The Vitality Netball Superleague returns on Friday evening with 10 matches over the course of four days to complete Rounds 10 and 11 of the competition.
Upon completion of the two rounds, the Superleague will then move to a new home in London for the second half of the season.
From Strathclyde Sirens and Loughborough Lightning opening the action on Friday, to Leeds Rhinos Netball and Manchester Thunder taking to court for the final match on Monday, the competition should continue to produce outstanding contests.
Despite their loss in Round Nine, Team Bath Netball go into the weekend three points clear at the top of the table, with the 2019 champions Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning sitting behind them on 21 points.
Here we take a look at some of the key talking points ahead of Rounds 10 and 11…
Vitality Netball Superleague – Rounds 10 and 11
|Friday at 5.15pm||Strathclyde Sirens vs Loughborough Lightning||Live on Sky Sports Mix and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Friday at 7.15pm||Leeds Rhinos Netball vs Team Bath Netball||Live on Sky Sports Mix and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Saturday at 2pm||Surrey Storm vs Strathclyde Sirens||Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Saturday at 4pm||Team Bath Netball vs London Pulse||Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Saturday at 6pm||Celtic Dragons vs Loughborough Lightning||Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Sunday at 2pm||Surrey Storm vs Manchester Thunder||Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Sunday at 4pm||Celtic Dragons vs Wasps||Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Sunday at 6pm||Severn Stars vs Saracens Mavericks||Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Monday at 5.15pm||Wasps vs Saracens Mavericks||Live on Sky Sports Mix and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Monday at 7.15pm||Leeds Rhinos Netball vs Manchester Thunder||Live on Sky Sports Mix and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel|
Lightning and Bath ready to bounce back
In Round Nine, the previously unbeaten league leaders Team Bath Netball suffered their first defeat of the season, while Loughborough Lightning’s seven-match winning streak came to an end at the hands of Manchester Thunder.
This week, both teams’ head coaches – Anna Stembridge and Sara Bayman – will have spent ample time reviewing their respective losses and both will have spent time briefing their players about the appropriate next steps.
In Tamsin Greenway’s column this week, she’s going to give her take on what Bath and Lightning need to do in order to avoid one defeat turning into two, and the Scottish Thistles head coach believes that both teams will have learnt a great deal from their defeats.
This weekend, Bath open their account against the tenacious Leeds Rhinos Netball, before then facing London Pulse on Saturday. For Lightning, a contest with Strathclyde Sirens, who pushed them hard the last time they met, starts their weekend and then they face the currently winless Celtic Dragons.
Sirens and Storm raring to go
Speaking of Lightning’s first opponents, Sirens will be itching to get back on court for Rounds 10 and 11, as will Surrey Storm.
This season, Strathclyde Sirens are working at a level that we’ve not seen from them so far and they’ll be eager to continue where they left off.
Once again, the contest between Towera Vinkhumbo and Mary Cholhok will be fascinating to watch, as will the mid-court duel between Gia Abernethy and Nat Panagarry.
Meanwhile, another team that has been waiting patiently to get back on court are Surrey Storm. Mikki Austin, their director of netball, has been taking to social media to share her excitement at returning to court after their ‘extended’ break due to the competition’s schedule.
For Storm, their focus will be on nailing the basics, as shooter Karyn Bailey recently told Sky Sports.
“The basics are fundamental when you’re playing netball, and I think that’s something that we’ve really struggled with,” she said openly.
“We’ve had areas of inconsistency; we’ve focused one week on something and really nailed it, then the next game there’s been another area that’s let us down. Netball is always one of those games that you’re constantly learning and developing
“The matches where we’re not expected to win, we tend to play incredibly well and then, we have games when we’re really in contention and we just don’t quite fulfil our potential. It’s just learning to deal with that pressure and delivering the basics under pressure.”
Another derby classic?
In Round Eight, Leeds Rhinos Netball and Manchester Thunder duelled for the first time in the Vitality Netball Superleague.
The 48-41 victory for Thunder only arrived in the final minutes, after Rhinos pushed and pushed the 2019 champions all the way.
And after Thunder’s excellent weekend against Lightning and Mavericks, and Rhinos freshening up with a bye weekend in Round Nine, all of the signs point towards another superb contest between the two on Monday night.
The fact that former colleagues Dan Ryan and Karen Greig are now coaching against each other, simply adds another fascinating layer to what has already become a must-watch fixture in the Vitality Netball Superleague calendar.
Mavs and Wasps clashing
Saracens Mavericks’ victory over Team Bath Netball at the start of Round Nine made every team in the competition sit up and take notice of them.
Kat Ratnapala’s side attacked the fixture with incredibly intensity. They were absolutely sublime in attack, with Kadeen Corbin excelling at GS, and in defence Jodie Gibson reminded us all of her prowess at GD.
After their meeting with Stars on Sunday, Mavs will take on Mel Mansfield’s Wasps this weekend and the personnel match-ups within that contest are great ones.
From Kadeen Corbin and Ine-Mari Venter taking on Josie Huckle and Fran Williams, to a potential mid-court duel between Gabby Marshall and Amy Flanagan, it should be a high-class affair.
Impressing England’s head coach
For the final night of Round Nine, Jess Thirlby, England’s Vitality Roses head coach joined Eboni Usoro-Brown and Dan Ryan in the Sky Sports studio and she provided fascinating insights about how players can become part of the full-time Vitality Roses programme.
“First and foremost, the athlete themselves has to have the desire to want to play for the Roses, and express an interest,” Thirlby said.
“In previous years there would be more criteria that have to be met, but with COVID impacting the year, we’ve left that quite open. We’ve had more expressions of interest than ever; we have a record number of people wanting to be part of the programme and that’s really positive.
“It’s led by the athletes first, and from my point of view, I’m hoping that as many of our best performing players are putting themselves forwards.
“The numbers [selected for the programme] are always based on the quality of athletes who come forwards, so there’s a degree of flexibility there.”
With Thirlby attending every match of the Superleague season in person, she’s been able to watch every athlete’s journey and told Sky Sports recently that it’s been a great luxury to be able to do that.
Needless to say, every athlete who has expressed an interest in the full-time programme will have sensed her presence in Wakefield already, and all will want to keep on showing her what they could offer to England’s Roses programme in the future.
Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Friday with Round 10 and the start of a 10-match weekend, live on Sky Sports and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel.