Even in the DUFFL from season one to season two, the improvement was ridiculous.
“There’s teams that are starting to bring in set plays and running patterns.
“In the first year, we were just trying to get kids to kick the balls to each other.”
Drew knows grassroots football is where the next AFLW jet will be unearthed.
Players, who once had to stop when they grew too old for under 14 boys’ competitions, can now start at Auskick and develop their skills over eight to 10 years.
“Even the first year of AFLW when you had your Daisy Pearces, everyone went ‘she’s pretty handy’,” Drew says.
“But then you look at a kid like (2017 AFLW rising star winner) Chloe Molloy who came in last year and came through a pathway.
“She tore the comp apart and you can notice the difference. And I reckon this year’s crop will turn it up again because I think the ones who have just been drafted, they’re the ones who have done the full TAC Cup program, the V/Line Cup etc.
“I reckon AFLW in the next three or four years, it’s going to be ‘Daisy Pearce who?’”
Lee believes the “possibilities are endless” for the region’s budding female cricketers.
It’s part of the reason she dedicates her time to coaching.
“I wanted to give back and see what could happen for these girls,” she says.
“There’s so many opportunities out there, sometimes they just need someone to push them or encourage them and give them the confidence they can do it.
“I was 12 when I started playing cricket and you had no choice but to play in the boys’ teams. Now there’s designated girls’ leagues.
“If you want, you can play in both. But it (the female-only grades) are a lot more social and fun and not as scary for the young girls coming through.
“It is a fantastic sight. Last year I went to final game at Allansford and you had the three games going and there were parents everywhere cheering on the kids and the opponents when they hit a six.
“It just had a really nice feeling. It’s going ahead in leaps and bounds and the skill level is increasing.”
The impact of female cricket and football at national and international levels has filtered down to regional and country areas.
So too has soccer with Australia’s national team, headlined by the dazzling Sam Kerr, providing inspiration for future Matildas.
Netball - the traditional pathway for elite women’s sport in Australia - maintains its popularity.
Super Netball draws crowds and the Diamonds’ dominance on the international arena captures fans’ attention.
Lee and Drew are full of praise for the current-day players who have embraced the hype and want to grow their respective sports.
They say social media - in this sense - is being used for the greater good.
“They don’t take it for granted,” Drew says of the players.
“The AFLW girls are so accessible. If you write on their Instagram, they might write back to you.
“I am a mad Matildas fan too and I even notice it with them.
“I was watching a video and there was a young girl and she went to a clinic that Kyah Simon had run and Kyah Simon sent her her boots.”
Lee is thrilled with Cricket Australia’s commitment to the Southern Stars’ brand.
“People know about it. It’s becoming a lot more publicised and there’s kids in school wanting to play cricket, knowing who Georgia Wareham is and who Meg Lanning is,” she says.
“This is how far it’s come in 10 years, imagine in 10 years’ time?
“I think the media has played a huge role in that.
“It comes back to Cricket Australia on their social media, it’s not just about the men’s team, they’re putting a lot into the women’s as well.
“They’ve employed people in those roles because they’ve seen it as an area they want to improve and it’s really showing now.”
In south-west Victoria, girls are taking up for sport different reasons.
Some might go further. Others are content to play for friends, fitness and fun.
Young Hannah Rooke is one.
Renee Saulitis - a creative footballer who has already represented Victoria twice - is another.
On the Harris Street Reserve soccer pitch you’ll find Gaby Allen, and on a netball court down the road Ally Mellblom.
These four teenagers - Hannah, 13, Gaby, 14, Ally, 15, and Renee, 16, - encapsulate the future Lee and Drew are bullish about.
Hannah is playing in the WDCA under 17 girls’ competition but she also tests herself in the under 15 boys’ ranks.
The younger sister of Brierly-Christ Church duo Lachi and Harry and Australian aerobics jet Jordan just loves playing cricket.
“It wasn’t long ago that I got a hat-trick,” Hannah reflects.
“I bowled the last ball and bowled them and then came back the next over and got two wickets, so I was pretty happy with myself and having my family there watching me was pretty cool.”
Family lured Gaby to soccer too, namely her English expat father Justin.
She’s played with the boys at Warrnambool Wolves for five years.
“My dad has probably inspired me the most,” she says.
“He’s always tells us stories about how he used to play soccer in the snow and everyday he’d kick the ball to school, so I think he was the main person I looked up to and also my coach Carlos (Del Rio).
“He’s been coaching me since I started playing soccer and he’s really pushed me to do my best.
“This year I’ve just been put up to striker, I wasn’t really good at it and I got put into one of the games against one of the teams in the guys’ league and I scored two out of six goals, so I was really proud of that.”
Renee is already thinking of her football future, having moved to Ballarat for school.
She’s chasing a spot in the TAC Cup next season.
Ally, a towering goal keeper, caught the eye of Victorian selectors and was named in the state’s initial under 17 netball squad recently.
All four are part of a new frontier. And Lee and Drew couldn’t be more proud.