THE 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season is officially done and dusted meaning it is now time for our postseason reviews. Next up is London Pulse, a side which came into the season with plenty of potential, but was shaken up from the get-go and took a long time to adjust to the rigours of the competition.
Season form: 6-14 (8th)
While the Pulse had a heap of potential this season, it took them a long time to find their form and what worked for them across the court. The side had no shortage of international and homegrown talent, however the players just did not appear to gel on court early in the season despite their formidable individuals. Sigi Burger had a heap of pressure piled on her shoulders from the get-go with Lefebre Rademan shaky to start while Kira Rothwell was slightly inconsistent, however by the latter stage of the season the side had its front-end all but figured out with Olivia Tchine proving she was capable of stepping up when Burger was injured, and earning more court time as the season went on. The midcourt was probably the point of difference, providing strength early in the season and reliability later on, although it was the back-end which really stood up when it mattered as youngster Funmi Fadoju picked up where she left off last year, alongside Halimat Adio before the co-captain went down with injury, as well as Lindsay Keable and Zara Everitt. While it was not quite the season the Pulse hoped for, they certainly sent warning signs to the top sides on a number of occasions with three wins in their final five matches, and relatively close margins with some of the top sides once they got over their slow start.
Best win: Def. Saracens Mavericks 46-33, Round 19
Pulse ended up with a number of impressive performances throughout the season, though there is no doubt their Round 19 victory over Mavericks takes the cake as the best of the best, registering a 13-goal victory to complete their season on a high and ensure Mavericks did not make the finals. The Mavericks registered more intercepts and deflections, however the Pulse proved cleaner with ball in hand and made the most of their opportunities and Mavericks’ fatigue. Ashleigh Dekker’s workrate was critical in the clash, while Tchine (35 goals) and Rademan (11) were accurate to post leaving little to chance with their accuracy and combination proving hard to combat. Michelle Drayne and Everitt combined for four turnovers while Fadoju and Keable were hard to stop, as Fadoju’s spark saw her pile on four turnovers (six deflections, one intercept) and goal keeper Keable’s reliability earned her four turnovers (four deflections, two intercepts) at the back. Also on the Pulse’s list of strong performances was their Round 10/11 loss to Team Bath, keeping the side to just 37 goals, whilst also challenging Thunder, Lightning and Wasps in consecutive weeks, losing by less than 10 goals to each of the three sides.
Standout player: Funmi Fadoju
Most Improved: Olivia Tchine
Of the plethora of talented players at the Pulse’s disposal this season, any number could have been the standout or most improved, making it hard to come to a conclusion. Given her livewire ways and ability to pluck ball out of the air on a consistent basis, it is Fadoju who gets the nod as the standout with the youngster consistently impressing. Her speed, endurance and aerial ability is a huge weapon for the Pulse, and proved to be a gamechanger on a number of occasions, stepping up when required – and even when not. Fadoju’s willingness to challenge for the loose ball and cleanly contest no matter the opposition was another key attribute, able to create something out of nothing and finishing with an average of 1.8 intercepts, four deflections and three turnovers for the season. Tchine on the other hand, appeared to come out of nowhere and stood tall at the post whenever she took the court. While still young, the goaler stepped up to the plate and piled on the offensive pressure time and time again, willing to go to post and rarely shying away from the contest. Averaging an accuracy of 85 per cent going to post, Tchine was rarely phased and used her great vision up the court and drives into space to wreak havoc in the Pulse front-end.
Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography