Vitality Netball Superleague Preview
By Peter Moore
It will soon be time for another Netball season as all ten teams gear up for another chance to emulate last seasons Champions the Manchester Thunder.
The season will start on Saturday 22nd February, when all ten sides will be in action at the Birmingham Arena.
Ahead of the new season, let’s look at all sides competing in the League.
Last seasons Superleague Champions have retained much of their 2019 winning squad. Thunder have lost Kerry Almond who retired at the end of last season. Despite being unable to hold on to New Zealander Liana Leota, the main force of Thunder’s attack last season, the Manchester based unit under Head Coach Karen Greig have acquired the services of former London Pulse players Ashleigh Neal and Loreen Ngwira. With these two additions, expect another strong showing from Thunder again this campaign.
Runners up from last season Wasps look to have a squad that once again will be up their challenging again this season.
Head Coach Mel Mansfield has retained experienced England internationals Rachel Dunn and Jade Clarke. New additions to the team are Australian Alexia Barker and new signing from Severn Stars Iona Christian.
Wasps have had an interesting pre season by entering Netball New Zealand’s Super Cup tournament, with much of the 2020 squad in attendance.
New Head Coach Jo Vann will be hoping that new signings Fionnula Toner(London Pulse) and South African international Khanyisa Chawane will be able to fill the role of Serena Guthrie, who will be taking a year-long sabbatical from netball.
Bath have successfully retained the shooting partnership of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, which was very profitable last term, so once again expect big things from the two girls.
Lightning’s 2020 squad features many returning faces and have lost only one player Amy Clinton to Celtic Dragons.
Head Coach Sara Bayman- in her second season in charge- will look to the experienced head of England player Nat Panagarry to back up her much youthful side.
Lightning have strengthened their squad with the signings of Samantha May from Wasps and Jasmine Odeogberin from Pulse. Signing May will certainly boost lightning’s defensive end, which struggled last campaign.
Mavericks are another side that have made very little changes to their squad for the forthcoming campaign. They will be looking to improve this season after a fifth-place finish in 2019.
The stand out signing for Saracens has to be England player Rose Jodie Gibson, who is back in the superleague after a bad knee injury.
A squad that has no less than six England internationals and a strong defensive line up, will be one of the sides to watch.
Chloe Essam has made the decision to join the Hertfordshire outfit from Wasps to increase their chances of silverware this season.
New Head Coach Melissa Besell has been a busy lady the past few months having signed no less than six new players ahead of the new season.
With the loss of Jodie Gibson in defence, Besell will be looking to exiting new signing Towera Vinkhumbo from Malawi to replace the England international.
Also new faces into the Stars line up are Georgia Rowe, Bethan Dyke and Nia Jones from Celtic Dragons. Liana Leota from Manchester Thunder and Ama Agbeze from London Pulse.
As for how Stars will fare will mainly be how quick they can gel as a unit with so many new players.
Storm have a new look this year with Director of Netball Mikki Austin snapping up Australian Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin from Mavericks. Charlotte Curtis has been added from Team Bath alongside fellow Australian international Leah Middleton and Niamh Cooper from Northern Ireland.
Shooter Baily looks to be a key signing for the Surrey based outfit. Standing at a shade under 2 metres, the experienced Australian looks to be an astute addition.
If the new signings can gel well with the current crop of players, then Storm could well be in contention for a play off place come the end of the season.
Dragons have suffered some big loses in the past few months, including Kalifa McCollin, who headed to New Zealand and three Welsh internationals, all making the move to Stars.
Dragons have picked up Shona O’Dwyer from Stars, Amy Clinton from Loughborough Lightning, Leila Thomas from Team Bath and Paige Kindred from Manchester Thunder.
The Welsh based side have also snapped up two emerging players from Jamaica in the shape of Latanya Wilson and Rebekah Robinson, who made her debut for the Sunshine Girls at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
New Coach Lesley MacDonald has boosted Sirens squad by signing South African Zanele Vimbela and Australian Natalie Bright. The two international players will enhance a side who struggled last term.
The Scottish outfit have also added former London Pulse player Taylor Cullen to their line up ahead of the new season.
Captain Claire Maxwell has also decided this term to take on a coaching role for the Scottish franchise.
A host of players left the London based side to move on to other clubs during the transfer period.
Sam Bird has replaced Te Aroha Keenan as Head Coach alongside England Netball Performance Coach Danni Titmus who has joined Pulse.
South African Sigi Burger has made the move from Storm to Pulse and is followed by New Zealander Kate Lloyd and Adean Thomas from Jamaica. Michelle Drayne and Lindsey Keable have been signed from Mavericks, with Zara Everitt joining from Lightning and Halimat Adio from Stars.
Having finished bottom of the table in their debut season, Pulse will be looking to improve on last seasons disappointing finishing position.