As we continue the #RoadToCapeTown keeping an eye on our international stars that could feature in the competition is even more important this year.
One league that will see lots of international players take to court is the UK’s Netball Superleague, which will return on the 11th February with all 10 teams taking to court in the Season Opener at the Nottingham Motorpoint Arena.
Here are just some of the international players we think you should keep an eye on this season…
First up, we have Wales based side Celtic Dragons and it goes without saying that they have lots of Welsh stars in their squad.
Wales have qualified for the Netball World Cup 2023 (NWC2023), having finished the Netball World Cup Qualifiers (NWCQ) Europe unbeaten, with Celtic Dragon’s shooter Georgia Rowe a key part of the squad that secured qualification.
Joining Rowe in the shooting circle will be her fellow Welsh Feather Phillipa Yarrington, and we think this will be a great partnership to watch develop ahead of the summer.
Also, in the Dragons squad, at the other end of the court, is fan favourite Shaquanda Greene-Noel who is also in with a chance of going to Cape Town this summer with her country, Trinidad & Tobago, after they won the NWCQ’s Americas to book their spot.
Greene-Noel had a memorable 2022 for both club and country, as she was a key part of the Calypso Girls team at the Birmingham 2022 (B2022) Commonwealth Games, whilst at domestic level she finished top of the turnover charts, and 3rd in the interceptions chart. We are excited to see if the circle defender starts 2023 just at strong!
The hosts of the NWC2023 are South Africa, and Leeds Rhinos are lucky enough to have not one, but two SPAR Proteas, Elemre van der Berg and Nicola Smith, in their squad this season.
The 21-year-old, scored 139 goals from 148 attempts and had 22 goal assists from 25 feeds at the Commonwealth Games, and then at the NWC2023 qualifiers was named the ‘Best Shooter’.
A well-known Superleague star, Nia Jones, has also joined Rhino’s this year, having left Celtic Dragons.
The welsh international, who also plays football, is sure to be one to watch, as she battles for her spot in the Welsh NWC2023 squad.
Moving down South, to the capital city of England, next up we have London Pulse who will be looking to have another strong season, after making club history with their record finish of 3rd in the 2022 league and 4thfollowing the play-offs.
Their side is made up of lots of new and known England Roses’ talent, including Olivia Tchine who shone in the recent Roses Series against the Jamaican Sunshine Girls, playing the full 60 minutes in the second match and shooting at 96% for her country.
Speaking on young Roses’ talent, at the other end of the court Pulse will have the option of Funmi Fadoju, who also stepped up when called upon in the recent Vitality Roses Series against the Sunshine Girls, and then again in the Quad Series, where she was named Player of the Match in England’s victorious Third Place Play Off against South Africa.
Finally, perhaps more known to the netball world, in the middle of the court for Pulse this season you will see England’s most capped player Jade Clarke MBE, who recently achieved her 200th cap.
Clarke played in her 5th Commonwealth Games last summer, and we are sure she will bring great leadership and experience to this young Pulse team this season.
These Roses’ will all be wanting to impress to book their place on the plane to Cape Town this summer.
Lightning will be wanting to strike back this season, having finished the 2022 campaign in 2nd place losing the Manchester Thunder in the Grand-Final.
Helping them to do so they have many returning players who are still hungry for more, such as Uganda She Crane, Mary Cholhok, who finished the 2022 season as the 5th highest goal scorer in the league with 633 goals to her name.
Cholhok had a successful summer, playing for Uganda at the Commonwealth Games, and helping them finish 5th and qualifying automatically for the NWC2023 thanks to their position in the World Netball World Rankings as of the 12th August 2022.
Also staying loyal to Lightning this year is England Rose Alice Harvey, who made her debut for the Vitality Roses at the end of 2022, and recently impressed against Jamaica.
Finally, also in the defensive circle, we recommend keeping your eye on South Africa SPAR Protea Zanele Vimbela, who will be working hard to be spotted and chosen for the NWC in her home country.
We have spoken about Wales and England, but the other team in Europe who qualified for the NWC2023 is Scotland, and Netball Superleague reigning champions, Thunder, have one of their best players, Iona Christian.
The mid-court star has returned to Manchester Thunder, where she started her franchise journey playing in their performance pathway and she will be wanting to cement her spot in the team in a bid to impress Thistle’s coach Tamsin Greenway ahead of the World Cup.
Another Thunder player who will be wanting to continue their #RoadToCapeTown with a positive domestic league season is England Roses’ captain Natalie Metcalf, who has also been named as the Thunder captain for 2023. We can’t wait to see her leadership throughout the court.
Meanwhile, two SPAR Proteas, Lenzie Potgieter and Shadine van der Merwe, also make up their squad for 2023.
Van der Merwe has joined the leadership team alongside Metcalf as the vice-captain, being named as an “obvious choice” by head coach, Karen Greig. The defender will be hoping she will also be an “obvious choice” for the SPAR Proteas head-coach Norma Plummer this summer to feature in the first NWC on the African continent.
Sticking with the theme of SPAR Proteas duo’s, Saracens Mavericks also have their very own South Africa double in Monique Meyer and Ine-Mari Venter.
Venter needs no introduction to the Superleague fanbase as she begins her 3rd season in the UK, whilst for Meyer this will be her Netball Superleague debut season.
The defender joins from the Gauteng Golden Fireballs in South Africa’s Telkom League, where she won the league in 2022.
The player was named ‘Defender of the Year’ in the league last season, and will be hoping to showcase her skills in the UK now.
Finally, we can’t move on from Maverick’s without mentioning Welsh Feather, Christina Shaw, who has joined them this season.
Having finished the 2022 season bottom of the table, Severn Stars will be looking to bounce back and shine this season.
Stars have made a few changes to their squad, notably with South Africa SPAR Protea, Sigi Burger, joining the side from Leeds Rhinos.
As well as helping Stars find their sparkle again, having missed out in a place in the B2022 SPAR Proteas squad, Sigi will be hoping to shine herself on court this season to be in with a chance of being part of the squad in her home country this year for the NWC2023.
Next up, we have Scottish based side, Strathclyde Sirens.
Scotland hosted the NWCQ’s Europe in 2022 at Siren’s home the Emirates Arena, and many Scottish Thistles that were part of that event, including Emma Barrie, Kelly Boyle, Bethan Goodwin, Emily Nicholl, Niamh McCall and of course captain Claire Maxwell will make up this season Sirens side.
One Thistle and Siren’s player we would watch closely this season is World Netball Voice of the Athlete Working Group member, Emily Nicholl.
Over the Netball Superleague break, Nicholl jetted off to Australia where she trained with Suncorp Super Netball side, West Coast Fever for three weeks, and she will now be looking to bring back what she learnt from her time down under to the UK.
Other International players to watch at Sirens this season include Uganda’s Stella Oyella and Malawi’s Towera Vinkhumbo.
Vinkhumbo finished the 2022 season with Siren’s flying high on the court, and in the turnover and interception charts where she finished 2nd in both.
Malawi have also qualified for the NWC this summer, and the defender will be hoping to have a spot in the side for the first NWC on her home continent, Africa, after being a key performer in their B2022 squad.
A storm is brewing in Surrey ahead of the 2023 season, as player coach, Mikki Austin, has pulled together a star studded line-up for the campaign.
Two of Team Bath’s 2022 starters and England Roses’, Layla Guscoth and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, have joined Storm ahead of the 2023 season.
Last season for Bath, Guscoth topped the leagues interceptions chart, with 67 to her name,
and the defender is showing no signs of slowing down as she prepares for this domestic league season, having been named ‘Player of the Series’ when England beat Jamacia 2 matches to 1 in January.
Another highflyer of 2022 was Proscovia Peace, as she topped the leagues’ goal scoring charts having netted 853 goals for Storm, and the Uganda international remains with the squad this year, ready to team-up with new-recruit Drakeford-Lewis.
Last, but by no means least we have Team Bath.
A key returning member of this squad is England Rose Imogen Allison, who made her Superleague debut for Team Bath in 2020, before coming a key part of the squad in 2021 and 2022.
Allison will be joined this year in the centre court by Welsh Feather, Bethan Dyke, who has made the switch from Stars to Bath.
This switch will see Dyke work with fellow Welsh international, Betsy Creak, in the build-up to the NWC2023.
A great opportunity for Dyke to practice those feeds into Creak ahead of the summer, and a duo we are sure Welsh fans will enjoy watching.
To find out more about the UK’s Netball Superleague, visit their website here.
To find out more about the start date of the other domestic leagues around the world, visit our Domestic League page here.
In the build-up to each of these leagues starting we will be bringing you previews shining a light on some international stars, ahead of the return of our weekly International Player Watch articles from 2022.