As the sole Scottish side in the Netball Super League, Strathclyde Sirens represent more than a region.
A fiercely patriotic nation, the club can count on support from local netball fans in 2023, and their opening games of the season have shown that there’s plenty for supporters to look forward to over the coming months.
The early rounds have presented some big matches, facing two of the favourites for this years’ title, as well as an exciting, in-form Severn Stars side. Largely unchanged from last season, they will be hoping to improve on their 2022 finish, which saw them end their run at 9th in the table. The biggest hole, however, has been left by the retirement of midcourter and captain Gia Abernethy, so finding stability in the centre court is a priority.
Sirens co-captain Beth Dix says it’s clear to see the excitement that the team have for the upcoming season, and the passion they have for playing at home in front of their fans.
“There’s a great atmosphere at Emirates Arena and we’re really excited to develop what we’ve built at Sirens, both on and off court.
“We’ve had a good few seasons together as a squad, and there’s obviously the connection between the girls that play for the Thistles too. There have only been a few personnel changes this season – with Claire Maxwell in the team, we feel we have the wing defence position covered, but Gia has left a big hole in the centre court. It’s about working out that stability and who fits best at centre. We don’t have a 60-minute centre at the moment.”
The signing of Ugandan international Stella Oyella has proved to be a talking point, not just for the sides’ supporters, but for netball fans across the UK – her flair bringing something new to both the shooting circle and the wider league. The injection of such a dynamic player into the team is clearly welcome, with Dix thrilled about the connections that are building amongst the shooting group.
“Our attack end is looking really exciting, and it was great that Stella was able to show people what she could do against Severn Stars. She’s an unknown entity and she offers something a bit different than our usual attacking structures. Bethan (Goodwin) and Emma (Barrie) are both training really well, and Bethan’s confidence has grown massively over the past few seasons, which means the team feeds off that and is more confident too.”
It’s clear that they had been doing their homework, with Dix confirming that this was something they were looking to do more of this season.
“Analysing other teams’ performances is a massive focus for us this year. We didn’t win much ball in the first half against Stars, but we knew from looking at their previous matches that we weren’t going to, and that we were much more likely to pick up ball in the second half.”
Aiming for a higher finish than last season, the Sirens are continuing to learn and grow, assessing their own game and looking at how they can build each week.
“We played Loughborough Lightning in pre-season and it was close throughout the game. After the Stars game, we know we need to sort our start out – we won’t be able to come back like that against other teams in the league.”
The new season presents a new challenge for Dix personally, and one that’s really cemented her position at the heart of the squad.
“Being in a leadership role feels quite different for me, I feel really lucky to have (Emily Nicholl) alongside me as my co-captain. I spoke to Gia about it the other day and realised that she did the whole thing by herself! I know I have to give a consistent performance myself as well as being a leader for the team.”
After four rounds, the Sirens are very much making their mark on the season. Starting goal keeper Towera Vinkhumbo is currently fifth in the league for intercepts (12), tied fifth for turnovers (20), and tied sixth for deflections (13), while Bethan Goodwin is fifth on the list of highest goal scorers so far (117) and Dix is cementing her position as one of the league’s best wing attacks, sitting third for circle feeds (77).
They’ve faced two of the favourites to lift the 2023 trophy so far, going down to Surrey Storm (68-56) in the opening round and Loughborough Lightning (42-63) in round three. A win against an exciting Severn Stars side in between (60-51) will have been a huge confidence boost, and by all accounts it was a battle to the wire against Team Bath this week, losing by just one goal, 49-48.
At their home game against Lightning, it was clear the Sirens put what they’ve learnt over the past few seasons into practice. In the past, it may have been that heads have dropped as a scoreline started to blow out, but this season the confidence across the court is palpable. This group of players clearly trust one another, confidently backing their teammates up.
While it’s early in the season, there’s a buzz in the air – it feels like something exciting is brewing. The support from fans across Scotland will surely rise across the season, firstly welcoming Leeds Rhinos to Glasgow next weekend.