Devon Lions show worth with more graduates into full county side

Hugo Whitlock - one of the Lions graduates who made it into the full Devon side during 2017
Hugo Whitlock - one of the Lions graduates who made it into the full Devon side during 2017

DEVON Lions had another successful year in 2017, developing players from  age-group cricket organised by the DCB and a putting them on the player pathway towards the full Devon side.

The aim of Devon Lions is to identify and develop the next generation of DCCC players. It was therefore pleasing to see a significant number of those involved with the Lions set-up represent the county at the highest level during 2017.

The list of graduates included Hugo Whitlock, Tom Ansell, Joe Thompson, George Benton and Toby Codd.

Matt Skeemer, who had an excellent season with the ball for the Devon Lions in 2017, won the player of the year award.

The season did not start too well with a lacklustre performance against a strong University of Exeter side. In the games against Gloucestershire CCC, Waterkloof HS and Somerset CCC, we had strong passages of play, but were not able to sustain these to create positive results. Those who played in these games will have benefitted greatly from the test.

Tim Western - the Lions' director of cricketFor the first time in the eight-year history of the Devon Lions initiative, we defeated a strong Warwickshire Academy side at Torquay. This was a milestone result, as we have now beaten al the First Class opposition we have faced. ‘Thank-you’ again to the clubs who offered their facilities to host these important fixtures.

Reviewing the position after the 2017 season, we agreed to enhance our commitment to educating and preparing the players about physical conditioning and reaffirming its importance. This has been difficult with lack of player availability in the close season. Therefore we will be more active throughout the coming playing season, within the club environment. We are very fortunate to have Oli Whitton, leading the strength and conditioning side of the Devon Lions set-up.

In 2017, we reverted to bringing in an experienced captain to marshall the young talent and assist with the development of their tactical skills. Richard Foan, who represented the 1st XI many times in the past, led the team and this was very beneficial.

Moving forwards, we will be looking to work even closer with Tolchards Devon League clubs to maintain the progression of the emerging players in that environment and also to identify additional players who have the potential to represent the county at the highest level. It has shown that this is not restricted just to the Premier or A Division clubs. It is vitally important that emerging players use their Saturday cricket to press claims for selection in the Devon Lions.

A big thank-you to the support team who respond to the needs of the individuals and challenge the players to be the best they can. Dave Tall joined the support team in 2017 and has fitted in well to the set-up. This volunteer team take their rewards from seeing the players' performances improve and for some progress into the full county side.

As with the 2017 close season, a high number of our players are overseas or at universities too far away from the South West to travel back. This has reduced the contact time we have with the players, but those who are around received one-to-one sessions held at the Devon Cricket Centre.

We have an exciting summer programme of fixtures in 2018 and again welcome the whole Devon cricket family to come and support the hungriest and most talented young players, who will represent the county and wear the Devon Lion with pride.

Tim Western

Director of Devon Lions 

The Devon Lions team that defeated Warwickshire’s Academy at Torquay. Back (left to right): Tim Western (coach), Dave Tall (coach), Dan Wolf, Richard Ashworth, Joe Hagan-Burt, Joe Thompson, Matt Skeemer, Dan Goodey, Hal Kerton, Peter Langford (scorer). Front: Matt Petherbridge, George Allen, Richard Foan, Justin Yau, Toby Codd​