Katie Levick believes this summer marks the start of a new era for the Northern Diamonds.
Levick bowled the final over late last September as the Diamonds won the 2022 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy against Southern Vipers at Lord’s.
It was a success made all the more sweeter after three final defeats in the RHF Trophy and the Charlotte Edwards Cup since the start of regional cricket in 2020, two of them coming against the Vipers.
But the squad set to tackle this season looks quite different after some key departures.
England legends Jenny Gunn and Katherine Sciver-Brunt has retired, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Linsey Smith have moved to Blaze and Vipers respectively and Leigh Kasperek has not been replaced as overseas player.
Batter Rebecca Duckworth has arrived from Thunder, while all-rounder Grace Hall has been promoted from the Academy and is yet to make her senior debut.
Fellow Academy graduates Emma Marlow, Lizzie Scott, Phoebe Turner and Jess Woolston are also set to play key roles after varying levels of first-team exposure last summer.
All are due to travel to the Desert Springs resort in Spain tomorrow (Thursday) for a six-day pre-season training camp. They will be joined there by South East Stars and Sunrisers, with four game days planned.
“We’ve had a winter of training indoors at Headingley, and we’re all looking forward to getting out on grass and putting that work into practice,” said Levick.
“It will be also be an important six days for us to get away to a place where everything is in one place at Desert Springs, and bond as a group before the season starts.
“Off the pitch is going to be just as important as on it.
“We’ve had a bit of change in the squad, and we’re quite a young group. So this is going to be a really important step for us, and it’s a massive aim for the tour.
“It feels like the next generation is coming through as a group now instead of the dribs and drabs it might have previously been.
“Us older ones now are outnumbered by the younger generation, so it’s up to us to try and keep up with them. It’s going to be exciting to see how we gel together as a new unit.”
This near week-long trip to Almeria represents the Diamonds’ first pre-season tour.
“We’ve been an organisation for three or four years now, and it’s another step in our professionalism,” continued Levick.
“There are a lot of players going into this summer with new roles in the team, and this is the first opportunity to get outside on grass and see the things you’ve been working on all winter.
“Although I’ve never actually been before, I’m perhaps more aware of Desert Springs than most having worked with ProCoach before turning professional. It was always a destination on our books, and it’s a good option for a lot of teams.
“There are two other regions going with us, so that will be brilliant practice. It won’t just be intra-squad games or local teams.”
Levick and her team-mates are still brimming with confidence following last year’s title triumph, and they are targeting winning the double.
But the team who are now the hunted rather than the hunters are well aware that it will be a far from straightforward task, with other regions having also worked hard on improvement over the winter.
“We are the ones with the trophy, but the make-up of our squad we certainly don’t see ourselves as the big dogs,” said Levick. “We always like to think of ourselves as the underdogs and with something to prove.
“It was great to win last year, and it was the accumulation of three years of really hard work.
“This is now a sort of a new block with a changing group.
“We know the other regions will be after us, and we’re very aware that there’s a target on our back. But we’re keen to rise to the challenge.”
Though the Diamonds won every game in the RHF Trophy last summer, they have identified room for improvement.
“It’s so easy to look back on a competition when your last memory is winning a final and think, with rose tinted glasses on, that it was the perfect campaign,” said the Sheffield-born star.
“Yes we won every game, but you look back and two or three of them were absolute nail-biters which went down to the last few overs or even last couple of balls.
“It’s great to come out on the right side of those, but you’d obviously want to get the job done much easier. But that fight has always been a really positive trait of ours as a squad.
“If we were to make any improvements in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint, we’d want to be a bit more ruthless, set the tone with some emphatic performances and not leave it down to me at the bottom of the order to see us home.”
Levick is referring to the game against Lightning at Durham last July when, chasing 200, they fell from 75-1 to 197-9 before she hit the winning run from number 11.
Having said that, it looks unlikely that Levick will be batting at 11 this summer following a winter of hard work in the nets.
“That’s definitely an area of my game I’ve spent all winter working on,” she added. “I sort of put my bowling to one side for a while and allowed myself to dedicate a good few months to my batting.
“It’s great that Dani’s (Hazell) put that trust and faith in me. She wants me to progress my game as much as I do.
“My aim is definitely to get up that order. I can see a big Jenny Gunn shaped hole in the batting line-up that, as a 31-year-old, I’m more than ready to fill.”
Northern Diamonds kick off their 2023 season on 22 April at Headingley against Western Storm. Click below to buy your tickets