NORTHERN Diamonds have announced that eight players have been awarded full-time contracts for the 2022 season.

Bess Heath, Sterre Kalis, Katie Levick and Rachel Slater have been awarded their first full-time contracts with the Headingley-based side, while Hollie Armitage, Jenny Gunn, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith have been retained heading into next season.

Bowler Phoebe Graham and batter Ami Campbell have opted to sign for Thunder and Central Sparks respectively.

Following a very successful season for Northern Diamonds, and for women’s cricket in England generally, the increase in contracts heading into next summer is another huge step forward for the game.

The ECB have increased their funding to cover six full-time professionals, while Yorkshire County Cricket Club have invested in a further two professional players.

The Northern Diamonds will be planning to build on their 2021 performances, which saw them reach two finals in the regional competitions.

Northern Diamonds’ director of cricket, James Carr, commented: “It’s really good of the ECB to continue to support us and gradually uplift the contracts year on year.

“The additional support from Yorkshire County Cricket Club as the regional host has taken us from six to eight full-time contracts, which will allow us to continue to have that competitive edge and show that professional cricket for women is a viable career.

“We’ve had two hugely successful years but have fallen slightly short at the final hurdle and I think the additional contracts will allow us to put in a bit more attention to detail that can take us one step further.

“The whole squad have almost been full-time because of Covid, so even the pay-as-you-play players have been able to access more of training.

“I think the upward trajectory of the women’s game has maybe been steeper than anticipated because of this.

“Being able to offer a woman a salary so that they can commit their working week to the game pays massive dividends, alongside the holistic support.”