The Northern Diamonds’ Academy has chosen its 15 player squad for the 2021 season.
Players between the ages of 15 to 19-years-old predominantly from the Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland regions make-up the 15 player squad following observation sessions and match practice scenarios.
Due to COVID restrictions, the process of picking a squad across the three counties has had its many challenges. Courtney Winfield-Hill, Northern Diamonds’ Senior Regional Talent Manager, who led the search for the next Diamonds stars, is delighted to have the academy squad confirmed for the summer.
“We started this process in October with multiple stops and starts along the way because of COVID,” Winfield-Hill said.
“There were so many online engagement sessions and it was dragged out to the max. To get to last Thursday and to offer 15 places on our academy, delighted is the word to use to describe that.
“We started with 37 players. Those 37 players were predominantly from within our county age group and women’s pathways here in the north east. We also captured half a dozen players who have relocated to the north east at Leeds or Durham University.
“The process was quite difficult as the under 18s through the COVID period were unable to mix with the over 18s. The under 18s did nine hours of indoor observation and the over 18s did a few hours in a one-to-one space with COVID restrictions for indoor practice.
“Last week we got to the place where we were able to get outdoors for the entire day and actually play cricket. We had a mini match and multiple scenarios. It was actually at the start of the year that we shortlisted the 37 after all of the indoor observations took place. This was shortlisted to 23 and those players took part in the outdoor observations last week.
“It’s hard when you disappoint more kids than you make happy. Hopefully, once the funding is released by the ECB later in the year and we add the EPP layer, we will be able to capture these players and continue to stretch them and offer them a space apart from county age group where they can develop their cricket.”
The academy will focus on developing girls into cricketers capable of representing the Northern Diamonds and hopefully England. However, Winfield-Hill isn’t looking for overnight success stories, but players who have the potential to eventually reach these levels.
Winfield Hill said: “The biggest criteria for selection is based on how far we can see that we can stretch the kids and what is their potential.
“The objective of the academy isn’t pure performance right in the here and now, it is very much about eyes on the future and how we can fill the gaps in the Diamonds senior squad with good quality cricketers coming through.
“We are also thinking big towards England’s Women’s Academy and the senior England women’s programmes. It is very much based on what we see as potential to fulfil those things.”
Northern Diamonds’ academy squad will be adhering to COVID restrictions throughout the summer, being limited to matches against other regional academies, such as North West Thunder, Loughborough Lightning, Central Sparks and Southern Vipers. Other matches in the offing include Scotland, a multi-day festival in July and internal games with the senior Diamonds squad.
Although the squad has been picked for the summer, Winfield-Hill stresses that there will be further opportunities for girls to break into the Diamonds setup with a wider talent identification programme taking place across the north east.
“It’s never a closed door,” Winfield-Hill commented. “On the flipside of that, those who were picked don’t have a ticket to multiple years in the system. This year, we are very conscious that we are a little behind the eight ball as we haven’t had a winter with these girls.
“Ultimately, we have selected a squad for the summer only. We will be playing summer matches with these guys, but the scouting and the talent ID process for the next intake, which will be around October this year, actually starts now.
“It’s not just a case of getting to the observation periods. A big part of my role is to be out there scouting and talent IDing across the age group pathways and linking in with counties to understand what they’re seeing in schools.
“The process ultimately begins again now and it is a case of me working with the county age group coaches and school teachers to ensure that we have multiple eyes and not just mine out there searching for talent across the region. It is never a closed door, we are always searching.
2021 Academy Squad
Madeleine Atkinson (Durham/North East Warriors)
Ciara Boaden (Northumberland/North East Warriors)
Mary Butler (Durham/North East Warriors)
Grace Hall (Yorkshire)
Lucy Hughes (Durham/North East Warriors)
Trudy Johnson (Durham/North East Warriors)
Lucy Lindley (Yorkshire)
Emma Marlow (Yorkshire)
Emily Naylor (Warwickshire/North East Warriors/Durham University)
Ellie Nightingale (Yorkshire)
Harriet Robson (Northumberland/North East Warriors)
Lizzie Scott (Northumberland/North East Warriors)
Ellie Tiffin (Northumberland/North East Warriors)
Phoebe Turner (Yorkshire)
Jessica Woolston (Yorkshire)