Tag: joyce mvula

What if… the next England International window clashed with the VNSL?

WITH ongoing uncertainty around the timing of future international fixtures for the Roses, Draft Central considers what would happen if England matches overlapped with the upcoming 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season. Which teams would find they had key players missing from their starting lineups, and which youngsters could take the opportunity to show what they are made of? The below is purely opinion-based, with a potential England squad based on recent selections. Unsurprisingly, the top five teams from last year would be the most heavily impacted if their Roses were called away on International duty.

Loughborough Lightning struggled when gutsy midcourter, captain and Vitality Rose Nat Panagarry was injured during the first game of the 2020 season. She provides a ton of experience to an otherwise fairly junior Lightning lineup. This lack of leadership on court, unfortunately, showed in their 14 goal loss to Team Bath at the season opener, and a narrow loss to Manchester Thunder two rounds later. The likes of Jess Shaw and Hannah Williams were required to step up to replace their captain and provide a link through court. Whilst they demonstrated plenty of zip and confidence in attack, Loughborough still missed the dogged defence of Panagarry during these games and would likely suffer as a result if she were to be absent again in the future.

Next, we take a look at reigning champions Manchester ThunderEllie Cardwell and Laura Malcolm both proved they deserve court time in the red dress during the 2020 Netball Nations Cup and would be high on the list for England selection. Luckily for Thunder, they have a fantastic goal shooter in Malawi international Joyce Mvula, who maintained 87 per cent accuracy in the opening rounds of the 2020 season. Thunder would certainly miss Cardwell’s clever footwork and ability to shoot from range, however Mvula provides a strong and reliable option. Manchester also has a tenacious midcourter in Amy Carter, who is capable of switching between centre and wing defence with ease. She provides a huge amount of energy and defensive pressure through court and could easily slide into the gap left by Malcolm. In the next few years, we will surely see this exciting youngster earn a starting spot in the Roses, and fingers crossed in Season 2021 she will benefit from further court time.

One team that would be heavily impacted by a scheduling clash is the talent stacked Saracens Mavericks. They are peppered with Roses talent across all three areas of the court, from George Fisher to Gabby Marshall, not to mention Jodie Gibson and Razia Quashie. Losing a holding shooter of the calibre of Fisher, even for one match, would heap pressure on someone like Kadeen Corbin to provide a clear option in the goal circle. In the midcourt, Marshall is an engine and provides support to Sasha Corbin and Georgia Lees, often coming on as an impact player. Although we haven’t seen Gibson on court for Mavericks yet due to injury, she will no doubt become a starting defender next season. Losing gold medal winner Gibson to England duties, combined with the absence of Quashie, would be a huge loss for Mavs. Quashie collected the highest tally of intercepts in the first three rounds and without her Jo Trip would have to bear a heavier defensive load than she is used to.

In contrast, Team Bath has a wealth of depth and experience across the squad. Despite starting the 2020 season without Serena Guthrie or Eboni Usuro-Brown the youngsters in this side have already proved they can step up when their big names are away. Co-captains Summer Artman and Kim Commane are rock solid, supported by versatile Fi Toner and exciting South African international Khanyisa Chawane. Not to mention Imogen Allison who really rose to the challenge in the first three games of 2020 and proved she has a bright future ahead. Artman and Allison have cemented themselves as future Roses, and after a fantastic start to 2020 they will be looking forward to plenty of court time next season.

Wasps Netball is another team that benefits from an experienced lineup. Although in this scenario they would most likely be without Fran Williams (who ranks in the top five for intercepts and deflections), the likes of Hannah Knights and Josie Huckle both have an excellent read of the game and the athleticism to back it up. The main issue would be if Wasps were without England veterans Jade Clarke and Rachel Dunn. Dunn has won more domestic titles than Geva Mentor and Clarke has over 170 caps for England. Wasps would struggle without these two game changers and whilst Katie Harris and Amy Flanagan have plenty of Superleague experience between them, it is likely the team would still miss the impact of the seasoned duo of Clarke and Dunn.

Celtic DragonsLondon PulseSevern StarsStrathclyde Sirens and Surrey Storm don’t currently have players in their squad who would be likely to be called up for England selection. However, the World Youth Cup is scheduled for June 2021. If all squads stay the same, Pulse would be missing several key bench players including Kira RothwellFunmi Fadoju and Olivia Tchine. This will certainly be something for Superleague coaches to consider when choosing how to balance their squads for next season.

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)

Wasps

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

COACH: Mel Mansfield

Thunder

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

Malawi shooter focused on SSN return

WITH netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak we take a look back at our interview with star Malawi goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda which appeared in our 2019 Netball World Cup magazine.

THE 2018 year was a big one for netball, and no less for Malawi Queens’ star goal shooter, Mwai ‘MJ’ Kumwenda who took the netball world by storm with her flair and accuracy to post. The star goaler single handedly tore games apart with her dynamic movement and laid back style making her an integral member in both the Melbourne Vixens and Malawi sides.

Kumwenda’s form in recent years helped Malawi beat the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, while her performance in the 2015 Netball World Cup saw her awarded ‘Player of the Tournament’, putting her skills on show again and again credit to her accuracy, consistency and phenomenal footwork on court.

“Playing in the World Cup was a good experience for me – that was my second World Cup with Malawi. It was good to play in Australia as I had been playing for Peninsula Waves and the Victorian Fury before being in New Zealand, so it was like playing at home,” she said. “In 2015 I stayed in New Zealand to train and prepare; just like the Commonwealth Games last year, I trained with the Vixens until very close to the tournament.”

“Getting Player of the Tournament was a surprise to me because there were so many good players from all the countries there.”

The humble goal shooter said representing Malawi is a big honour, especially knowing she is a role model for young women.

“I was so excited because I was representing my country and playing with my Malawi girls so to know I tried hard enough for them was good.”

“It means a lot. Most of the young Malawi players look up to us to know that if you train hard, you can do very good things with your netball. I grew up in a village 10 hours drive to where I played netball in Blantyre City so I like to show girls especially from my area that they can do amazing things in life. I am so lucky.”

But while Kumwenda has proved she has the skill and work ethic to be a phenomenal player, a devastating fall in Round 13 of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball season saw her rupture her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Despite injury and missing out on the World Cup, Kumwenda’s outlook and recovery so far is admirable.

“It’s going well. I’m spending time in the gym every day with the Victorian Institute of Sport and Vixens high-performance team. I am working with Tayla Honey and Rahni Samason every day. I’ve started running again and it feels good,” she said. “I don’t know when I’ll be back on court but I can’t wait!” 

“The support I get from the Vixens players and coaches is amazing. I still feel a part of the team and I’m so proud of how the girls are going in Suncorp Super Netball.”

“With the Vixens, I have been able to talk to physios and strength and conditioning coaches but in Malawi we don’t have that. They have a team doctor who travels but the recovery after each game is up to the individual player.”

Despite not having a role in the Malawi Queens’ 2019 Netball World Cup campaign, Kumwenda is keen for the competition to begin and says the Queens have the talent to get the job done.

“If Malawi train hard, they will be top five of the tournament … They are very talented girls, they are a good team so I think if they train hard, they can do well. I think Joyce Mvula will do very well because she has been outstanding in the English league. She’s a good goal shooter.”

“The best team will win – ha! I think it will be very tough and I’m excited to watch.”

Top 10 players we’d like to see in the SSN: #8 – Joyce Mvula

THE Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) is already home to a number of international stars making it one of the strongest netball competitions in the world. However, we as the Draft Central team are creating a list of top 10 players we would like to see join the competition. Coming in at number eight is Joyce Mvula.

With clean hands, aerial ability and accuracy to match, Malawian Mvula has a teammate already in Australia – Melbourne Vixens’ Mwai Kumwenda – and could be a real smoky for a potential future spot in the Suncorp Super Netball, especially at age 26 with plenty of time left in her career. The goal shooter played a vital role for Malawi in the absence of Kumwenda during the 2019 Netball World Cup where she bore the brunt of the goaling, shooting 216 goals and impressing on the world stage thanks to her ability to adapt and be that dominant figure at the post. Her cleanliness and tenacity make her a big threat along with her constant drive to improve while her height at 180cm makes her a tough competitor to come up against, and while she is not the tallest goaler she still has an impressive rebounding ability and jump to reach the air ball.

She was crucial for Manchester Thunder in the Vitality Netball Superleague last season, dominating to post time and time again with her fantastic split and ability to find the ball, playing a critical role in the 2019 Superleague Grand Final and shooting impeccably to take her side to victory. Despite injury in the latter stages of the match she used her experience and desire to improve to get back on the court in time for the Netball World Cup, a testament to her constant drive and passion for the sport. In season 2020 Mvula has shared the spotlight with fellow goaler Eleanor Cardwell at Thunder but put up 101 goals at 87 per cent from four games, proving her impressive form and really backing up her 2019 effort to create a formidable opposition. Mvula would be a handy addition to the Super Netball league thanks to her ability to create plays, hold her ground and share the load in the goal circle, while her talent and relative youth gives her a real opportunity for further growth with more experience on both the domestic and international stages. Mvula has developed quickly and impressively so with the Thunder, with her accuracy, volume and movement in the circle improving tenfold since joining the side in 2017.

Top 10 players we’d like to see in the SSN:

#10 Joice Takaidza (Zimbabwe)
#9 Zanele Vimbela (South Africa)
#8 Joyce Mvula (Malawi)

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 review Round 4: Stars stun Wasps while Thunder make it four on the trot

ONLY two games were played in Round 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) as a result of the coronavirus. While not all the games went ahead, the two games that happened provided plenty of intrigue and a surprising upset.

Severn Stars (59) defeated Wasps (54)

The first game of the round well and truly lived up to the hype with the Stars pulling off one of the biggest coups this season with a five-goal win over the Wasps. The Stars established a handy lead in the first quarter and steadily built on it heading into the main break with a three-goal buffer. But the Wasps are a classy unit and showed just how easily they can flip the script going on a scoring rampage of 18 goals to 10. The strong fight back did not last long though, with the Stars landing the final blow in the last quarter with an impressive 10-goal turnaround. Severn simply could not be denied under the post piling on a whopping 20 goals while keeping the Wasps under wraps and limiting their attacking ball movement. They simply could not maintain their high intensity third term falling short and notching up their third loss for the year a feat they would not have been expecting heading into the season. The Wasps were force out of their usual game style racking up 20 unforced errors and while defensively they were strong winning the deflections and intercepts tally the Stars took the cake when it came to accuracy and ability to stay away from the whistle.

Georgia Rowe was a key cog in the Stars win with the towering goal shooter only missing one goal for the game and nailing a game-high 47 shots. Rowe was unstoppable under the post making it look effortless with her clever movement and connection with shooting comrade Paige Reed. The goal attack managed to put on 12 goals and while her accuracy was down, missing six goals she played a pivotal support role. Defensively Towera Vinkhumbo was in a league of her own with the new recruit racking up the stats with four intercepts and four deflections. Wasps’ shooter Rachel Dunn was her usual dominant self in the goal circle with her impressive timing, strong hands and range on full display with 45 goals while both Sienna Rushton and Alexia Baker struggled to find their rhythm with a combined nine goals. With the attacking end struggling to fire, Fran Williams led the way down back with her ball winning ability and desperation. Williams finished with two rebounds, four intercepts and one deflection while goal keeper Hannah Knights imposed herself with two intercepts and one deflection. Jade Clarke found herself back in wing defence up against former Silver Fern Liana Leota who was clever with ball in hand and played a big role in creating scoring chances for her side.

Surrey Storm (42) defeated by Manchester Thunder (60)

Manchester kept their undefeated run intact with a dominant 18-goal win over the lowly Storm. The Thunder raced out of the gates opening up a six goal lead at the first break and extending it to 13 by half time. It was a complete performance by the reigning premiers who looked slick across the court and never really gave the Storm a chance. Although their scoring dried up in the second half, only adding 27 goals to their tally compared to their 33 in the first half, the Thunder still romped it home, keeping the home side under double digits in the fourth quarter. When it came to penalties around the court the away side won the battle with 49-42 while they also had the upper hand when it came to intercepts with Thunder highlighting their defensive prowess with 16 to seven. Despite the Thunder being costly around the court with nine more turnovers 22-13 they managed to win enough of the ball back to do damage on the scoreboard and run out with the win.

It was a trying game for the Storm shooters, with Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin receiving plenty of close attention from their opposition. Bailey was the main scoring source for Surrey, with the experienced goaler proving to be a rock under the post with six offensive rebounds to go with her 24 goals. Hankin although she was not overly accurate still had an influence with her 11 goals while through the midcourt Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin worked tirelessly to deliver the ball into the circle. However it was the defensive efforts of Caroline O’Hanlon and Amy Carter that stood head and shoulders above the rest through the midcourt with the two taking a combined six intercepts and five deflections. Australian defender, Leah Middleton also had a profound influence and while she received plenty of attention from the umpire with 18 penalties her ball winning ability was on display with a couple of timely tips to disrupt Thunders attacking flow. For Thunder, the shooting load was evenly spread across both Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell. Mvula was strong under the post with her aerial presence and accuracy on display finishing with 25 goals while Cardwell top-scored with 29 goals from 36 attempts at 81 per cent. In the defensive circle the tried and tested duo of Loreen Ngwira and Emma Dovey wreaked havoc confusing the space with their constant movement and hunt for the ball. Ngwira notched up four intercepts and six deflections while Dovey managed two rebounds, four intercepts and four deflections to cap off an all-round impressive performance by the visiting side.

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 review: Round 3 – Pulse among three sides undefeated

ALL five home sides won in Round 3 of the Vitality Netball Superleague, with Team Bath, Manchester Thunder and London Pulse continuing to reign supreme, sitting undefeated after three rounds. Interestingly, outside the top four the leaderboard is still relatively even, with rankings five through eight on only the one win, while two sides sit at the bottom of the table with no wins thus far.

Strathclyde Sirens (61) defeated Surrey Storm (53)

Sirens got their first win on the board for the season with a stellar performance against Surrey Storm, proving they do have the ability to surprise teams and be a real contender in 2020. It was a great first half effort that kept them on the ball with Bethan Goodwin (41 goals) and Lynsey Gallagher (20 goals) impressive from the get-go, applying offensive pressure to ensure the ball stayed up the attack end and only missed four goals apiece in an all-round terrific effort. Captain, Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell worked in tandem with clever movement through the midcourt keeping their respective opposition in Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin relatively quiet. Sirens defenders, Zanele Vimbela and Natalie Bright did a solid job shutting down Storm shooters Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin, with Hankin shooting at less than 70 per cent accuracy making it tough for the side to work their way back into the contest. Bailey was on form with 37 goals from 39 attempts but it was not enough against a hungry Sirens outfit.

Team Bath (63) defeated Wasps Netball (51)

Team Bath dominated in the second half against the Wasps in Round 3 to continue their phenomenal 2020 form, remaining undefeated at the top of the ladder. Wasps came out with a point to prove early, with stalwart midcourter Jade Clarke leading from the front while Rachel Dunn and Iona Christian proved a solid combination working well in attack, with Dunn interestingly carrying the shooting load with 46 goals from 47 attempts, in comparison to what is typically a shared effort with Katie Harris. Harris put in the hard yards in goal attack but to no avail, unable to work herself into the game thanks to the defensive effort of Bath’s Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman, who completely dominated defensively in the second half and only let in 19 goals after half time. It was a second half blitz from Bath that got their nose in front to win the match, shooting 36 goals in the second half to run away with the 12 goal win. The combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis continues to improve with Commane shouldering the load with 45 from 49 shots while Drakeford-Lewis impressed with 18 from 19 attempts. New midcourter Khanyisa Chawane continues to prove her place in the side, slotting in nicely with Rachel Shaw, Imogen Allison and Fionnuala Toner through the midcourt to create an exciting centre-court unit.

Saracens Mavericks (61) defeated Severn Stars (45)

Saracens Mavericks went two from two with their second victory over Severn Stars in as many weeks, though the Stars certainly did their homework, limiting the home side’s shots on goal for a slightly better outcome than their Round 1 outing. Towera Vinkhumbo, Ella Powell-Davies and Ama Agbeze well and truly had their work cut out for them in defence, and a caution to Vinkhumbo did little to help the matter with George Fisher (42 from 43) and Kadeen Corbin (17 from 18) on form with speed, timing and communication alike, while stellar feeds from Georgia Lees and Sasha Corbin on circle edge kept the Stars defenders on their toes. Razia Quashie and Jo Trip put their defensive prowess on show combining for nine intercepts and propelling the ball back up the court, forcing Stars shooters Georgia Rowe (29 goals), Paige Reed (14 goals) and Lucy Herdman (two goals) to work hard to find purchase in the goal circle. 

Manchester Thunder (67) defeated Loughborough Lightning (64)

Manchester Thunder timed their run to overtake Loughborough Lightning to perfection coming back from a 12 goal deficit at times to run out with a three goal victory. They shot the lights out in the second half with a 39 goal to 28 display after the main break credit to their offensive pressure. Player of the match Laura Malcolm did what she does best, finding plenty of the ball through the midcourt and rotating through to wing attack late, using her tenacity to find loose ball and feed to a range of options at the post. While Kathryn Turner did not put many goals on the board, her work off the body to open up space in the circle was second to none, allowing Joyce Mvula to dominate to post, shooting 37 goals while Eleanor Cardwell was also prolific with 24 goals from 28 attempts. For Lightning, Mary Cholhok was impressive as ever and especially unstoppable early, with her height making her a massive and imposing threat under the post. Midcourt defender Jas Odeogberin showed off her game smarts moving into the goal circle late to impart some of her phenomenal pressure on Mvula and Cardwell. This loss sees Lightning in a similar position to last season with only the one win across opening rounds, but with a finals berth last year the side is sure to lift in the coming weeks to replicate their 2019 form. Meanwhile, Manchester will want to continue this undefeated run and maintain third spot on the ladder.

London Pulse (69) defeated Celtic Dragons (38)

The lone Monday night match was shaping up to be a close one before the announcement that key Dragons defender Latanya Wilson would not take the court after being sent off for rough conduct in Round 2. Pulse well and truly took advantage of the goal keeper missing out, with Sigi Burger dominating at the post and proving her value to the side. Both sides were quick to the punch, unable to be split early with neither side really dominating in the first quarter, before Pulse extended a five goal lead by half time to set up a solid second half. Dee Bolakoro and Paige Kindred put in the hard yards early but had a tough battle after half time, with Pulse pulling ahead thanks to a 40 goal to 15 second half, well and truly leaving the visitors behind and proving their first few wins were not just flukes. Halimat Adio was on fire for Pulse, winning back a wealth of ball and teaming up well with Lindsay Keable to force long bombs from the Dragons, while midcourter Adean Thomas was key through the centre, providing pressure and opening up space. Burger showed all her class at the post, with impeccable timing and ability to find the ball  highlighting what makes her such a key pickup for the Pulse side. 

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.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 2 – Team Bath continues hot start to season

THE second round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) brought plenty of controversy and close encounters with sides battling hard to claim early ascendancy. New recruits continued to make waves in their new colours while the tried and tested combinations of years gone by also proved to be the difference in narrow wins.

Severn Stars (56) defeated by Manchester Thunder (65)

The Thunder made it two from two to open the season downing the Severn Stars in convincing fashion. It was an even first term with only one goal separating the sides at quarter time before the Thunder started to hit their straps in the second to extend their lead. But a strong third quarter from the Stars kept them alive scoring 17 goals to reduce the margin and keep them in touch heading into the final quarter. However, the Thunder were not about to lie down piling on the pain in the final quarter with an impressing 19 goals to run out with a strong nine goal lead. Accuracy proved no issue for either side with a combined 14 shots missed while Manchester proved to be stronger under the post offensively with 11 rebounds.

It was a shooting showdown, with Stars goal shooter Georgia Rowe leading from the front with an impressive 43 goals from 45 attempts at 96 per cent. Rowe was strong under the post holding her space and using her hands to reign in passes that came her way. Up the other end, Joyce Mvula owned the circle with the Thunder goaler going about her business with 22 goals and Eleanor Cardwell doing even more damaging finishing with 32 goals to her name. Cardwell rotated between shooter and goal attack highlighting her endurance and skill under the post while Kathryn Turner also plied her trade in the goal circle with 11 goals. Through the midcourt Amy Carter and Ashleigh Neal combined well to feed the Thunder shooters while both Liana Leota and Bethan Dyke for the Severn Stars worked tirelessly in attack to hit the circle edge and provide good ball use to the shooters. Defensively Ama Agbeze stood tall with her experience on full display with Towera Vinkhumbo and Ella Powell-Davies also having an impact down back but not able to effectively shut down the Thunder offence.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (53)

After a poor start to their first home game of the season the Lightning clawed their way back into the game and overran the Sirens who seemed to have all the answers in the opening term. Loughborough only managed a mere seven goals in the first 15 minutes of the game thanks to the Sirens overwhelming pressure and ability to combat everything that the Lightning threw at them. But that quickly changed with Loughborough bursting out of the blocks in the second with 18 goals and returning the favour to their opposition limiting them to nine goals of their own. With momentum behind them the Lightning continued on that trajectory applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure with consecutive quarters of 17 goals apiece while the Sirens failed to recapture the same intensity they had in the first term gifting the Lightning a hard-fought win. To a certain extent the Sirens will be ruing their inaccuracy with 12 shots going astray while both sides will be pleased it was a relatively low penalty game with 45 and 35 apiece despite Samantha May receiving a warning due to her 14 penalties.

The Lightning were led by Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok with the goal shooter cool, calm and composed under the post only missing two goals and sinking an impressive 46 proving to be the go-to girl in her sides win. Cholhok was strong in the circle with Ella Clark playing a strong support role with 13 goals to keep the Lightning in the fight. Vicki Oyesola proved to the difference down in defence with her ability to read the play and take important intercepts or disrupt the attacking flow with her well-timed deflections. Up against Oyesola Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher showcased their strength and connection with clever shooter to shooter interplay. Goodwin was the dominant shooter with 31 goals from 38 attempts while Gallagher made an important 15 goal contribution while the seven goal cameo appearance from Niamh McCall was not enough to get them over the line. Zanele Vimbela continued her hot form in the defensive third with the defender racking up three intercepts pairing with Natalie Bright with ease. Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell were strong through the midcourt for the Sirens but wing Hannah Williams proved too much to handle with her clever touch around the circle edge.

Celtic Dragons (52) defeated by Team Bath (71)

The clash between the Dragons and Team Bath was filled with plenty of intensity and ferocity with Jamaican recruit Latanya Wilson order off the court after an ill-disciplined performance on the court. Down a player in the final term the Dragons found it hard to keep up with Team Bath who took it all in their stride and put on a show in the last quarter scoring a whopping 23 goals to 12 to run out with another strong win. It was an even start to the game with both sides sitting at 13 goals apiece before Bath got some separation in the second with a 19-goal term, a lead they were not willing to surrender despite their opponent’s best efforts. In the rebounding department, the ball seemed to fall Bath’s way credit to their positioning under the post winning both the offensive rebounds 12 to six and defensive nine to two.

After a stellar performance in her debut match Wilson tried to recreate her impressive form but struggled to stay away from the whistle. Her clumsiness and inability to play to the umpire’s call caused havoc, initially forced to the bench before re-entering the game and giving away a late penalty that was the final straw for the defender who found herself sent off for the remainder of the game leaving her side in the lurch. Abigail Tyrrel was a Trojan in defence working tirelessly to cover the slack left by Wilson but it was no match for the highly skilled shooting unit of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.  The load was relatively evenly split with Commane nailing 37 goals and Drakeford-Lewis posting 25 goals while newcomer Betsy Creak showed her hot hand with nine goals at 100 per cent. Co-captain Summer Artman was solid in goal keeper along with Imogen Allison and Tash Pavelin out the front. For the Dragons, the shooting combination of Amy Clinton and Brittany Coleman proved to be strong with Clinton nailing 31 goals and Coleman slotting 15 but it was not enough to worry the scoreboard. Shona O’Dwyer was a key cog in wing attack with her ability to feed the ball into the goalers.

Surrey Storm (50) defeated London Pulse (51)

It turned out to be a close contest between the Storm and Pulse with the latter prevailing thanks to their ability to ride the storm and hold strong under pressure. The Pulse well and truly blew the Storm out of the water with a staggering 19 to six goals opening term proving just how much power they have under the post. But the Storm were not about to be embarrassed fighting back hard in the second quarter giving the Pulse a taste of their own medicine with 18 goals of their own and keeping the Pulse to nine. With the margin at four goals at half time Surrey continued their hot form in the third quarter to take a slender one goal lead heading into the final change but failed to maintain that intensity falling agonisingly short. Storm had their fair share of chances missing 18 goals while the Pulse only missed seven shots. In terms of other key statistics neither side could be split with penalties 56-53 and intercepts seven to nine.

Sigi Burger has made herself at home in the new pink dress having an immediate impact under the post with her commanding height, good movement, holding ability and most importantly accuracy to post with 32 goals from 34 attempts at 94 per cent. She was ably assisted by goal attack Chiara Semple with 12 goals while wing attack Adean Thomas highlighted her ability to find space and thread the needle in the attacking third with her quick release. Wing defence Funmi Fadoju put up a strong performance for the Pulse doing her role to disrupt the attacking flow with four intercepts while goal keeper Halimat Adio plied her trade confusing the space and picking up three intercepts. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska proved that anything you can do I can do too with two intercepts combining well with fellow defender Katy Hughes. In the shooting circle, Karryn Bailey proved to have a hot hand with 35 goals while Sophie Hankin chipped in with 14 goals of her own.

Wasps Netball (57) defeated Saracens Mavericks (53)

In the final match of Round 2 the Wasps got on the winners list for the first time in 2020 after going down last week to reigning premiers, Manchester Thunder. Jade Clarke got things underway with the first centre pass of the game and that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with the Wasps claiming an early lead in the first quarter and building on that as the game went on. A strong second quarter performance from the home side helped to set up the win with the Mavericks unable to get their noses in front despite reducing the margin after half time. It was an even performance under the post with each side only missing nine goals apiece while the rebounding column was won by the Wasps both in offence and defence.

England Roses and Wasps goaler Rachel Dunn led from the front letting her consistency and silky movement do all the talking while he volume was another key aspect of her game with 33 goals. Australian youngster Alexia Baker made her debut, pairing nicely with the experience of Dunn in the circle and showcasing just how much class she has with 11 goals from 13 attempts. Katie Harris also put in the hard yards in the circle with an important 13 goals to get the Wasps over the line. Jo Trip and Razia Quashie had their work cut out for them against high quality opposition with Quashie displaying her defensive prowess with four intercepts and two rebounds. Sasha Corbin was her usual solid self through the midcourt finding space and using her experience to weave her way through the traffic to deliver well weighted passes into sister Kadeen Corbin and George Fisher. Fisher was strong to post with a game-high 38 goals such is her dominance and skill while Kadeen managed 15 goals. But both were put under the pump thanks to Wasps’ defenders Fran Williams and Hannah Knights with the two collecting six rebounds and five intercepts between them.