Leeds Rhinos’ scrum-half Courtney Hill is at home discussing the exciting talent pool of women and girls playing cricket in Yorkshire.
With rugby league currently in stasis due to Covid-19, I’m giving her a call about the coaching she’s been doing with the Yorkshire Cricket Board over a couple of years.
If you don’t know Courtney’s back story, she was a pace bowler for Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League before moving to Leeds and launching her rugby league career.
However, cricket was never far away:
‘Initially, I was working with Pro Coach doing holiday camps and courses. Then I got involved with county age group girls teams. Since then, it’s just grown and developed. I now work across most of the girls and women’s pathways. It definitely gives you an overview of different standards.’
Courtney’s involvement comes at a time of change. There is a new women’s elite domestic structure, split into 8 regions, with Yorkshire-based cricketers representing the north.
Advent of elite domestic women’s cricket
There will be an initial 25 players as the first wave of professional domestic cricketers with the aim to top that up to 40.
If you didn’t know, women’s county cricket has been amateur for years with only the now-defunct Kia Super League as the means to earn a wage until now.
We saw Linsey Smith, Hollie Armitage and Beth Langston awarded Regional Retainers for the north east at the back end of June. The squad will be coached by Danielle Hazell, North East Region Head Coach.
This season, there will be the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy with the Northern Diamonds (Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland combined) taking part as one of the eight teams.
For Courtney Hill, the impetus in terms of exposure and actually playing cricket as a job paid illustrates the art of the possible: ‘I hope what the new structure provides for these girls will be really exciting for them.’
‘Covid has put a real hand brake on the momentum that women’s cricket was gaining. It’s the old saying that ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ These young girls need to see that it’s a genuine pathway into the professional set-up.’
As someone who’s been a very successful professional sportswoman, I’m curious to know how Courtney sees her cricket coaching and what she likes about it?
‘It’s given me a chance to meet so many new people, make a connection in Yorkshire and be part of the community. I think it’s as simple as sharing your passion with others.’
As a former teacher in Australia, passing on her experience and knowledge so that someone else enjoys cricket as much as she has is a simple but laudable aim.
Paying it forward
We get to chatting about cricket influences. I can remember a cricket coach at my junior school called Andrew Kennedy who played for Lancashire in the 1970s.
He was continually supportive despite the fact that I showed a complete ineptitude with spinning a cricket ball.
For Courtney, coaching is teaching and the ability to help nurture interest in sport:
‘A teacher makes it enjoyable with energy, passion and enthusiasm. I hope that I’ve been able to do that for some local girls around Yorkshire. As a kid, I had a wonderful coach. She inspired and encouraged me to try. All I want to do is pay it forward.’
At the moment, girls cricket around Yorkshire is centred on training and friendlies, rather than league competitions.
But it’s welcome nonetheless. Whether it’s boys or girls cricket, coronavirus has meant there’s now limited time outdoors to retain that connection to the game and keep it current.
The YCB has put together a programme of training and games for the Girls county age-group teams.
Women’s club cricket in 2020
There are also women’s club games happening as teams arrange their own fixtures. Wrenthorpe, Saxton, Doncaster Town, Alne and Sessay all spring to mind.
As for Courtney, she’s playing the waiting game until the resumption of rugby league with Leeds Rhinos Women.
Thankfully, there’s coaching and cricket to also turn her hand to. When we talked, Hill was due to head down to have a bowl at Saxton and pondering whether to join a local cricket club.
Having already had a hit in the nets at North Leeds CC in Roundhay Park, I doubt there’ll be a shortage of interest.
Yorkshire Women CCC are @YorkshireWomen on Twitter plus there’s Yorkshire Women & Girls League on Facebook.
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