Blog: Courtney Winfield Hill reflects on the performances of Academy products

By Courtney Winfield-Hill

It has been no surprise to me to see how well Emma Marlow and Phoebe Turner, two of our Northern Diamonds Academy products, have done in making the step up to senior cricket in the Charlotte Edwards Cup over the last month or so.

There’s a reason why we selected those two to integrate with the seniors through the winter.

Emma’s been terrific, especially given she’s been bowling her off-spinners in the powerplays. That’s no mean feat.

It’s a big enough step for a young player to be playing, let alone take the new ball. She has been superb.

Her first match against Loughborough was massive for her when she took two wickets in a win, including her maiden wicket of Tammy Beaumont bowled.

But the Southern Vipers game up at Durham was the one for me. It was probably the first game in which we saw her really challenged. She went for a few more runs than usual - three boundaries in her first - but she responded with two wickets in her second over.

It’s as much Emma’s character as her skill which has impressed me.

And character is what I base a lot of my coaching conversations on. They get sick of me harping on about it, but character is something which is transferrable wherever you go - cricket or life.

It was nice to read a couple of weeks ago Leigh Kasperek’s thoughts on her fellow off-spinner displaying a lot of calmness in games.

Working on her external composure, shall we say, is something we’ve done a lot of with Emma because she has a tendency to get frustrated when things don’t go her way.

So I’m really pleased that Kasper is seeing those traits in her. That’s really cool.

Phoebe, she’s been great as well.

She was bitterly disappointed with her first innings down at Loughborough in the opening game, nought off two balls.

I was sat with her mum on the sidelines at the time and the typical, ‘Oh no’s’ came out. But I said, ‘No, that’s awesome. For a young kid to come in and have the courage to play a ramp shot with your second ball in senior cricket is just what we want to see’.

That’s what it’s all about.

Her partnership of 26 with Linsey Smith at the end of our innings against the Thunder at Headingley (advancing the Diamonds from 87-6 to end up posting 124 all out) was the game changer in my opinion.

Linsey got out with a couple of overs left, but Phoebe carried on at the back end of that innings and finished with 19 off not many balls. I was so stoked for her.

I sat down with her afterwards and talked to her about the sense of belonging.

After her first few games, it was clear to me that she belonged in that setting. And she had a quiet smirk and a little nod.

I think she really enjoyed that day at Headingley, where she had been sat 12 months ago as a Yorkshire Cricket College student up on the third floor of the Clean Slate Pavilion.

She would have been finishing college and would have been sat there, looking down and no doubt having little dreams that one day she’d be out there at Headingley fulfilling all of her ambitions. I really hope she had a bit of a proud moment with herself.

To not be able to get to Finals Day in the Charlotte Edwards was disappointing.

Disruptive is probably the word to describe our campaign, having had to deal with a couple of injuries which put a few key players out - Beth Langston, Jenny Gunn and Loz (Winfield-Hill) not playing a massive part.

Katherine (Brunt) and Nat (Sciver) only being available for bits and pieces as well.

But what it has done is give the young girls, like Emma and Phoebe, a go. Had all of those been available, we wouldn’t be sat here talking about two huge positives.

Loz îs coming along nicely from her injury, and she will be ready and firing come the end of the month when all the various competitions start up again.

She’s very disciplined when it comes to injury rehab and has been working really hard.

She did get done by the dreaded Covid recently. It wasn’t actually a bad time for her because the injury meant she wasn’t able to play anyway. Had she been ruled out by Covid, I’m not sure I could have handled her!

With the England stuff starting soon and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint 50-over competition, the Hundred as well, there is plenty of cricket for her to get stuck into. She’s chomping at the bit to to get out there.

In terms of Academy cricket, the schedule’s been set up so that there’s a three-week quiet period at this time whilst a lot of players finish off their exams.

Training continues to a certain extent, but we’ll be back on deck fully towards the end of the month.

We’ll be back into fixtures in early July, and then it’s another Festival at Shrewsbury mid-July, which is a highlight of the summer. We can’t wait.

Speaking of highlights, being called into the England Women’s Rugby League squad for the forthcoming internationals against Wales and France, starting this weekend, is up there for me!

It's a big year for Rugby League with a home World Cup in November, and one I hope to be a part of.

Despite being an Aussie, I qualify via residency having lived over here since 2017.

I always say there are silver linings to all situations and that when one door closes, another opens.

Losing my cricket contract with Queensland Cricket/Brisbane Heat back in 2018 hurt, but the opportunity to play on the international stage in a completely new sport… now there’s a silver lining!


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