Tag: emma dovey

VNSL: Leading stats

ALTHOUGH the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season is on hold Draft Central casts an eye over the leading player in each statistical area after four rounds and the influence they could have on the competition if they continue on that trajectory when the season resumes.

It is no surprise that England Roses and Wasps Netball goal shooter, Rachel Dunn is head of the leader board with the quick footed and accurate goaler amassing 158 goals from her four outings. Dunn is a commanding figure under the post and while she does not tower over defenders it is her precise movement that gives her that competitive edge and if she continues that form it will go a long way for the Wasps. In at second on the leader board is Severn Stars shooter, Georgia Rowe with 151 goals to her name across four matches. In their three appearances Mary Cholhok notched up 146 goals, while co-captain and Team Bath goal shooter Kim Commane managed 137, mounting a good foundation for Bath to build off upon their return. Rounding out the top five is Saracen Mavericks youngster and shooting sensation George Fisher who asserted herself on the competition with 131 goals in just three games. Fisher could be a key reason for her side’s success in 2020 with her strong holds and clever positioning.

Putting up shots is no easy feat but being able to convert them is even harder. But that did not seem to be an issue for Spar Proteas goaler and new London Pulse recruit Sigi Burger who tops the table at 97.64 per cent given she converted 124 goals out of 127 attempts across her three games. Cholhok comes in at second with the Ugandan shooter proving to be no slouch under the post with a conversion rate of 94.81 per cent, while Rowe managed 94.38. Dunn also featured in the top five with her accuracy under the post working wonders sitting at 92.94 while Fisher managed 131 goals from 142 attempts at an impressive 92.25 per cent.

There is no shortage of stars when it comes to defence with none bigger than up and coming Roses defender and Saracens Mavericks goal keeper Razia Quashie. The light-footed defender is able to gobble up any intercept that comes her way credit to ability to read the play. Quashie currently sits pretty on top of the leader board with 15 intercepts across the first three games of the season and if she keeps it up will give the Mavericks a fighting shot at the premiership. Jamaican youngster and Celtic Dragons defender Latanya Wilson also starred in her two appearances impressively racking up 14 intercepts while Towera Vinkhumbo proved to be a wall in defence for the Severn Stars with 13 intercepts to her name. The experienced Emma Dovey takes out fourth spot with 12 while England Roses dynamo Fran Williams showcased her defensive prowess with 11 intercepts across three games. If Williams can up the ante it could be the spark the Wasps need to get back on the board in 2020.

It is not easy to get deflections but Leah Middleton has made it a part of her repertoire with the former Queensland Firebirds training partner in the Suncorp Super Netball displaying an innate ability to do just that. She has been a key cog for the Surrey Storm amassing 15 deflections across the start of the season. Manchester Thunder’s Loreen Ngwira also starred prior to the postponement of the season with 15 deflections to equal Middleton. Ngwira played a handy role last year and seems to be following on from that, giving her side a chance to gain another premiership. Testament to her defensive skill, Dovey also managed to get herself in the top five for deflections with nine while South Africa, Zanele Vimbela also proved to be a handy inclusion for the Strathclyde Sirens with the lanky defender able to get a hand in everything and create nine deflections. The final spot in the top five goes to Fran Williams with the Wasps defender using her quick feet to track the ball and force a tip.

Memorable Matches: 2019 VNSL Grand Final

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is Manchester Thunder’s impressive come-from-behind win over Wasps Netball in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

It was a match of pure intensity, with the see-sawing match-up proving to be just as good as suspected in the lead up. While the Wasps had been ahead on the ladder for much of the season, Thunder had gotten the chocolates both times the two teams played during the season, making for an interesting and exciting match-up.

Both sides battled hard from the get-go, with Wasps pulling out an early lead thanks to defensive efforts from Fran Williams and Hannah Knights, who were clinical and relentless in the circle denying easy ball into the circle and causing headaches with their long arms. The Wasps’ herding gamestyle worked a trick, crowding Manchester and forcing errors through the midcourt, propelling the ball down to attack with ease thanks to the pressure of stalwart Jade Clarke through the centre, driving the ball down to Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris at the post. Dunn and Harris’ ability to share the load was impressive as ever, with Thunder retiree Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey unable to hold off the duo when they got inside the circle.

But Manchester proved they cannot be underestimated, drawing ahead in the second quarter with a spectacular 18 goals to 11 to hold the lead at half time. The likes of Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula lifted to apply some much needed scoreboard pressure, while Liana Leota was instrumental through the centre of the court alongside veteran Caroline O’Hanlon, using their experience to hold ground through the midcourt. But a second quarter blitz was not enough, with the Thunder’s inconsistency all but coming back to bite them in the third when the Wasps unleashed once more.

A tight second half ensued and it was unsure which team would take out the title, with both sides spurred on by spectacular defensive efforts paired with impressive feeding in attack. Bongi Msomi used all her match experience to be a constant threat on circle edge for the Wasps, applying pressure with her speed and agility to find Dunn and Harris in the circle, unstoppable despite Laura Malcolm’s best efforts. But Malcolm’s bodywork came in useful once the final quarter came around, blocking Msomi’s leads and forming a crucial defensive buffer as Almond and Dovey kicked it up a notch once more despite trailing by six goals at the final change

The final quarter started with a bang, with Manchester chugging along to claw their way back ahead of the Wasps and doing so in an impressive manner, holding the Wasps to just the seven goals in the final term. While Wasps were consistent as ever, an injury time-out for Malawian goal shooter Mvula could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Thunder, but instead saw Manchester come back with a vengeance as Ellie Cardwell joined the fray. A consistent figure who does not always get the recognition she deserves, Cardwell shot the lights out and offered a different option in the circle, switching up the match play with her clever ball use and gave her defenders another thing to think about in the circle. 

It was there that the game was won and done, with the Thunder running home for their third VNSL premiership title, winning against the reigning premiers 57-52 in impressive manner.

WASPS NETBALL 16 | 11 | 18 | 7 (52)
MANCHESTER THUNDER  11 | 18 | 10 | 18 (57)


GS: Rachel Dunn
GA: Katie Harris
WA: Bongi Msomi
C: Jade Clarke
WD: Amy Flanagan
GD: Fran Williams
GK: Hannah Knights

COACH: Mel Mansfield


GS: Joyce Mvula
GA: Kathryn Turner
WA: Liana Leota
C: Caroline O’Hanlon
WD: Laura Malcolm
GD: Emma Dovey
GK: Kerry Almond

COACH: Karen Greig

Vitality Netball Superleague stats: The story so far

WITH the Vitality Netball Superleague postponed until April 30, only two Round 4 matches went ahead over the weekend and the final three matches suspended until further notice. Manchester Thunder took top spot by default with a win this round, with no other leading sides taking the court. We take a look at some of the key players across the league this season so far.

Veteran Rachel Dunn hit the top of the leaderboard this week with a solid performance against Severn Stars (45 from 47 attempts), overtaking Georgia Rowe for most goals, but with key shooters Mary Cholhok (146 goals from three games), Kim Commane (137 from three) and George Fisher (131 from three) all hot on her tail and down one game at this stage in the season. Sigi Burger remains the most accurate (shooting at 98 per cent) despite not yet playing this round, while Rowe was clinical at the post on Saturday, missing only one shot (47 goals from 48 attempts) and leading her side to victory. While undefeated Manchester Thunder does not have any goalers on the leaderboards for accuracy or volume, the side has a wealth of skill thanks to a rotating circle of Ellie Cardwell (125 goals from 146 attempts at 86 per cent), Joyce Mvula (101 from 116 at 87 per cent) and Kathryn Turner (28 from 38 at 74 per cent) and trust in their players to get the job done, not relying on just the one player to carry the load. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Lynsey Gallagher are up there in the tally in at goal attack, shooting 56 and 55 goals respectively to start the season on a high.

Out in defence, Razia Quashie and Latanya Wilson lead the way in intercepts with 15 and 14 respectively. Neither player took the court this week due to match cancelation but somehow still sit ahead of the likes of Towera Vinkhumbo (13 intercepts), Emma Dovey (12) and Fran Williams (11) who have all played four games apiece. Wilson has only taken the court on two occasions this season thanks to a match suspension, making it all the more impressive that she is up there in the intercept count, with the talented Jamaican laying out her physicality and tenacity on the court. Vinkhumbo remains the most highly penalised in the competition with 58 penalties to her name, though Loreen Ngwira and Williams are close behind with 56 and Williams leading the turnover count at 22. Both Severn Stars and Wasps Netball sit on only one win from four matches, meaning messiness in defence could be a real catalyst for the sides dropping much needed matches so early in the season – but also shows a real opportunity for improvement if they can work on the penalty count while matches are postponed. Leah Middleton and Ngwira should be happy with their respective output in defence with 15 deflections apiece after four rounds, contesting the ball well and Middleton especially not finding a heap of the whistle.

Through the midcourt, the likes of Laura Malcolm, Imogen Allison and Adean Thomas remain crucial and influential for their respective sides, holding up well defensively to turn over the ball and feeding with ease in attack. Jamaican speedster, Thomas has proved a handy cog through the midcourt for Pulse, which had nowhere to go but up after a disappointing inaugural season in 2019 – something the side has certainly done despite not playing yet this round. As for the likes of Malcolm (Manchester Thunder) and Allison (Team Bath), it’s their innate ability to rotate through any position in the centre court that makes them such tough contenders, especially in undefeated teams. While both sides boast great defensive capabilities, they can both go forward when required to put their feeding ability to the test and show off their defensive pressure in attack. Veteran midcourters Jade Clarke, Nat Panagarry and Sasha Corbin may not be able to boast being undefeated thus far, but have kept the wheels turning across the court for their respective sides and are known for their consistency and ability to create something out of nothing to spur their side to victory.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 4 – Bath and Pulse face off for top spot

ROUND 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague will see an unprecedented top-of-the-table clash on Monday night to finish off the round, with Team Bath and London Pulse facing off for top spot. On the other end of the spectrum, eighth ranked 2019 finalists Wasps Netball will take on ninth-placed Severn Stars in the opening match of the round in what will be a real test for Stars and a real make-or-break game for Wasps.

Severn Stars  v. Wasps Netball
Worcester Arena

In a massive start to Round 4, Wasps will look to redeem themselves from a slow start to the season, with the side sitting in eighth on only one win and two losses for the season already after only conceding the four losses overall in 2019. While the opening rounds don’t necessarily speak for the season, the Wasps will want to take advantage of taking on a side lower than them and use this opportunity to work their way up the ladder. Stars are in the unprecedented position of being only one behind Wasps on the ladder but will know not to come into this match too cocky or expectant, with the Wasps known for their cleanliness and consistency in defence. Interestingly, both sides have come up against two of the same sides at this early stage, with both teams going down to Manchester Thunder, Wasps by seven goals and Stars by nine, making for an intriguing battle if Stars can stay close. The real difference however is the sides’ different reactions to taking on the Mavericks, with Stars going down twice with big margins compared to Wasps’ four goal victory. Rachel Dunn has been the key player for Wasps this season with all attention turned toward the veteran goal shooter with accuracy and precision. Meanwhile, Iona Christian in wing attack has been a handy addition to the side, slotting in smoothly with Jade Clarke and Dunn. Stars’ Towera Vinkhumbo may not be the cleanest player but has certainly had an impact in defence, working well with Ella Powell-Davies while the likes of Ama Agbeze can enter the contest when required and have an immediate impact. In goals, Georgia Rowe has been the main target for Stars with the experience of Liana Leota in wing attack able to provide pinpoint feeds into the circle. 

Surrey Storm v. Manchester Thunder
Surrey Sports Park

Manchester Thunder will look to go four from four with a win in this match, with the potential of moving to the top of the ladder if results on Monday go their way, making this a big match for the reigning premiers. Surrey Storm on the other hand have had a shaky start to the season with only the one win on the board back in Round 1, and that was only by the one goal over Celtic Dragons. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska and Katy Hughes will be in for a tough one against the attacking combination of Joyce Mvula, Kathryn Turner and Ellie Cardwell, with the trio creating a massive threat for Thunder. The three shooters have combined seamlessly across the opening rounds, sharing the load in goals and all offering different options which is what makes them such a difficult opposition. In goals for Storm are Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin who have had a fairly solid start to the season, and while Hankin’s accuracy has left something to be desired, Bailey’s height has proven useful with her rebounding ability. The midcourt battle is set to be an interesting one with Mikki Austin at Storm’s helm, leading from the front with her agility and footwork, taking on the likes of Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon, with both players able to have an impact through the midcourt. Defensively, the consistency of Emma Dovey and Rebekah Airey will be tough for Storm to break through, especially with the likes of Loreen Ngwira also in the mix and able to switch up the circle monumentally. Meanwhile, the calm but consistent effort of Laura Malcolm in wing defence is sure to keep the pressure on.

Loughborough Lightning v. Saracens Mavericks
Sir David Wallace Arena 

The match between Lightning and Mavericks is set to be a real interesting one, with both sides impressive in their own right though Lightning – just like last season – have struggled to put their skill and pressure out on the court at this early stage of the season. While the Mavericks sit in the top four on two wins from three matches, Lightning sit in seventh on only one win but having lost to ladder-leaders Team Bath and 2019 premiers, Manchester Thunder, making this a relatively even contest. Meanwhile, Mavericks have played Surrey Storm twice in as many weeks meaning they haven’t had a real opportunity to prove themselves thus far thanks to match scheduling. Mavericks’ Razia Quashie will have the tough task of taking on Lightning goal shooter Mary Cholhok, who is as imposing as they get with her height and strength making her a key cog for Lightning’s defence. Quashie is just as impressive with her aerial ability making her an exciting player to watch, able to create intercepts out of nothing and lead from the back. The midcourt battle will be a real interesting one with the sides relatively well matched through the centre, though the real test for Lightning will be stopping the likes of Georgia Lees who has a tried and true combination with George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin in goals, with the duo continuing to be a threat. Lightning will rely on leadership from Nat Panagarry through the midcourt, while Lightning’s constant defensive rotation could come in handy against a side like Mavericks which relies on poking holes in defensive units, though could also go the opposite way entirely if Mavericks can take advantage early.

Celtic Dragons v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sports Wales National Centre

The Dragons come into this match sitting at the bottom of the ladder, with a one week suspension to key pickup Latanya Wilson making for a rough start to the season. While the Sirens have only got the one win on the board for the season, it is more about their lack of four quarter effort that sees them losing so far rather than an inability to win, as displayed by an impressive effort over Surrey Storm last round. While the Dragons have only gotten close to a win in the one match so far this season, they went without a goalkeeper for part of their Round 2 encounter with Team Bath and then missed Wilson’s pressure and presence on Monday against Pulse – the current top two sides. Dragons’ Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson did a solid job sharing the load last round but were in short supply of ball into circle, meaning the likes of Shona O’Dwyer and Sophie Morgan will want to be right on circle edge this round against a much more even competitor in Sirens. Defensively, Wilson will want to heed the warnings she’s had in past rounds to ensure she doesn’t leave her side in the lurch again this round, while Dee Bolakoro and Abigail Tyrrell will also want to maintain constant pressure in the circle. Sirens’ Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher impressed at the post last week with their cleanliness and ability to find the ball in the goal circle, with the circle work from Nicola McCleery and Gia Abernethy critical for the side in attack. Natalie Bright and Zanele Vimbela have created a formidable defensive unit, with Emily Nicholl a handy inclusion from the bench if need be. 

Team Bath v. London Pulse
Team Bath Arena

Wrapping up the round is one of the more exciting matches to start the season, with both Team Bath and London Pulse undefeated thus far in 2020. While Pulse had an unsuccessful start to their Superleague campaign, only getting two wins on the board in their inaugural 2019 season, the side has already surpassed last years form with three wins on the board and will look to run down an impressive Team Bath this round. While Bath made it to finals last season they had a somewhat rocky season, finding some solid form in patches but ultimately unable to push all the way. This season however they have proven considerably more consistent, winning by an average of 15 goals across the first three rounds of the season. While Pulse also remains undefeated, they only got over the line by a two and one-point margin in Rounds 1 and 2, making for an interesting battle. Pulse will be in for an interesting time against the dominant defensive pressure of Bath, with the likes of Imogen Allison, Khanyisa Chawane, Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman working flawlessly through defence to apply pressure and deny easy ball into the circle. Up the other end, the combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has improved tenfold since the 2019 season, making the side a real force to be reckoned with. Bath’s real problem will be limiting the impact of star Pulse shooter Sigi Burger, whose offensive pressure and height under the post makes her a critical name in the lineup. Burger’s movement for her height is impressive, making it easy for the likes of Michelle Drayne, Adean Thomas and Ashleigh Dekker to feed into the circle and run the ball down while defensively the likes of Lindsay Keable, Halimat Adio and Funmi Fadoju have put in some impressive efforts this season so far.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 3 – Pulse look to go three from three in unprecedented start to season

ROUND 3 of the Vitality Netball Superleague is set to be an impactful one, with teams looking to really stamp their mark on the competition. London Pulse are in the unlikely position to put a third win on the board when they take on ninth placed Celtic Dragons, despite only putting two on the board for the whole of the 2019 season, while Team Bath will want to cement themselves as the team to beat when they host the Wasps, with a win to see them retain top spot with Pulse and Manchester Thunder hot on their tail.

Strathclyde Sirens v. Surrey Storm
Emirates Arena

Eighth placed Sirens will be raring to go in this contest, going down the past two rounds in close encounters and coming up against a side that is fairly achievable in fifth ranked Surrey Storm. Storm have only the one low-scoring win on the board for the season so far, and having played only on Monday evening, have a four day turnaround for this match. It will be an interesting match given the respective lists, with both sides boasting some key names to post with Bethan Goodwin for the Sirens and Karyn Bailey for Storm sitting on similar stats for the season despite their sides’ winning records so far. Meanwhile, an intriguing midcourt battle is sure to commence between highly experienced Claire Maxwell and Mikki Austin, with both players able to rotate to suit their sides’ needs when required. Both players picked up a valuable intercept last round while Maxwell also collected four deflections to Austin’s two, making for a solid turnover game in the midcourt. Storm will want to lift their form in the penalty department, collecting 56 penalties last round compared to the relative cleanliness of the Sirens with 35 Look for another close encounter, and while Storm will have the drive to get another win on the board, Sirens are in with a good chance to pip Storm at the post if they can apply enough pressure through the midcourt to deny easy ball to the goal circle.  

Team Bath v. Wasps Netball
Team Bath Arena

Team Bath will look to rewrite their 2019 form against the Wasps with a win this time around, needing a solid win to maintain top spot on the ladder with both Manchester Thunder and London Pulse looking to overtake. With two convincing victories to start the season, Team Bath haven’t really been challenged yet this season meaning this is the Wasps’ opportunity to throw a spanner in the works against the side that lost two key experienced cogs at the end of last season. Wasps may not have had the desired start to 2020, but well and truly proved they have still got it in them with a win last round against the Mavericks, making this a real test of a match for Bath. Both sides boast stellar attacking and defensive units, but while Bath tend to focus more on winning ball back through defence, it is Wasps’ ability to create opportunities in attack that could be the real kicker in this one with a close match expected. The combination of Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn is key for the Wasps, but they will be tested by the work rate of Bath’s Summer Artman and Tash Pavelin, who have combined well in the opening rounds. An interesting battle will ensue in the opposite goal circle, with Fran Williams among the highest penalised players for the season so far (30 from two games) while Bath’s key fixture in goal shooter, Kim Commane, is hitting the scoreboard with ease, with 92 goals from 100 attempts for the season so far.

Saracens Mavericks v. Severn Stars
Hertfordshire Sports Village

These sides are in the unprecedented position to play each other once more after going head to head in Round 1. Mavericks have a real chance to make up for a frustrating loss against the Wasps last round when they take on the Severn Stars who are unlucky to be sitting at the bottom of the ladder. The Mavericks had a slow start last time they met before a massive second quarter well and truly turned the tables, with the Mavs dominating in the second half. The combination of Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed worked much better in Round 2 with the Stars attackers improving on their Round 1 effort, while defensively Towera Vinkhumbo well and truly cleaned up her act, still racking up the penalties but was far cleaner on her offensive work, making for a much better all-round defensive effort. For the Mavericks it was another slow start last week that saw them narrowly beaten by the Wasps, and with two cautions and a warning to their name last round they will need to clean up their act to put another win on the board. George Fisher has been dominant as ever this season, really making her mark on the competition while goal keeper Razia Quashie will want to continue her impressive form with 11 intercepts from two matches, but will want to lift her offensive game having thrown away valuable ball 15 times. Mavericks are likely to come out of this one victors once more, though the Stars are sure to try and put in a four quarter effort to replicate their opening quarter effort in Round 1.

Manchester Thunder v. Loughborough Lightning
Belle Vue

Lightning will look to make their way up the ladder after a disappointing Round 1 effort saw them hanging around the bottom, though a Round 2 win over Strathclyde Sirens keeps them in the game. But Thunder have the confidence and ladder standing to get the job done with stellar back-to-back performances seeing the side in second at this early stage. Both teams have a handful of impact players, with Mary Cholhok heading up the Lightning outfit in goal shooter, sitting on 94 per cent accuracy for the season so far and using her height well to control the contest from under the post. Coming up against Cholhok are Loreen Ngwira (five intercepts, nine deflections from two matches) and Emma Dovey (five intercepts, five deflections) making for an interesting battle. Meanwhile, Lightning’s Hannah Williams has also been solid in the deflections department starting the season, working well through the midcourt to turn over ball and relieving some of the pressure the defensive end cops. Sam May, Alice Harvey and Vicki Oyesola will need to disrupt play and will intend to force the likes of Eleanor Cardwell, Joyce Mvula and Kathryn Turner to rotate as they have in the opening rounds. The ease of rotation for the Thunder should be something for their opposition to worry about, with the transition between players seamless and clearly able to have the impact the side requires depending on how their attack is holding up. Lightning have not been afraid to mix up their midcourt thus far but will have a tougher time this round, so will need their defensive midcourters to be up to the job of propelling the ball back towards goal.

London Pulse v. Celtic Dragons
Copper Box Arena

London Pulse will want to make it three from three this week in their first home game of the season, and go into this match as the favourites in a massive change from their 2019 form. They take on the ailing Celtic Dragons who showed plenty of development last season, and given they didn’t make massive changes over the off season, the Dragons will really want to prove they have the consistency and ability to get over the line when the underdogs. Granted, the two sides have com up against vastly different opposition in the opening rounds, with Pulse taking home two narrow wins (two points and one point respectively), while the Dragons were unlucky to lose out to Bath last round after slaying close for much of the match. Dragons will need to fix their cleanliness issues in defence with new recruit Latanya Wilson a talented inclusion to the side but sent off the court last round, leaving the side with a hole in defence, unable to replace Wilson in goal keeper once she was sent off. For Pulse, a key cog in goal shooter is Sigi Burger, who is sitting on a whopping 97 per cent accuracy so far this season and will want to continue her stellar start to the season. With Adean Thomas and Ashleigh Dekker feeding well in the opening rounds, Dragons’ Sophie Morgan and Paige Kindred will want to be at their best to prevent easy goal assists and get the ball back through the midcourt.

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 2

WITH a big win to Team Bath, they were one of two teams who had multiple players in dominated this round’s Draft Central Team of the Week with the Loughborough Lightning also recording two players. The Celtic Dragons and Strathclyde Sirens did not have any players make the team, while the Saracens Mavericks and Surrey Storm got some recognition despite their respective losses.

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

Quashie starred for the Mavericks with the strong defender using her physical presence to throw her opposition off their game. Despite losing the match Quashie held her own back with her constant awareness and netball smarts. Quashie showcased her strength in the air and ability to read the play gathering four intercepts and two deflections credit to her quick movement.

GD: Fran Williams (Wasps Netball)

The Wasps defender made her presence well and truly felt down back with her hard work and ability to read the play and have an impact. Williams proved once again that she is not afraid to back herself in a contest and use her defensive prowess to disrupt the attacking flow of opposition teams. The goal defence used her quick feet and ability to confuse the space to pick up four intercepts and two rebounds thanks to her strong positioning under the ring. She put up a real wall in the defensive third repelling any forward forays with her impressive timing and netball smarts.

WD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)

She had a standout performance for the Pulse using her defensive skills to block the wing attacks every move. Fadoju showcased her ability to win the ball collecting an impressive four intercepts and one deflection thanks to her read of the play and cleanliness to stay in play and propel the ball back down the court. Her work through the midcourt was also solid using her skill to keep the ball going forward and give her side as many chances as possible to score.

C: Mikki Austin (Surrey Storm)

The coach/captain of the Storm had a ripping game in Round 2 with the gut running centre plying her trade across the court. Although her side fell just short, her efforts through the midcourt were impressive consistently using her change of direction and speed to hit the circle edge. Austin displayed not only her attacking tendencies but so too her defensive attributes racking up one intercept and two deflections.

WA: Hannah Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

The Lightning wing attack was in hot form throughout the game using her strong hands and speed to slice her way through court and deliver well weighted passes into the likes of Cholhok and Clark. She showed her hand in defence as well collecting a couple of intercepts and deflections credit to her ability to read the flow and desire to win the ball back for her side. Williams was precise with ball in hand, hitting the circle edge hard to provide good feeds into the shooters.

GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath)

The talented goal attack had a strong performance in her sides win credit to her smooth movement across the court and ability to hit the scoreboard. At only 21 years old Drakeford-Lewis was composed out on court working well with teammate Kim Commane in the circle to open up the space and create easy scoring opportunities. The Team Bath representative slotted 25 goals from 28 attempts at 89 per cent highlighting her accuracy and volume.

GS: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning)

In arguably a best on performance for the Lightning Cholhok led from the front with the highly skilled goal shooter using her athleticism to full effect. She is an exciting player given her explosiveness and ability to hold space in the circle paired with her strength on the take. Her quick footwork and ability to reign in loose passes made her hard to stop with the Lightning reaping the rewards of her accuracy to post with 46 goals from 48 attempts.

BENCH: Georgia Rowe (Severn Stars), Emma Dovey (Manchester Thunder), Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

Despite being up against some high quality opposition Georgia Rowe made the most of her opportunities with her accuracy to post on full display. Rowe held her own in the circle with her strong holds and high volume with 43 goals from 45 attempts at an impressive 96 per cent. After a solid defensive effort in her sides win Emma Dovey just missed out on a starting spot but made her way onto the bench. Dovey used her three-foot marking and defensive smarts to clog up space, ultimately picking up three intercepts and a couple of deflections. Through the midcourt Imogen Allison was instrumental with her defensive pressure a key attribute of her game. Allison is renowned for her ability to wreak havoc in the defensive and middle third thanks to her read of the play, speed and quick hands often forcing turnovers and this performance was no different with a couple of intercepts and deflections.

VNSL 2020 team preview: Manchester Thunder

WITH the 2020 season of the Vitality Netball Superleague now upon us, we take a look at each team heading into a massive year in Superleague netball. The next team in our season preview is Manchester Thunder.

Coach: Karen Greig
2019 finish: 2nd (premiers) (15-5)

With a 2019 premiership on the horizon, Manchester Thunder went to a new  level in 2019 with the confidence, consistency and connection across the court to get the job done by season’s end. The premiers were able to bring the heat to every team in the competition, poking holes in each side’s connections to create a formidable opposition and made the side a difficult side to stop when they got going.

2020 predictions: 

The reigning premiers are sure to want to go back-to-back this season and certainly have the skill set to do it, though the side will hope the loss of key defender Kerry Almond does not have too big an impact on their chances. That being said, an already solid defensive pairing of Emma Dovey and Rebecca Airey will be bolstered by the addition of Lauren Ngwira who has jumped ship from London Pulse, with long arms and great timing making her a tough player to come up against. With bench rotations who can have as much of an effect on the court as the Thunder starters, look out for Manchester as they will look to go back to back.

Key player: Joyce Mvula (GS/GA)

Joyce Mvula was new to the side in 2019 and well and truly made her mark on the competition with her ability to find the ball and accuracy to boot. While not the flashiest player, the Malawi goaler made herself a key fixture at the post with her cleanliness and temperament on the court, using the space well to remove her defender from the equation and her split was second to none making for a tough circle opposition.

Team list:

Laura Malcolm
Kathryn Turner
Ashleigh Neal (London Pulse)
Eleanor Cardwell
Joyce Mvula
Lauren Ngwira (London Pulse)
Caroline O’Hanlon
Amy Carter
Emma Dovey
Rebekah Airey
Berri Samara Neil
Ella Carly Standring
Lois Pearson
Alicia Scholes
Elia McCormick

Manchester Thunder win pre-season Mike Greenwood Trophy

HOSTS Manchester Thunder claimed the Mike Greenwood Trophy in the Pre-season Manchester Invitational with a seven-goal victory over the Saracens Mavericks in the grand final. It was a big day filled with action, but both the Mavericks and Thunder seemed to be a class ahead with the likes of Loughborough Lightning suffering heavy losses, while Team Bath had just the one win – over the Lightning – with big losses to the grand finalists.

It was an action packed grand final with the lead ebbing and flowing highlighting just how much was on the line. The Mavericks got out to an early three-goal lead heading into quarter time before Manchester fought their way back into the contest and started to claw the margin back. With stars aplenty there was action going on across all thirds of the court making for an exciting battle, but in the end it was Manchester that sunk the last blow walking away with the trophy.

George Fisher led the way for Saracens finding good space in the circle and using her strong holds to turn and shoot with ease unfazed by the likes of Emma Dovey and Lauren Ngwira who tried to put up a wall in defence. Fisher paired exceptionally well in the first term with experienced campaigner Kadeen Corbin who controlled the flow in attack. With the lead pushing out to five goals, Joyce Mvula stood up under the pressure commanding the ball and used her height and athleticism to full advantage. Caroline O’Hanlon was solid through the midcourt for Thunder using her pace, precision and nous to deliver carefully crafted passes into the likes of Mvula in the circle. O’Hanlon also showcased her defensive pressure to pick up clever intercepts and propel the ball back down the court. Eleanor Cardwell and Kathryn Turner both played a solid support role for Mvula in the circle popping up when need be to make an impact on the scoreboard.

But as the game went on the tables started to turn with Thunder finding their rhythm in attack and applying strong defensive pressure to limit the opportunities for Fisher and Corbin. Ashleigh Neal upped the ante down back for Manchester picking off passes while the Mavericks resorted to the bench in hope to provide a spark and quell the attacking forays of their opponents. Razia Quashie moved to the bench making way for Jo Tripp but that did not seem to make a difference with the Thunder continuing their merry way and finding easy access to post. Aliyah Zaranyika was a relatively unknown quantity for her opposition but showcased her versatility able to switch between both circle defence and wing defence making her a handy acquisition for the Mavericks. It was a tale of two halves with the visitors owning the opening half only to be blown away as the game went on by Thunder who steadily built into the game to make the most of their opportunities at the post.

In other results, it was not an overly successful tournament for Team Bath who despite coming agonisingly close in the BiG Showdown struggled to find their mojo. Kim Commane showcased her scoring prowess while Summer Artman showed she is a star of the future but they could not sustain their pressure for a whole game against the higher placed teams. Unfortunately, Loughborough Lightning struggled to make an impact despite having glimpses of magic. In saying that, captain Natalie Panagarry highlighted her defensive skillset able to force turnovers or get deflections but it was not enough to get her side over the line dropping all their games.



Manchester Thunder (45) defeated Saracens Mavericks (40)
Team Bath (34) defeated Loughborough Lightning (27)
Manchester Thunder (45) defeated Loughborough Lightning (26)
Saracens Mavericks (42) defeated Team Bath (26)
Manchester Thunder (48) defeated Team Bath (29)
Saracens Mavericks (43) defeated Loughborough Lightning (31)

Vitality Netball Superleague wrap: Grand Final

IN such a big season of the Vitality Netball Superleague, it is no wonder the biggest game of the season went down to the wire. Despite a hard and fast start from Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder came back from a six-goal buffer to win by five goals, with an exceptional shared goaling accuracy of 89 per cent all but cementing the victory. Meanwhile, Team Bath bumped off Loughborough Lightning in the third place playoff, finishing the finals series in the same position they started at.

It was Manchester Thunder legend, Kerry Almond’s final game before retirement, and it was a fitting way to leave the competition – with a third Grand Final victory under her belt. The Wasps started off strong with a solid 16 goal to 11 first quarter, speeding away to an early lead as they shot four goals nil early in the first before Thunder got a goal on the board. Thunder’s patience through the midcourt is a key component of their play, however the Wasps took control of the movement early to limit options in attack and close space through the centre third. Wasps shooters, Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn were exceptional early, finding the post and space in the circle with ease, poking holes in Thunder’s defensive unit. Defensively, the likes of Almond and Emma Dovey seemed unable to bring their usual flair to the match, focusing more on preventing entry to the goal circle than generating excitement around the ring. However, it was not the lack of skill defensively for the Thunder that had the side chasing early, but instead the impeccable defensive work from Wasps’ Fran Williams and Hannah Knights, creating confusion for feeders as they battled relentlessly on Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula.

The second quarter saw a momentum switch as the Thunder put on the accelerator, shooting 18 goals to 11 to have a two goal lead at half time. Thunder’s composure settled as they finally took control, finding space in the goal third as Turner and Mvula started to come into their own, slotting goal after goal courtesy of pinpoint feeds around the circle. Forced errors across the court from the Wasps cost them, while the defensive unit seemed to take their foot off the pedal as Thunder’s confidence began to grow. Caroline O’Hanlon came into her own to start winning the centre court battle against dominant defensive midcourter, Jade Clarke, finding the ball better through the middle of the court and feeding well at the centre pass, switching it up as the Wasps fought for turnovers. Turner and Mvula continued to fight it out in the circle, gaining some ground and putting shots up from all over the ring.

But while a second half push from the Thunder seemed imminent, Wasps would not go down without a fight as an 18 goal to 10 third quarter saw the Wasps wrestle back control of the match to lead by six at three quarter time. Amy Flanagan was stellar in wing defence against speedy New Zealander, Liana Leota, limiting her space and reducing her role as Thunder struggled once again to move the ball through attack, missing the fluidity they gained in the second term. Leota’s ability to find the circle edge with ease was nullified by Flanagan’s brand of defence, causing issues as the circle defenders gained confidence once more, picking off the loose ball. Thunder’s errors started to creep back up as Wasps once again took the game by storm, with the likes of Bongi Msomi skilfully feeding lightning-fast passes into the circle under pressure.

The final quarter saw both sides battle for control, with Thunder wing defence, Laura Malcolm standing up and producing some of her best defensive work for the season against Msomi as the match came down to the wire. A spanner in the works midway through the final quarter saw dominant Thunder and Malawi Queens goal shooter, Mvula go down with a knee injury, causing an injury time-out for the side as Ellie Cardwell took the court in goals. In what many thought could be the straw to break the camel’s back, Cardwell stepped up to the plate and brought her own skill and exceptional footwork to the position, finding space and shooting at close to 100 per cent accuracy. The switch in goals seemed to spur on the Thunder, once again swinging the momentum in their favour and holding on despite the exceptional defensive efforts across the board from the Wasps, limiting the usually dominant side to only seven goals in the final term as Thunder ran away with it. Exceptional composure and skill under pressure saw Manchester Thunder win their third Superleague title, 52 – 57, fighting back and proving they were well deserving of the victory.

THIRD/FOURTH PLAYOFF: Loughborough Lightning v. Team Bath

In the pre-Grand Final opener it was down to the wire for the tough tussle between Bath and Lightning, with Bath coming out on top after a stellar second half shooting effort was too much for the Lightning (56 – 62). Down by one goal at the final change, Bath turned a corner to come out on top, shooting 19 goals to 12 to win the match and prove the dominant form they have displayed for majority of the season. Player of the match, Imogen Allison was well deserving of her title in wing defence, causing upsets around the court and making it difficult for Lightning to feed the ball into the circle. The likes of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane were exceptional at the post, retaining their dominant shooting accuracy as they put up shot after shot. Defenders, Summer Artman and Eboni Usoro-Brown were spot-on in the second half, causing issues in the goal circle as Lightning’s Ella Clark and Mary Cholhok struggled under pressure. Artman and Usoro-Brown did what they do best, creating turnovers and moving the ball back through the midcourt with speed and precision courtesy of Serena Guthrie in centre. Nat Panagarry was a shining light through the midcourt for Lightning, doing well early to disrupt movement and flow, while Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan took control early through defence to disrupt Bath’s rhythm in attack. However it was not enough, with Team Bath ultimately pulling back Lightning’s early lead to win by six goals.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Grand Final

SATURDAY’S Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is set to be a big one, with the two highest scoring teams of the season raring to go in the biggest match of the league at London’s Copper Box Arena. Wasps Netball will defend their Superleague title and attempt their third victory in a row, while Manchester Thunder last won a premiership in 2015 so will be ready for a tough fight against the Wasps. Meanwhile, Loughborough Lightning will host Team Bath in a playoff for third as an opener to the Grand Final.

5:30 pm

Thunder will come into this match with confidence coming off the back of two high pressure wins over the Wasps this season in Rounds 2 and 11. Both sides have shown time and time again this season that they can stand up to the pressure when the moment arrives, so this grand final is sure to finish with a bang. In what is expected to be a big final match of the season for both teams, it is likely to be the midcourt play that has a significant effect on results, with Thunder’s Caroline O’Hanlan, Liana Leota and Laura Malcolm likely lining up against the highly skilled Jade Clarke, Bongi Msomi and Amy Flanagan. In what is a fairly mixed offensive-defensive midcourt battle, it will be down to who removes their opponent from the match and is able to produce scoring opportunities under pressure. With the likes of Leota and goal shooter, Joyce Mvula appearing to have the ball on a string against Team Bath in the semi finals, Wasps are likely to look to the defensive unit of Clarke and Flanagan to shut down Leota’s skilled feeds and reduce scoring opportunities before the ball enters the circle. For Wasps, the skilled rotation and footwork of Hannah Knights, Fran Williams and Josie Huckle will prove vital as they fight to keep the ball out of the hands of their opposition in Mvula, Ellie Cardwell and Kathryn Turner. Thunder will have a similar issue through their defence, with speedster, Msomi almost unstoppable with ball in hand, especially with the likes of prolific shooters, Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris at the post to share the load. The defensive partnership of captain, Emma Dovey and retiree, Kerry Almond will be key in this match, with the pair needing to be at their absolute highest calibre to ensure they limit the Wasps from putting shots up, while Rebekah Airey has the ability to come off the sidelines and have an immediate impact.

3:00 pm

In what is a slightly lower stakes game on Grand Final day, Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath will take the court one last time for the 2019 season as they fight to finish third on the VNSL ladder. Team Bath, like Manchester, will come into this matchup with a leg up, having beaten the Lightning on both occasions this season. However, Lightning will be raring to go given their big loss against Wasps in the semi final, so will want to come out strong against the defensive pressure of Bath. Last time they met, Bath only come out on top by two goals, so are likely to fight tooth and nail to ensure they get a third win in a row. Bath’s aerial defensive unit of Summer Artman and Eboni Usoro-Brown will have a task ahead of them as they take on tall goalers, Mary Cholhok and Ella Clark, while down the other end Lightning’s defence will also need to be on fine form as they take on the likes of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, whose partnership and volume has improved with every match together. The matchup between England Roses’, Serena Guthrie and Nat Panagarry is sure to be one to watch, with both players ready and willing to put their body on the line to ensure victory for their side.