FOUR Somerset players have been selected for the first ever Western Storm Regional Academy programme.

Sessions took place before Christmas to observe a large number of players from across the region, with nominations from Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wales and Wiltshire.

A total of 14 players were selected, including Jess Hazell, Lola Harris, Niamh Holland and Joleigh Roberts from Somerset.

Hazell, a top order batter and wicket keeper, attends Millfield School, while leg-spinner Harris made headlines in 2018, when she claimed two hat-tricks on consecutive days for Bath Cricket Club junior teams as an 11-year-old.

Holland and Roberts are both all-rounders; the former is a Wellington School student, and the latter goes to Taunton School while playing her club cricket for Bridgwater CC.

In addition to those four, Devonian Olivia Churcher studies at Wellington School, and Cornwall cricketer Emily Geach has played for Bridgwater.

The other players to be selected are: Emma Corney (Devon), Zoe Dibble (Gloucestershire), Bethan Gammon (Wales), Rebecca Odgers (Cornwall), Sara Phillips (Wales), Mollie Robbins (Gloucestershire), Chloe Skelton (Gloucestershire) and Sophia Smale (Wales)

The regional academy will consist of a variety of practice and match opportunities through to the end of August 2021, with each player attending a weekly hub session in their region; fortnightly squad sessions on the weekend will also begin when Covid-19 restrictions allow.

Players will receive technical, tactical, strength & conditioning, physiotherapy and medical support.

Dan Helesfay, Western Storm’s senior regional talent manager, who will lead up the Academy group, said: “A massive thank you has to go to all of those who made the observations possible.

"The flexibility that staff, facilities, and parents of nominees have shown has allowed us to take the game forward, so everyone associated with Western Storm is extremely grateful for all of their efforts.

“I would also like to congratulate all of those who have been selected. We can’t wait to work with the 14 players this year.

"For those who were not selected, it is important to remember that this is not the end of the journey.

"The Pathway and the accessibility of players within the Pathway has never been more defined.

"I look forward to seeing more players in their respective sessions across the region with their counties, and at fixtures throughout the summer.”

Lisa Pagett, regional director of women’s cricket, added: “It has been a monumental effort by Dan to reach the stage of selecting the first ever Academy intake for Western Storm.

"The selected players have a fantastic opportunity ahead of them to access a brilliant level of support, which will make a huge difference to their development.

"One of the things that pleases me the most about the Academy selections is that they are representative of the whole region, and a true reflection of the great work going on in the counties that feed into Storm.”