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“It has been a long hard winter, but we’re all ready for the season now,” is the sentiment echoing in the squad as the South East Stars aim to begin their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaign next week on a positive note.

In the lead-up to the season has been a winter of growth and development, which began with the Stars becoming the first regional outfit to have a senior squad of 19 players and ended with the side rising to a roster of 21 players.

One of the six players who joined the squad is Chloe Hill, a seasoned wicketkeeper-batter, who captains Worcestershire Rapids and impressed on her loan period with the Stars last summer. “I have really enjoyed the winter,” shares Hill, “It’s just one big family here… there’s a really good environment, great group, and lots of banter between coaches and players.”

While there has been an influx of players in the team, many Stars were also travelling around the globe throughout the winter to ply their trade. Among them were Bryony Smith and Sophia Dunkley, who played in the WBBL down under, as well as Alice Capsey, who featured alongside Dunkley in Australia before flying to India to represent Delhi Capitals in the WPL.

Capsey and Dunkley also joined the Three Lions on tours to India and New Zealand while Alice Davidson-Richards, Tash Farrant, Ryana MacDonald-Gay, Paige Schofield, and Kalea Moore got a run with the England A side. Exciting talents Tilly Corteen-Coleman, Charlotte Lambert, and Alexa Stonehouse were part of an England u19 squad that toured Sri Lanka for a tri-series against the hosts and Australia.

To kickstart the preseason preparations and get in some match practice ahead of the summer, Bryony Smith’s side headed over to Abu Dhabi for a training camp, where they played multiple friendly matches against The Blaze. “It was an amazing experience,” says Chathli. “We were really fortunate to be outside after training indoors for so long.”

Phoebe Franklin, who was one of the standout performers in the 2023 Charlotte Edwards Cup before her season was curtailed by injury, believes that getting match practice in Abu Dhabi ahead of the season was of great significance. Franklin adds that batting in the middle there “was really good to solidify some technical stuff” she had been focusing on in training.

Another returnee to the squad this season will be Emma Jones, who has been extremely unfortunate with injuries in the previous two seasons. “I’m so excited to get going… I feel like I’ve been waiting for far too long at this point,” says Jones. “Try to bowl quick, come in and be able to hit the hall hard, take some spectacular catches, and get some great run outs,” are a few of the things on Jones’ to-do list this season.

“Everyone looks out for each other… you just feel like you’re sharing everyone’s successes but are also ready to pick people up if they’re feeling a bit down,” Jones gives an insight into the team culture and how supportive the squad has been towards her. “It’s an amazing group of girls. I don’t know how we’ve managed to find this many good eggs.”

Heading into the first game of the season, Frankin is positive that the team is in a good place to “chase down those two trophies”. She continues, “We’ve been in contention for the last couple of years and were really brave in the way we played. I think if we can keep playing that way of cricket, we definitely have a chance of winning some trophies this year!”

A blockbuster tie against the reigning champions, Southern Vipers, will kick off the Stars’ campaign at Beckenham on Saturday, 20 April. Entry is FREE to all!