The Anthony Axford North West Cricket League have taken the first steps in what they believe will be a five or six-year plan to create a successful female structure within the league.

This summer will see the introduction of the first two points in their plan; a softball division for 11 and 12-year-olds and an under-14s NWCL hardball inter-league team.

Leading the project are Tracey Brooks, league administrator and junior administration officer, and Matt Seigne, junior chair.

“This is something myself and Matt are very passionate about,” said Brooks. “Hopefully in five or six years, we’ll have something in every age-group. That’s ambitious, but we’re certainly aiming for that.

“For now, we will start small with a couple of things this year, grow it, and hopefully this will give us some strength to build on.

“One thing we’re doing is an 11-12-year-old mini division. We’ve got five teams at the minute, and I’m trying to get another club to run a sixth which will be one made up of girls from different clubs - those who haven’t quite got the numbers to make their own team.

“That will be softball based on Dynamos Cricket, where you play a number of balls instead of overs.

“Two of those clubs are not from our league. Ramsbottom and Wigan have entered teams, and we also have Atherton, Blackrod and Tonge.

“If I can get someone to run this sixth team, that means each team will play 10 games. If that’s successful, we’ll look to expand it in the following years.

“The other is that we’re introducing an under-14s hardball inter-league side.

“Last year what happened was Lancashire took any girls nominations we had and put them in teams with other various leagues, made teams up and played some games.

“So we asked for this summer, ‘Can we enter our own team at one of the age-groups to see how we go on?’

“I’ve got 16-18 girls who are coming to some nets in March. I think they’re going to be playing their games in the six-week summer holiday, but we haven’t been given the fixtures yet.”

Brooks was asked whether a successful NWCL has to have, in time, a thriving female structure.

“One hundred per cent,” she continued. “For me, we need to give these girls something for them.

“What I’ve seen over a number of years is that girls get to certain age, generally high-school age, there’s a drop off with cricket.

“Maybe people don’t see it as cool, puberty is a factor - things like that. Then very few come through to senior cricket.

“To have something for them, when they’re with other girls, is huge.

“We’ve spoken about all manner of things, like the colour of kits. We don’t want them playing in white.

“We believe that if they have the chance to play with girls, they’ll also carry on playing with the boys.”

Clubs from across the NWCL have a rich history with producing female talent.

Read have produced England World Cup winner Alex Hartley and current Northern Diamonds seamer, Sophia Turner, for example, while Thunder all-rounder Shachi Pai came through at Astley Bridge.

In 2022, Abbey Mort scored a second-team century for Kearsley - the first female player to do in senior Bolton League cricket.

“There are a good number of girls who have come through our clubs and done great things. But we want more,” said Brooks.

“It’s more accessible now more than ever. Women’s cricket is a regular thing on the television, so girls are seeing it and wanting to get involved, which is fantastic.”

As for this summer, Brooks has further explained how she sees things working.

Firstly, on the softball division, she said: “We’re just in the process of getting fixtures sorted and rules. We’re looking at something along the lines of 75 balls an innings, which should take about an hour and a half for the full game.

“This is about getting girls playing cricket with other girls. I don’t mind how teams are made up, I just want someone to run that sixth team and base it from their club.

“While we’re saying it’s 11-12 age wise, we would accept players who are younger given the fact it’s softball and it won’t be as dangerous. We wouldn’t even rule out teams joining in midway through the summer if it helps us build.

“In terms of scheduling, one thing we’re keen to avoid is a clash with boys’ cricket. Some of the girls play boys’ cricket, and we don’t want to take a game of cricket away from them.

“Hopefully, games will take place when other girls, who are not playing, are around the clubs with their families and will think, ‘I want to have a go at that’.”

And in terms of the inter-league side, she added: “The majority of the girls who have signed up to that are from the old Bolton League clubs, but we do have a few from the Ribblesdale side of things - and we’d love more.

“I know Salesbury are quite big on girls cricket and are already settled into a league, so I understand why we haven’t picked any of their girls up, for example. But hopefully other clubs see this and get in touch with players.

“We’ve also just designed a coloured shirt that we’ll have made for them. It’s all really exciting.”

For further information, contact Tracey Brooks by email to or Matt Seigne at