The UK’s Netball Superleague got underway this weekend, with all 10 teams taking to court in one day at the Season Opener in Nottingham, England.
It was Loughborough Lightning, Surrey Storm, Severn Stars, London Pulse and Manchester Thunder that came away with the first points of the season as they all passed their first test with flying colours winning their opening league match.
As expected, many international stars shone as they took to court continuing their #RoadToCapeTown and here are just some of the athletes we thought deserved recognition this week…
Team Bath 52 – 86 Loughborough Lightning
The first two teams to take to court were Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning, and it was clear from the first whistle that Lightning were here to make their mark this season as they struck down Bath from the off.
By the end of the first 15-minutes Lightning were in front by 10, thanks to standout performances from their defensive trio, Alice Harvey, Francesca Williams and Jasmin Odeogberin.
The three England Roses were fearless on court, capitalising on Team Bath’s errors and battling to claim the ball at every given opportunity to allow their team to continue to extend their lead.
Despite a stronger second quarter from Bath, the damage had already been done by Lightning, who then went on to strike again in the third quarter winning that 15-minutes 7-24.
In Lightning’s first victory of the season Williams showed no sign of slowing down as she made five interceptions, two deflections and six turnovers, getting off to a flying start in the league’s defensive charts where she now sits 2nd in the interception chart and 3rd for turnovers keeping herself very much in contention for a spot in that England team for the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023.
Surrey Storm 68 – 56 Strathclyde Sirens
Following the same pattern as the Team Bath vs Loughborough Lightning match, it was first and third quarter dominance that saw Surrey Storm come away with their first victory of the season over Strathclyde Sirens.
England Rose Layla Guscoth made the first interception of the game for Storm allowing them to take an early 2-1 lead which they then extended to a nine-goal lead by the end of the first quarter.
At the other end of the court international talent also shone with the new Storm shooting combination of Uganda’s Proscovia Peace and England’s Sophie Drakeford-Lewis linking up well in the circle, showing no teething problems and proving clinical under post with Drakeford-Lewis shooting at 100% , scoring 18 goals, before being awarded player of the match and Peace missing just once all game scoring 48 goals as Storm went on to win 68-56.
Saracens Mavericks 55 – 59 Severn Stars
The third match of the day was the closest match, with each team winning two quarters each but Severn Stars coming away with the most important victory – the match.
Just like Storm, Maverick’s also sported a new shooting combination this season with Kira Rothwell joining the squad to team up with South Africa SPAR Protea Ine-Mari Venter and the combination gelled well in the early stages with Venter scoring two goals in quick succession as Mavericks took an early three goal lead into the first break.
However, new look Severn Stars shot out onto court for the second quarter and wasted no time in clawing themselves back into the game, with another South Africa SPAR Protea, Sigi Burger, making her mark in the shooting circle this time.
With 30-minutes to go just one goal separated the two sides, with Mavericks leading 29-28, but that soon changed as Stars began to dominate in the penultimate quarter and in a turn of events took a 41-47 lead which they just about managed to hold onto in the final quarter to win 55-59.
With the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023 being held in South Africa this year both Venter and Burger will be looking for places in the SPAR Proteas squad for their home world cup, and their performances in Round 1 of the Netball Superleague putting them 5th and 2nd in the goal scorers chart will certainly have helped with that.
Leeds Rhinos 48 – 64 London Pulse
There were a few early nerves in the fourth clash of the day with both Leeds Rhinos and London Pulse taking a while to settle into the match.
It was Rhinos that eventually settled first and capitalised off Pulse’s attacking errors as they forced a held ball and made a centre pass turnover to take an early 12-15 lead into the first break.
As the second quarter got underway Pulse began to dominate, and as we predicted in our season preview their defender and England Rose Funmi Fadoju really was one to watch as she made multiple interceptions to help give her side a nine goal lead at half-time.
Putting the first quarter blip behind them, from then on Pulse remained in front winning the match 48-64, with Fadoju firing herself up to 3rd in the deflections chart and 5th in the interceptions chart.
Manchester Thunder 68 – 42 Celtic Dragons
The final match of the day saw the undefeated 2022 title winners Manchester Thunder take to court against Celtic Dragons.
Both teams had a new look this season, with Dragons made up of 10 new players and Thunder only with two of last year’s history making starting seven, however it was Thunder who seemed to settle best with their changes.
The defending champions won all four quarters, with returning captain and England Rose Natalie Metcalf key to the dynamic on court keeping her team motivated and connected whilst also making some key interceptions to keep Thunder on the front foot.
In the second half Thunder’s experienced Metcalf was joined on court by many new teammates, including Scottish Thistle Iona Christian, who helped get Thunders first win across the line.
Despite being on the losing side, Trinidad & Tobago’s Shaquanda Greene-Noel got her season off on a high as she made the most deflections (9) out of any Netball Superleague player in the opening round of the season, showing just why she could be key to Calypso Girls at the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023 this July.
It is a big week for Surrey Storm and Severn Stars who will take to court again tonight (Monday 13th February), as well as next weekend on the 18th.
All other teams will take to court once in round two on either the 17th or 18th February, and you can view the full fixture list here.