Netball stars know importance of new season ahead of World Cup

With the Netball World Cup looming, stakes are higher than ever in the Netball Super League

Netball Super League action starts this weekend with Nat Metcalf and Manchester Thunder set to star
Netball Super League action starts this weekend with Nat Metcalf and Manchester Thunder set to star (NAOMI BAKER)

By James Reid, Sportsbeat

With a World Cup lying in wait, England’s Roses stars know this season’s Netball Super League matters more than ever if they are to get a seat on the plane to South Africa.

The Roses head into the domestic season off the back of a series victory against Jamaica and a third-place finish in the Quad Series that gave away few new clues as to who would form Jess Thirlby’s final 12 come the summer.

It means places are up for grabs ahead of the Season Opener on Saturday where all ten teams will be in action at Nottingham's Motorpoint Arena, with England captain Nat Metcalf’s Manchester Thunder the team to beat, having claimed the title unbeaten last season.

“2023 is going to be the most challenging Super League season yet, and I think that is great for the sport,” said Metcalf.

“Anyone can beat anyone, and that’s exciting for the league, for us as players and for the fans.

“We are definitely a team that wants to make the top four, but I think every team in Super League sets out their intentions of wanting to do that.”

Metcalf is perhaps one of the few players who can be all but assured of taking the court in Cape Town in July, with the 30-year-old a mainstay of Thirlby’s sides at wing attack.

The Copper Box is the first place to start when it comes to those seeking to fill the other spots, where London Pulse’s youngsters will hope for another landmark season.

Defender Funmi Fadoju, 20, was the star of England’s matches throughout the winter, with the reigning Young Player of the Season now one of the world’s best, no well-kept secret.

Fadoju is not the only prodigious talent at Pulse - goal shooter Olivia Tchine, 22, also enjoyed a breakout off season in the red dress – particularly pertinent should Jo Harten fail to recover from knee surgery.

Pulse have also added England’s most-capped player Jade Clarke, who recently made her 200th appearance, plus the experienced Chelsea Pitman who returns from Australia while other youngsters Ellie Rattu and captain Zara Everitt, both 22, are also knocking on the door for selection.

“Once we are in the pink and focusing on our performances week to week, I don’t think anybody is putting the pressure on themselves to perform to be selected for the World Cup,” insisted Everitt.

“We all want to perform well for each other and for the team but a lot of us would love to be in that World Cup team come the summer.

“England selection is in the back of people’s minds but it’s Pulse focus all the way now until the end of the season.”

Stalwart Clarke is one of a number of options that Thirlby has at her disposal at centre, with no one yet to truly lay both hands on the position following the retirement of Serena Kersten.

Team Bath’s Imogen Allison has recently been deployed there, while Thirlby may also look to return to previously tried Loughborough Lightning pair Nat Panagarry and Hannah Joseph, while Commonwealth gold medallist Beth Cobden could be the answer at wing defence if she can stay injury free.

The return of Amy Carter at centre for Thunder may represent an alternative option, while Lightning are excited about young goal attack Emma Thacker as a potential breakout star this term.

“Emma is a Roses goal attack for the future,” said Panagarry. “She reminds me of Helen Housby.

“She’s the most calm, laidback person you will ever meet, and she works so hard here at Loughborough University.

“She’s a pleasure to be around and be on her team, she’s growing every day and I’m excited to see what she can do with regular court time.”

The 2023 Netball Super League season gets underway on Saturday 11 February, live on Sky Sports. Tickets to games across the season can be found at: //