Who is the biggest threat to Thunder’s crown?

THE 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Season saw a massive rise in competitiveness across the competition with a number of teams vying for a spot in the finals. While it was Manchester Thunder that got the chocolates last year, any number of teams could have beaten another high flyer on their day in a fairly even season. 

But while 2019 was an exciting year for netball in England, 2020 has already had a phenomenal start with a number of teams proving their off-season pick-ups and form could be a big threat to Thunder’s chances of repeating their 2019 season.

With plenty of teams in the running for the 2020 crown, which teams have the most chance of knocking Manchester off after the first few rounds?

Team Bath

The blue and gold came so close in season 2019, falling at the final hurdle but ultimately coming in third with a six-goal win against Loughborough Lightning in the third place playoff. Where Bath may have fallen last season, they have been nothing if not threateningly consistent this year with three convincing wins under their belt, all by 10-plus margins. Worth noting is that while Manchester currently sits ahead of Bath on the ladder, the Thunder played one more match than Bath prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, meaning Bath could well and truly have been ahead if not for the pandemic. 

Bath lost major names in Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usoro-Brown over the off-season but do not appear to have skipped a beat with the likes of Kim Commane and Imogen Allison stepping up. Commane has so far posted bigger volume and accuracy in the goal circle, while Allison continues to be a barometer for success with her energiser bunny speed and drive through the midcourt. If Bath can continue its early domination when and if matches resume as normal, it could be a real force to be reckoned with come finals.

London Pulse

Ultimately the biggest bolter from a frustrating inaugural season wooden spoon, Pulse have locked down a spot amongst the top of the ladder with three wins from three matches, only behind Bath in percentage. While only one of Pulse’s wins was by a comfortable margin, the side is arguably in a better position than last year where they only managed the two wins – albeit with a very different looking team. 

Key pick-up Sigi Burger has had an immediate impact on court for Pulse, with the South African a dominant fixture at the post with an innate ability to find the ball. Add in speedy Jamaican recruit Adean Thomas through the midcourt and young defensive talent Funmi Fadoju and the new-look side has plenty of excitement up its sleeve. That being said, what the Pulse have in talent they could lack in experience playing together with so many new names, especially when you factor in an unexpected break from all aspects of the team-oriented sport, meaning there is no guarantee that the side has the experience to take it to an inaugural premiership if they were to get there.

Saracens Mavericks

The Mavs certainly have the talent to get there in season 2020 so it will be more about consistency when it comes to the rest of the year, with a very similar side to their 2019 campaign which slipped out of finals contention towards the latter stages of the season. With young talent heading up either end of the court in England Roses members George Fisher and Razia Quashie alongside more experienced names in Sasha and Kadeen Corbin, the Mavericks have plenty of potential to go far if given the chance. Another side with only three matches played prior to restrictions, the Mavericks won their first and third games – interesting both against Severn Stars – and had a close shave against Wasps Netball in Round 2.

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