Sixers wicketkeeper batsman Alyssa Healy has praised the WBBL for helping young female cricketers develop into international players after two young stars excelled during the summer.
Sixers allrounder and WBBL|02 Young Gun Ash Gardner was rewarded with a call-up to the Southern Stars T20 and One-Day team earlier this year, eventually making her debut in both formats against New Zealand.
In April, Gardner was chosen for the Southern Stars One-Day World Cup team alongside Sixers teammates Healy, Ellyse Perry and Sarah Aley.
Gardner also played in the 50-over Women's National Cricket League with the New South Wales Breakers, but the tournament has less teams and games. However, Healy believes the WBBL is one of the reasons behind Gardner's sudden rise to the upper echelons of women's cricket, partly thanks to more games and a higher profile.
"I think WNCL is a real test for all the players in the competition and some of the young girls don’t quite get as much of an opportunity as they’d like," said Healy.
"But the WBBL has given these young girls a crack at potentially international cricket early on."
20-year-old Gardner isn't the only young Sixers player noticed by Cricket Australia's national team's, with spinner Lauren Smith selected for multiple Shooting Stars teams over the past year since WBBL|01.
Recently, Smith was with the Southern Stars' development team on their recent tour to Sri Lanka.
“It’s really exciting and fantastic to see they’ve been rewarded for their WBBL performances," said Healy.
"To see the likes of Ash Gardner and Lauren Smith stand up when need be, it’s been fantastic."
During the Sixers WBBL|02 season, where they were crowned Champions, both Smith and Gardner played pivotal roles in the team's success.
Gardner hit 414 runs in her 16 games for the Sixers and also took 10 wickets with the ball in hand. Smith was one of the best bowlers in the tournament, taking 13 wickets over the 14 games she bowled in and excelled in the field, displaying her athleticism with a crucial run out in the Big Final.
"A fantastic season from our girls. Everyone stood up when they needed to, it wasn’t just one or two people performing well for the team," said Healy.
"It was sort of everyone, which was probably the most pleasing part about it and it will hopefully put us in good stead for WBBL|03 and hopefully attract the same players back."
Gardner, Healy, Perry and Aley will head to England and Wales this month when the Southern Stars' World Cup defence begins against the West Indies in Taunton on June 26.