"It's a big, big watershed moment"
Regional Director for Women's Cricket in the North West, David Thorley, reflects on the awarding of last week's regional retainers
David Thorley, the Regional Director for Women’s Cricket in the North West, is delighted to have confirmed the first four full-time professionals for the region.
Alex Hartley, Emma Lamb, Ellie Threlkeld and Georgie Boyce signed retainer deals last week that are a means of seeing the players through this summer after coronavirus delayed the awarding of full-time deals.
Instead, they will be awarded in October, with those four players all getting one plus one for another player who impresses from the Lancashire, Cheshire or Cumbria - all the areas under the North West umbrella.
Each of the eight Regional Centres of Excellence across the country will all contract five players below those awarded England central contracts.
“It’s a big, big watershed moment for women’s cricket in this country in that you’ve got these 40 girls coming in as professionals at domestic level,” said Thorley.
“People can see you can make a living from cricket without necessarily being in the England set-up.
“I’m really happy to see how well it’s been received, and it’s great to see some positive momentum back into things after the Covid situation.
“Those four may have very different aspirations as to what they want out of the game, but it’s just so exciting to be able to talk to them about it and what we can do to help.
“There’s a couple of them in their final years of University, and they don’t have to think, ‘Can I still keep playing cricket?’”
All four players - Threlkeld, batter Boyce, all-rounder Lamb and left-arm spinner Hartley - have been regulars for the Lancashire Thunder Super League team over the last few years, a competition which has since been disbanded.
“All four are fantastic cricketers,” said Thorley. “They are experienced already, despite being young.
“We’re very fortunate to be able to say this with Alex, ‘We’ve got a World Cup winner in our squad’. That can do so much for us.
“We’re lucky to have her experience in our squad, and she will be a dangerous player amongst all her other qualities - experience, personality.
“I’ve had some Zoom calls with them, but I can’t wait to work with them now.”
There is still much work for Thorley to do.
Once a schedule is revealed by the ECB for the shortened summer, which it is hoped will still include the new regional, eight-team 50-over competition, training plans and a new head coach for the North West Thunder squad will be sorted.
“For the North West Thunder, we’re asked to make up a squad of 15,” explained Thorley.
“Those four, depending on Emma Lamb’s availability with England, will form the backbone of our team.
“I’ve already had conversations with representatives from Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria in order to create a long list of players. Everyone is in consideration at the moment.
“I also look forward to getting a head coach on board.
“Whatever the season looks like, we’ll be in a position to come out firing.”
Whatever cricket is played this summer, possibly including some regular county games for Lancashire, will effectively be an audition for the fifth contract.
But Thorley added: “We will be doing all we can to not add to the pressure.
“We just want the girls to enjoy it and play their best cricket.”