Title-winning captain Josh Gent believes his Little Lever side will defend their Anthony Axford North West Cricket League crown in 2024 - as long as they turn up with the same attitude they did this season.

Little Lever won the inaugural Premiership title, owing much to starting the summer with a 14-game winning streak, discounting a couple of abandoned fixtures.

Their first defeat came against Baxenden on August 12.

Gent has been speaking as part of a season review for the NWCL website, with Simon Booth (Farnworth), Mack Spencer (Ribblesdale Wanderers), Jameel Stuart (Farnworth Social Circle) and Liam Winstanley (Brinscall) also involved.

And he was asked who he believes will be their biggest challengers next summer.

“Ourselves in a way,” said the skipper whose side also won the T20 Birtwistle Cup. “If you win something, your biggest challenge is defending it.

“A lot will be determined on how we turn up.

“If we turn up like we have done this year, I’d expect us to win it again. If we don’t, there’s a number of teams. In that top 12, if anybody gets going, they can challenge.”

Just behind Little Lever were Lostock, Farnworth Social Circle, Hamer Cup champions Padiham and Farnworth.

Social Circle pro Stuart, the league’s leading run-scorer with 1,296 added to 57 wickets, said: “I was very impressed with Padiham.

“I thought, overall, they had the best all-round team in the league. Everyone chips in. If they can keep the same team, I think they will challenge.

“I’d also say ourselves, Farnworth, as well.

“You should also watch out for Tonge this year. Their pro (Hashan Dumindu) is very good, and they’ve signed Justin Gilliland as their overseas amateur from Barnoldswick. He’s a very good player. They are ones to watch out for.”

Tonge finished 12th in the table, just inside the cut-off line for a place in next year’s Premiership when the league splits into two.

Farnworth skipper Booth said: “I think next season will be the toughest we’ve all had for a long time.

“The division splits, and you’re not going to get any easy games, especially in the top one. We play each other twice, whereas playing each other once this year weather dictated a few things.

“It’s exciting, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Booth also doubles up as a committee member with the NWCL and reflected positively on the league’s first season.

“With every league season, this one more than ever, you can always improve,” he said. “But, from a league’s perspective, I think everything has gone as well as can be expected. And the things which haven’t gone as well, we’ll improve on.”

Gent said: “I’m really glad the NWCL has gone well. I was a real advocate for it, and we were as a club. Credit to the people who have set it up. They’ve made a fantastic job of it.

“It was thrown together really quickly, like Simon says, and the first season went really well.

“It went as well as I could have ever imagined. We won two of three trophies.

“As a club, it was a great season - the best we’ve had for years.”

Gent also gave an update on his club’s pursuit of South Australia captain Jake Lehmann as professional, who they still hope will return for a second season.

“I can’t give you an update until after Christmas because that’s when they start getting released (by their states),” added Gent. “If we can get him back next year, fantastic. Jake’s the best pro and the best bloke I’ve played with. I think everyone at Little Lever would agree with that. I just hope he can come back. If he can’t, we respect that. But I’m very confident he will.

“If we don’t, for all the people saying we’ll be mid-table if we don’t sign him, I don’t think so. We’re going to try and carry on winning.”