By |2021-06-18T17:59:34+10:00June 18th, 2021|Categories: Match Reviews, UK, Uncategorised, VNSL|0 Comments

Contributors – Zara Collings, Daisey Cotterill, Rona Hunnisett, Eve Cobbett & Ian Harkin



By Zara Collings


It’s been quite the week in the Vitality Netball Superleague. We’ve had a postponed match, two cancelled matches and the adherence to a pre-season agreement between clubs that determined the outcome of the most exciting race for finals since the League’s inception. The mighty fell quite significantly, as Bath and Loughborough Lightning were both on the losing end of two comprehensive victories and netball Legend Karyn Bailey of Surrey Storm announced her retirement after sixteen years in the sport. 

With the revelation early in the week that Wasps had a potential Covid-19 case in the camp, their Round 19 fixture was pushed into Round 20, where they will now take on Surrey Storm as part of the final weekend of the regular season. The same day, Leeds Rhinos announced that they had a confirmed case of Covid within their camp and consequently the entire squad and coaching staff were placed in isolation. Due to the length of time they are required to spend in quarantine and the five day return to play protocol that was implemented to protect athlete welfare for the 2021 season, their remaining two fixtures against London Pulse and Celtic Dragons were cancelled. In somewhat of a controversial fashion, Rhinos were awarded the full six points for these fixtures, as they had won these matches in the first leg of the season. This was part of a Covid-19 protocol agreement signed by all clubs prior to the commencement of the season and one which had not been openly published or discussed until this week. Whilst the race for top four is over, Round 20 is very much still to be played and there is still much for each team to gain from their remaining fixture. 

After a clinical victory over Celtic Dragons in Round 19, Strathclyde Sirens will be looking to prove just how far they have come, when they face semi-finalists Manchester Thunder in their last match of the year. The Scottish side put out another four quarter performance this weekend against Dragons, and achieved the consistency that so many have chased all season. A clever substitution by Technical Director Karen Atkinson saw Beth Goodwin enter the court for Emma Barrie at Goal Shooter in the third quarter. This sparked a string of Sirens goals, with Goodwin able to exploit Dragon’s defence using clever and well-timed movements along the baseline.  After a few weeks struggling with injury, Towera Vinkhumbo looked back to her dazzling self, picking up five intercepts and six gains throughout the match. Despite two clutch shots from Amy Clinton at the end of quarters two and three, Dragon’s were unable to channel the momentum they had built over recent weeks and appeared two steps behind on every ball. With their remaining fixture against Leeds Rhinos cancelled, Dragons have one more chance against Severn Stars to improve their record for the season. 

This will be a tough ask for Dragons, as Stars once again showed plenty of promise in their performance this weekend, going goal for goal with London Pulse until the last few minutes of the match. Eventually falling short by just two, Stars produced a consistent performance, with each player doing their job on court and Goal Shooter Georgia Rowe hitting an impressive 33 goals at 97% accuracy. However it was the calm belief from the young London Pulse side that saw them through, with Player of the Match Fumni Fadoju making another strong case for Roses selection tallying ten deflections to her name. This season is just the start for the young Goal Defence, who already displays glimpses of the superstar she will one day become. Pulse picked up a further three points against Saracens Mavericks, who were unable to back up their sizzling performance against Bath a day earlier. Despite putting forward a different Goal Shooter in Olivia Tschine to the line-up that had won against Stars less than 24 hours earlier, the Pulse attacking end did not miss a beat. Lefebre Rademan has really grown into the Goal Attack bib in recent weeks and was able to expertly work the angles of the circle to share the load with her Goal Shooter, despite pressure from the experience of Jodie Gibson and Jo Tripp. Ash Dekker provided plenty of speed in Wing Attack and played her best game of the season, weaving through court to hit the circle edge. 

Inconsistency has been the hallmark of Mavericks’ season, as their disappointing loss to London Pulse came after a dynamic and passionate performance against Team Bath. The belief and determination was evident from the moment the Mavericks players stepped out on court for their warm-up, as key experienced players such as Kadeen and Sasha Corbin, Jodie Gibson and Gabby Marshall produced some exceptional performances to secure their second win of the season over the ladder leaders Team Bath. Mavericks ensured the ball speed was quick, executing a whole team defensive effort and punishing any turnover ball on the scoreboard. Conversely, Bath never even really got in to first gear. They were unable to match the energy on court and this was evident in the final score, with an eventual eleven point margin by the final whistle. Usuro-Brown and Gusgoth appeared flat in defence, unable to harness the game-smarts we all know they have, reacting to the Mavericks attack rather than stemming their flow. Head Coach Anna Stenbridge rolled the dice early in the second quarter, as Betsy Creak entered the game at Goal Shooter, shuffling Captain Kim Borger out to Goal Attack and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to Wing Attack. Whilst the introduction of Creak provided Bath with more height in the circle, it was an incredibly tough ask up against the experience of Jo Trip. Borger struggled with the pace of the Goal Attack position and lacked the stamina to really bring any punch through court. Seeing Drakeford-Lewis in Wing Attack will certainly pleas Roses fans, as her versatility outside the circle proved key in ensuring the margin did not blow out any further. Whilst none could fault the enthusiasm and hunger from Serena Guthrie in Centre, even she could not rally her teammates in what was a shock performance. Any critique of a team that has been as impressive as Bath throughout the season may appear harsh, however with a team full of national players, many assumed that this year the title was Bath’s to lose. With their last game of the regular season against Loughborough Lightning in Round 20, Bath will need to address the weaknesses exposed against Mavericks to ensure they head in to semi-finals with the momentum they need to reverse their fortunes of previous seasons. 

However, Loughborough Lightning will be gunning for the very same thing after a disappointing performance against Manchester Thunder. Going down by fourteen goals, Lightning were unable to sight Cholhok with their usual ease and were unable to trouble the Thunder attack. Kerry Almond had an excellent game in Goal Keeper against Lightning’s Cholhok, who was kept to just 32 goals, well below her season average of 39. With Thunder’s Amy Carter missing from the side as she had to sit University exams, Elia McCormick was handed the start at Wing Defence over the more experienced Rebekah Airey. McCormick had an excellent game, shutting down the continuous drives from Wing Attack Hannah Joseph and together with Almond and Captain Emma Dovey, the Thunder defenders worked tirelessly together to generate nine turnovers. Conversely, Lightning struggled to disrupt Thunder’s attacking flow, until youngster Alice Harvey entered the game in Goal Keeper, making immediate impact and taking three gains in her 24 minutes on court. Thunder once again took the opportunity to use their full rotation of players, with almost an entire attacking end of young talent on court at the end of the match, as Neil, Pearson and Standring were joined by debutante Millie Roscoe for her first Superleague outing. Once again, this depth of talent and the experience given to these younger players will be invaluable throughout finals. 

With the final round of the Vitality Netball Superleague looking slightly different to the one imagined at the beginning of the season, it must be acknowledged that despite continuing throughout national lockdown, it has taken until the penultimate week of the season for Covid-19 to cause any major disruption. This itself is a credit to the work and diligence of the League and the staff behind the scenes and is something that must be applauded as we head in to the final weekend of matches. With the final four locked in, this will be a bittersweet round for many, with Sirens, Mavericks and Wasps left rueing what might have been had Covid not interfered. Yet this will only fuel the fires of determination further, as each will take to court one last time in what has been a season that will never be forgotten. 

Stats Leaders of the Week 

Most Goals: 35 Olivia Tchine (Pulse v Mavericks)

Most Gains: 6 Towera Vinkhumbo (Sirens v Dragons)

Most Offensive Rebounds: 2 Emma Barrie (Sirens v Dragons), Sigi Burger (Pulse v Stars),Kadeen Corbin
(Mavericks v Pulse), Mary Cholhok (Lightning v Thunder), Joyce Mvula (Thunder v Lightning)

Most Defensive Rebounds: 3 Eboni Usoro-Brown (Bath v Mavericks), Razia Quashie (Mavericks v Bath)

Most Intercepts: 4 Gia Abernethy (Sirens v Stars), Iman Thomas (Stars v Pulse)


A scramble for possession in the Sirens v Dragons match. Photo: England Netball






By Daisey Cotterill


From the get-go Saracens Mavericks dominated this game, this continued throughout, and Team Bath were unable to pull through and take the lead as usually expected. Mavericks showcased their true grit and determination, with the likes of the Corbin sisters, Sasha and Kadeen, and Ine-marie Venter being unstoppable. Team Bath tried to repeatedly close the gap and fought hard, however, the confidence of Mavericks shone through and meant that Bath’s efforts unfortunately led them nowhere.

Who dominated?

Straight out of the gates Mavericks had the lead over Bath, form the first quarter they had taken a 6-goal lead and only continued to make it harder for their opposition. All players on court for Mavericks were unstoppable even under the intense pressures of the Bath defensive unit, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth. Even when Bath
seemed to pick up an interception the defensive ‘sea of red’ seemed to startle and disrupt Bath, making it extremely uncomfortable for them. Even with the control and experience of Serena Guthrie in the middle, Bath seemed unsure at times and theslow start meant that Mavericks took control gaining more and more confidence and the game went on.

Although Bath struggled during this game, the likes of Betsy Creak and Kimberly Borger remained calm and collected keeping their team in the game and ensuring the loss was not too painful. Creak used her strength and height to manoeuvre her way around the circle and hold her space to enable an easy feed for her attacking team mates. Serena Guthrie shows her true skill and athleticism every game, her solid defensive pressure and hunger for the ball meant that she could create opportunities for Bath, however, these were not always converted.

What worked?

For Mavericks both the defensive and attacking work was faultless, the partnerships at both ends meant that they were able to effortlessly transition through court and be rewarded with another goal each time. The defensive pressure and presence of both Jodie Gibson and Razia Quashie meant that Bath’s attacking circle were unable to
feed the ball, or even penetrate the circle at times, this coupled with Bath’s confusion and lack of movement at times was detrimental for the Bath side. Mavericks portrayed a seven-man attacking and defensive masterclass during this
hard-fought game. throughout the court all players applied pressure and often came out with a turnover, as well as this, the transition from defensive to attack allowed for a fluid style of play.

What needs improvement?

For Bath defensively they needed to apply more pressure to Mavericks form the start and more consistently to make an impact. When Guthrie, Ecuyer-Dale and Allison stepped up to their opponents and applied this pressure they were apply to slow down the transition from defence to attack and give their circle defenders more time to get into position and make more of an impact. For Guscoth and Usoro-Brown they seemed unsure at times on their plan within the circle, when teaming up to do a two on one defence they would often not commit and then allow their opponent to receive the ball or cover too much ground. This meant that Maverick’s shooters had free run of the circle.

Where was it won/lost?

For Bath they began slowly, this impacted them throughout the game and meant that they then could not gain momentum. In addition to this it seemed that defensively they did not apply enough pressure, allowing the Mavericks shooters to roam freely and allowing the play to flow fluidly throughout the court. As well as this, unforced errors allowed for Mavericks to turnover ball and capitalise, the timing of the feed into the circle allowed for Quashie and Gibson to shutdown Borger and Creak, making it even more difficult for Bath to move and fight back. At times Bath also needed to play to the whistle and adjust to some of the umpiring decisions.

Mavericks remained confident and clinical the entire game making it hard for Bath to break through and made it hard for any team to take them on due to their momentum and drive to win. The connection between Sasha and Kadeen Corbin made the feeds into the circle and in the goal third effortless joined with the skill of Venter and
support of the whole team. As a spectator the need to win and the strength of Mavericks was visible and undeniable.

How did she do that?

For Mavericks the shooters were unstoppable, Kadeen Corbin and Ine-marie Venter enabled their team to stay dominant, keeping their shooting percentages up and being constant available options. Kadeen corbin often adds flare and excitement to the game, this was visible, however, she appeared to be more controlled and focused in this game. This paired with the drilled skill and availability of Venter meant the pair were strong and determined. In addition to this the defensive powerhouse that is Jodie Gibson truly showed the hard work and perseverance it takes to not only beat top of the league but to come back from injury and play as she does. Gibson made it incredibly difficult for Bath to enter the attacking third and was present whenever there was a loose ball, this made hard for Bath to make mistakes as Gibson and her attacking team mates would be there to collect and convert.

Starting lineups:

Sirens: GS Borger, GA Drakeford-Lewis, WA Shaw, C Guthrie, WD Allison, GD Guscoth, GK Usoro-Brown

Mavericks: GS Venter, GA Corbin, WA Corbin, C Ecuyer-Dale, WD Marshall, GD Gibson, GK Quashie

Centre Beth Ecuyer-Dale with the ball in Mavericks’ stunning win over Bath. Photo: England Netball



By Rona Hunnisett


While many commentators had spent hours this weekend poring over the calculator, trying to work out mathematical probabilities for the play off places, for teams at the other end of the table, there is still much to play for, with a top eight spot guaranteeing a place in the next Fast5 competition, and bragging rights in play ahead of next year. So while Severn Stars and London Pulse may not be challenging for the top spots this season, there was a frisson of excitement at the start of this game, between teams sitting eighth and ninth at the start of play.

Who dominated?

As you would expect in such a close fought game, there was little between either team, with both sets of shooters registering impressively high percentages. Both Sigi Burger and Georgia Rowe dominated their respective circles, and were ably supported by the fluid movement and willingness to go to post of their GA’s, Lefebre Rademan and Paige Reed.  Meanwhile, the midcourters were kept on their toes, running end to end and neither defence could seemingly get the upper hand to spark a comprehensive break away.

What worked?

For both teams, when the midcourt had clear sight of their holding shooters, offence looked simple, with first time balls released into space and plenty of short sharp off the ball movement to drive to the circle edge. But for every first time ball which Dekker and Thomas (for Pulse) and Harris and Kyra Jones (for Stars) let go, there was also too much tentative play, pushing passes laterally, off the backline or into the opposition’s hands. 

What needs improvement?

It seems strange to be saying this, but at times, both teams looked like they were unfamiliar with each other. Stars were definitely missing their inspirational attacking leader Liana Leota (no reason was given for her absence) but with the season almost at an end, it seems strange to be questioning connections between players and playing structures. Much has been said and written about Pulse’s youth and lack of experience, but there was no excuse for countless wayward passes which they offered up when they had the chance to take the lead. And while their captain Lindsay Keable may feel she was hard done by to receive a caution and warning for persistent contact, a player of her experience should surely adapt her playing style to the umpire.

Where was it won?

With both sides tied into a battle of nip and tuck, with neither able to establish a convincing lead, it was always likely that the game would swing on a single incident.  Midway through the final quarter, with the scores 40-39 in Pulse’s favour, Stars had an opportunity to capitalise on a two v one situation in their circle, which would have drawn them level. However, their attacking unit wasted valuable seconds trying to get their plays into position, forgetting to actually take the penalty they had been awarded, and a held ball was called in the interim.  Pulse gladly took the opportunity, moved quickly down court to score, and then scored off their own centre pass to edge out a three goal lead. While Rowe clawed one back in the dying seconds of the game, the damage had been done, and a grateful Pulse took the points.

Where was it lost?

Stars never looked convincing when they fought their way into the lead. In the second quarter, they put on a five goal run to lead 15-12 but let the opposition retake the advantage with unforced errors that handed possession back to Pulse.  From then on, the game was nip and tuck all the way, but Stars could never find their way back into the lead and were guilty of too many unforced errors.

How did she do that?

In such a closely contested game, there were moments of individual skill all over the court, but few could rival Stars  WA Lucy Harris for fun.  In the final quarter, running away from the ball carrier into the pocket, Harris became unsighted for a pass sent her way. To the shouts of her teammates as she ran with her back to the ball,, she conducted a full 360 spin, caught sight of the pass at the last minute and managed to hook it back into court to the waiting hands of Georgia Rowe under the post. Cue a wry smile from Rowe and a giggling Harris heading back to the centre pass.

Starting lineups:  

Pulse: GS Burger, GA Rademann, WA A Thomas, C Dekker, WD Everitt, GD Fadoju, GK Keable
2nd Q (midway)  Dekker to WA, C Rattu
4th Q: C Drayne, Rattu to WD, Everitt to GD, Fadoju to GK

Stars: GS  Rowe, GA Reed, WA Harris, C K Jones, WD N Jones (capt), GD I Thomas, GK Herdman
3rd Q: GK Kelly

Umpires:  Natalie Gregan and Kate Mann

Pulse’s Funmi Fadoju reacts to a call in the match against Stars. Photo: England Netball


The scoreboard tells the story as Pulse upsets Mavericks. Photo: England Netball



By Eve Cobbett


Manchester Thunder took on Loughborough Lighting in this top of the table clash, both teams seeking a win that could help them finish 2nd and 1st on the table respectively. It was Thunder who came out on top however, convincingly beating Lightning and bolstering their confidence going into the final round of the regular season and Finals.

 Who dominated?

Thunder dominated in every area of the court in this game, but no-one more so than eventual player of the match Kerry Almond. Almond gave away 16cm in height to Mary Cholhok and 6cm to Ella Clark, but that didn’t stop her getting 2 rebounds, 3 deflections and 3 interceptions across the 48 minutes. Her elevation was outstanding in this game, allowing her to get her hands to passes that normally would have been on for Cholhok. Her dominance also forced the withdrawal of Cholhok from the game as early as quarter 2, an impressive feat given Cholhok is the league’s top goal scorer by 122 goals.

 Applause must also be given to Thunder’s Wing Defence Elia McCormick, who started this game in only her 16th appearance for Thunder. Amy Carter was missing from the game day squad due to taking her medical exams, which pushed Laura Malcolm up into Centre with McCormick taking the Wing Defence bib. We’ve mainly seen McCormick used as an impact sub at Goal Keeper or Goal Defence this season, so there was some questions raised about her ability to both starts games and cover the difficult position of Wing Defence. She slotted in seamlessly however, picking up 1 interception and 1 deflection and more importantly forcing Lightning’s usually prolific Hannah Joseph to have a very quiet game.  

What worked?

It was a game when everything worked for Thunder, right from the very first whistle. Early on their ball speed was a lot faster than Lightning’s and they seemed a lot more confident letting their passes go on the first second. This meant that they were getting the ball down the court before Lightning could set up in defence. Thunder’s Wing Attack Caroline O’Hanlon had a particularly good start, making full use of her speed and rolls to get away from Lightning’s Wing Defence Beth Cobden and in position at the top of the circle.

Early gains and disruption from Thunder’s defence, as well as effective full-court pressure from all Thunder’s players, set the tone for the rest of the match and spooked Lightning. Clark was prone to forcing the ball into Cholhok, who then uncharacteristically missed 3 shots and a rebound early on. More importantly the entire Thunder team played proactively and cohesively, ensuring they were the first players onto any loose ball. This meant that most deflections got by Thunder’s defence were picked up by another Thunder player, or any ball Lightning did manage to get a hand to was collected safely by the Manchester team. This meant that, from the first quarter, it seemed unlikely that Lightning could make any sort of comeback.

Once again Thunder’s cohesiveness as a 12-woman squad also worked in their favour. Whilst Lightning’s substitutes had little impact on the game when brought on, Thunder were able to look to their bench and use their less experienced players to see out the game. By the end of quarter 4 Thunder’s frontline, GS through to C, was made up of players new to the SuperLeague this season, with Emilia Roscoe making her debut. Normally changes in personnel would bring disruption, but this was not the case for Thunder. Karen Greig and her coaching team’s decision to work in younger players throughout the season has now come into fruition, with all of Thunder’s bench able to take the court and pick up where their more experienced teammate left off. This may prove vital come finals, with both Lightning and Team Bath showing this weekend they have few options should their starting 7 not come out firing.

What needs improvement?

Uncharacteristically, what needed improvement in this game was Lightning’s attack line. Usually so confident and accurate, Cholhok and Clark shot at only 84% and 75% respectively. Whilst this is not particularly low in general, it is certainly low in the context of Lightning’s shooters’ usual form, and in comparison to Thunder’s Joyce Mvula and Cardwell who shot at 93% and 88%. In particular, Cholhok looked nervous from the first whistle, perhaps unnerved by the fact this was potentially a preview of the semi-final.  

What also needed improvement was Lightning’s defence. Mvula had the better of Sam May from the off, holding strong and not allowing May a sniff at the huge balls thrown into the circle. May needed to move her feet a lot more and not allow Mvula to set up the hold. Alice Harvey had more of an impact when she was brought to Goal Keeper in quarter 3, however she only managed to pick up 1 interception. What was particularly worrying for Lightning was that they only picked up 4 interceptions as a team, just 1 more than Almond managed to pick up alone.

Interestingly, Lightning’s stats for deflections were a lot higher, with Jas Odeogberin picking up 5 and May picking up 4. These were complimented however with no interceptions for Odeogberin and only 1 for May, which demonstrates that whilst Lightning’s defence were getting tips and touches to ball, they did not manage to convert this into possession.

Where was it lost?

This game was lost by Lightning across the court. Player for player Thunder had Lightning beaten comprehensively. In defence Almond and Emma Dovey had Cholhok, Clark and Suzie Liverseidge beaten for rebounds and May, Odeogberin and Harvey for deflections and interceptions. In attack Cardwell, Mvula, Roscoe and Berri Neil were also significantly more accurate than Lightning’s shooters.

When was it lost or won?

By the end of the first quarter this game was lost for Lightning. Thunder were up 16-9 by the end of the first 12 minutes and had sufficiently shocked Lightning enough that they were unable to mount any meaningful comeback. Lightning only lost quarter 2 and 3 by 3 and 4 goals, and even managed to draw the final quarter, but after the disruption of quarter 1 they could not manage to get the upper hand for the rest of the game.

Starting lineups: 

Thunder: GS Mvula, GA Cardwell, WA O’Hanlon, C Malcolm, WD McCormick, GD Dovey, GK Almond

Lightning: GS Cholhok, GA Clark, WA Joseph, C Panagarry, WD Cobden, GD Odeogberin, GK May

Lightning head coach Sara Bayman has plenty to think about after their defeat to Thunder. Photo: England Netball


Check out The Netball Show Podcast and the Surrey Storm Podcast for all the latest on the Vitality Netball Superleague. Listen now on your favourite podcast aps.



Sunday, Jun 20
12:00pm – Mavericks v Storm
2:00pm – Thunder v Sirens
4:00pm – Dragons v Stars

Monday, Jun 21
5:15pm – Storm v Wasps
7:15pm – Lightning v Bath



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