Hazell hails 'huge achievement' and 'amazing opportunity' after call to Western Storm Regional Academy programme

Western Storm Regional Academy Programme's Jess Hazell

All smiles for Jess Hazell in her Western Storm Regional Academy programme training top. - Credit: Western Storm/Tracey Hazell

Jess Hazell has called being selected for the first ever Western Storm Regional Academy programme a “huge achievement” and “amazing opportunity.”

A total of 14 players were picked from six hubs across the United Kingdom in Wales, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Cornwall and Devon in sessions taken place before Christmas.

And Hazell, who can play as a top order batter and wicket keeper, was one of four from Somerset, alongside Lola Harris, Niamh Holland and Joleigh Roberts named in the squad.

“I was speechless, I felt like I was on cloud nine. It’s amazing, I’m so, so happy and I couldn’t quite believe it,” she said, after finding out by email she had been successful and will be one of the youngest players named in the team.

“I am doing this Western Storm programme at only 16 and there are people on there who are 22, so I want to keep progressing and stay on this programme and then hopefully feed into the senior Western Storm team and then be selected for England from there.

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“The fact it’s going to be televised and we are playing England Academy teams it’s really helped the girls develop and it’s an amazing achievement that the England and Wales Cricket Board have got this going.

“It’s a huge achievement and I feel I can’t get quite over it. It’s an amazing opportunity I’ve been given and I really want to make the most of it and want to grab this opportunity with both hands and see how far I can actually take myself and put in the hard work.

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“I think my family and my friends are so proud. I’m proud of myself for seeing how far I have come and my hard work paying off.”

Hazell hails the support she has had from parents Kevin and Tracey and the rest of her family have been instrumental in her success, ever since taking up cricket at the age of 10.

“My family are my rock, I’m a family-oriented girl and even through just playing cricket on a beach and getting involved that way," Hazell added.

“We have always been a sporty family, all my siblings are and just getting up and picking up a tennis ball and throwing it around in the garden really kicked off my love for cricket and sport there.

“I’ve waited a long time, a lot of hard work has been put in to get this opportunity and I think it’s amazing to have it televised and having people know a bit more about what you do it’s quite an amazing achievement.

“A lot of people have been congratulating me and it makes me really special that your hard work is paying off.

“Sometime as a women’s cricketer you don’t always get that congratulations as such when you are playing for the men’s. It’s kind of given you have to be as good as them.

“They don’t have the opportunities as the men have had, they haven’t had media or money being brought in and it’s great to see the start of it and to be the start of something new and to see a change in how women’s cricket is going to be viewed.”

Western Storm was established in 2016 and has gone from strength to strength, becoming the most successful side in Kia Super League history by winning the competition in 2017 and 2019 and being the only side to reach every Finals Day.

Hazell has already started training but with the coronavirus pandemic still in place, a lot of measures are in place to ensure safety around the camp.

This includes having to check their temperatures every day before 9am - if they don’t they won’t be able to train for a week - as well as walking to the nets with their masks on and having their own ball throughout the winter.

Millfield's Jess Hazell

Jess Hazell in action for Millfield School. - Credit: Kevin Hazell

The teenager is being coached by Somerset women's captain Sophie Luff, who she calls an 'incredible and lovely person' who does an 'unreal' amount of work to help others, and is currently in her first year of sixth form at Millfield School.

Hazell is studying Biology, Chemistry and PE and aiming to study medicine at university as well as playing for Clifton Robinsons Hockey Club, alongside studies and cricket.

When asked how she has coped it with all, she said: “It’s very hard, I am working really hard and had to miss out on a lot of social time to balance both my hockey and cricket and my academics.

“I’ve always been brought up my academics are the most important things. If I start to slip in my academics my sport goes.

“I wanted to be able to balance them and keep doing my sport. It’s been hard but having school and supportive parents have worked out a balance that works for me.

“There are maybe some sessions I go to or if I am at a session I do work 100 per cent to make the most of that session.

“There’s no point turning up to so many sessions but only working at 75 per cent, you're not going to get as much out of it as you want and you still end up being tired and having to catch up.

“This is a huge, huge opportunity and step in my cricketing career and it’s given me the confidence.

“If I really wanted to work hard I really wanted it and put the hours and dedication in that it has opened up a path in maybe professional cricket.

“If I do put the dedication and hard work in to getting better, it’s become more of a reality that this could happen. I think that’s really exciting."

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