Thorley aiming high as Women's Regional Director
David Thorley is the man charged with taking women's cricket forward in the North West
There has already been one Burnley native who has had a major impact on Lancashire Cricket. Now there is another aiming to shine in a very different role at Emirates Old Trafford.
Meet David Thorley, the new Regional Director of Women’s Cricket for the North West.
“I’m the same sort of age-group as Jimmy Anderson, but unfortunately I was quite a poor player,” laughed Thorley.
“You saw his progression all over the local papers, but I didn’t get to any kind of decent standard.”
Thankfully, Thorley has excelled behind the scenes in high performance roles in both cricket and boxing and returns to Emirates Old Trafford after just under 14 years away.
Since leaving his post as a Stadium Administrator and Deputy Safety Officer in late 2006, Thorley has worked as Women’s Cricket Manager for the ICC and as Head of Talent and Competitions for England Boxing, where he was also briefly their Acting Chief Executive.
Now he has taken on the role as one of the eight heads of the new Regional Centres of Excellence, a structure brought in by the ECB as they aim to drive the women’s game forwards. The North East and Yorkshire, West Midlands, East Midlands, South West and Wales, South Central, London and South East and London and East are the other seven centres.
“It’s back to cricket, which is quite nice,” said Thorley, who began his role in February. "My first proper job was at Emirates Old Trafford, so it’s also nice to come full circle in that sense.
“I had seven years in Dubai working as women’s cricket manager. There was also some other stuff involved with the Associate and Affiliate countries in terms of high performance.
“I went out there thinking a few years and it turned into seven. It was a great role and involved a bit of everything - from being a tournament director for the Women’s World Cup in India to writing the playing conditions in conjunction with the cricket operations manager.
“You kind of end up being the generalist for women’s cricket - making sure it’s on everyone’s agenda and is moving forwards.
“Coming back, it was about looking for a job in the UK, and preferably up North. I got the job with England Boxing in Sheffield. Not only did I want a job in the UK, but I wanted to be in a role where there was something really significant to achieve. And I was over the moon with what we managed to do.
“England is a sleeping giant in terms of a boxing nation. By the time I left, we were winning record amounts of medals.
"Then, this job came up, which ticked all the boxes. A lot to achieve, a project at the very start, and a job in the North West.”
Thorley’s time at England Boxing coincided with the rise of Caroline Dubois, a 19-year-old who he describes as “the next big name in women’s boxing”. While his current role will obviously involve trying to find the next superstar women’s cricketer, his remit is far more wide ranging across Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria.
“The 10 points in the transforming women’s and girls cricket strategy that the ECB have produced, there’s obviously the top end, which people see quite quickly,” said Thorley.
“Yes, it’s important to create role models, professionalise the game and maintain the flow to the top of the game. But it’s also about people just playing the game and staying in the game as well. “
My aim is to make sure cricket is as accessible a sport for women and girls as it is for men. You see the stereotypes of old fellas playing cricket on village greens. You want that with both sexes.”
When Thorley, the nephew of former New Zealand Test and one-day seamer Gary Robertson, talks about ensuring women stay in the game, he uses current Red Rose spinner Alex Hartley as ideal example to follow: “We want to help them develop their careers,” he explained. “Alex has only just become a very prominent and engaging commentator, working at the T20 World Cup.
“She’s obviously got plenty of cricket left in her, but she’s also looking at other things beyond that. We want to help that progression.”
Thorley’s start to life in his new post has been different to say the least given the coronavirus pandemic. He at least managed to spend a couple of weeks at Emirates Old Trafford before lockdown, while meeting other new colleagues has come via a Zoom staff quiz.
He is confident the momentum built up in the women’s game won’t be damaged by coronavirus and remains hopeful that some domestic cricket will be played this summer.
He added: “The big one for me is the regional 50-over competition. Getting that off the ground one way or another is important.
“If there’s more time available to go alongside what would be seven fixtures in that competition, hopefully we could get some county stuff in as well.”