Rachel Slater has described securing a professional contract with the Northern Diamonds as “a dream come true”.
A former Yorkshire age-group captain who turns 20 later this month, left-arm seamer Slater has been newly contracted alongside close friend Bess Heath, Sterre Kalis and Katie Levick.
Slater only debuted for the Diamonds in August, claiming two wickets in her first eight balls in a Charlotte Edwards Cup win over Western Storm at Durham’s Riverside ground.
“I’m over the moon,” said American-born but Leeds raised Slater.
“I couldn’t stop smiling when James (Carr) rang me and told me. It’s a dream come true. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was a little girl, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.
“It would have been nice to pick up a trophy, or even two, in the summer. But, from a personal point of view, I’m pretty pleased with how it’s gone.
“It was second ball I got a wicket against Storm, and there’s not really a better way to settle the nerves. That set me up nicely.
“But if you’d have told me three or four months ago that I’d be here having this conversation with you now, I wouldn’t have believed you.
“I’m so happy that all my hard work has paid off.”
That aforementioned conversation with Diamonds director of cricket Carr seemed like a pretty quick one.
“I said, ‘Yes’ straightaway,” said new ball bowler Slater. “It was a no brainer. It’s an opportunity not a lot of girls have, so I couldn’t really turn it down.”
Slater will link up with the Diamonds squad when they return to pre-season training in the coming days.
Unlike leg-spinner Levick, she is not giving up full-time work.
“I left school not very long ago - a year and a bit ago,” she explained. “Since then, I’ve been working as a personal trainer alongside a bit of cricket coaching.
“I’ve been lucky that it’s flexible work, and I could work it around my cricket. That helped me a lot.
“I’ll need to chat to a few people, but I’m sure I’ll continue to do it in some capacity on the side because I do really enjoy it.”
Slater is relishing the prospect of a full winter’s training with the Diamonds.
She said: “I had a knee operation in January or February this year. Coming into the season, I wasn’t quite fit. Not long after I got fit, I picked up an ankle injury, which is a recurring thing.
“I was injured for the first half of the season, and I put a lot of work in to get back.
“That was my third operation (two knee and an ankle). I’ve not had a full winter of training for the last five years, whether it’s been through Covid or injury. I’ve always missed a couple of months, if not more.
“I wear an ankle brace because I’ve had a few issues in the past. But it feels like I’m through that now.
“Hopefully I can have a full winter at it and really nail a few things.”
Slater, who claimed seven wickets in as many T20 and one-day appearances for the Diamonds added: “I spoke to the coaches even before I knew I had a contract. I’m happy with how it’s all gone, but I do see a lot of areas to improve on and get better at. And I’m in and around a great group of players to be able to do that with the experience and knowledge we have.
“It’s just going to be about adding skills and variations.
“There were stages when I came back on to bowl through the middle or at the death, I would go for more runs than I’d have liked to. So it’s going to be about finding ways around that and developing new skills for those situations.
“Also, it’s making sure I keep swinging the ball up front and getting it in those right areas.”