Netball Super League back with a bang ahead of new season

A new Netball Super League season throws up many intriguing stories

Netball Super League back with a bang ahead of new season

By James Reid

Few certainties remain in the Netball Super League with the 2023 season getting underway after an off-season of change and upheaval for many.

Defending champions Manchester Thunder went unbeaten last season as they romped to the title, but just two of their starting seven that day remain.

Something special is brewing in the south-east with Surrey Storm and London Pulse making a number of eye-catching off-season moves.

And there have been high-profile departures at Team Bath and Saracens Mavericks, two of the biggest and most successful clubs in the Super League era.

All ten teams that take to the court at this weekend’s centralised Season Opener at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena will sense opportunity.

Thunder’s approach to losing international stars like Eleanor Cardwell, Joyce Mvula and Laura Malcolm has been to revert to the familiar.

In their place have arrived a number of former youth products who have returned home after spells elsewhere, raising the odds on back-to-back titles, but England and Thunder captain Nat Metcalf is excited by a new era.

“It’s really exciting heading into the 2023 season,” said Metcalf, who also captains England.

“We are definitely a team that wants to make the top four, but every team in Super League sets out those intentions.

“The team is looking very exciting, full of depth and talent with a lot of youngsters.”

While it has been all change at the champions, runners-up Loughborough Lightning have kept the majority of their squad as they regain the title they won in 2021.

Captain Nat Panagarry leads the side alongside helping her wife Katie battle cancer off the court, while Beth Cobden will be a welcome return in the midcourt and young forward Emma Thacker is one to watch.

“We’re here to win it,” said head coach Vic Burgess. “We came very close to it last season, from doing the double, and everyone is passionate in our squad about taking that title back.

“We worked really hard to retain our squad. We have a real sense of togetherness; everybody has a collective goal of winning this season and that’s going to be ultimately what’s going to take us through.”

Leading the pack of challengers are London Pulse, who will hope to be more than young pretenders having achieved a maiden play-off berth last term.

The Copper Box outfit boast an array of young England talent, including Funmi Fadoju who spent her winter showing she is one of the best defenders in the world.

They have signed Commonwealth Games gold medallists Chelsea Pitman and Jade Clarke in a bid to add some experience.

“It’s a really exciting time to be involved at London Pulse,” said head coach Sam Bird.

“We have got lots of high-profile players; some that we have nurtured through our pathway and some that we have brought in this year.

“Expectations are higher this year. We made the play-offs last year and we are certainly aiming to do that again; we are very honest about those ambitions.”

Storm also hope to challenge and they set out their stall with the marquee signings of 2022 league Player of the Year Layla Guscoth and fellow England international Sophie Drakeford-Lewis alongside the retention of league top scorer Proscovia Peace.

“The addition of Layla and Sophie is just incredible,” said captain Yasmin Brookes. I think we will be a threat this season, which I am really looking forward to. We know what we need to do to get to that top four.”

While expectations are high for some, it is a case of the unknown for others who have seen plenty of change in the off-season.

Third-placed last term, Team Bath have a youthful look under new head coach Asha Francis while Wales captain Nia Jones is leading the revolution at Leeds Rhinos under Kiwi boss Liana Leota.

“It's really exciting that we are a new group,” said Jones. “We are really respecting what has gone on at Rhinos before, not just as a netball club but as a successful rugby league club.

“We are focused on gelling together as a group, establishing a really strong culture, and making sure that we are up there as a top club in this league for years to come, not just this season.”

There are new beginnings too for Saracens Mavericks under rookie head coach Camilla Buchanan, with the Hertfordshire side looking to make the step from fifth to fourth, while

Severn Stars have retained just two of their 12 players last season as Kiwi coach Jo Trip ushers in a new era in Worcester.

Many of Celtic Dragons’ squad will have eyes on the summer’s World Cup after helping Wales seal qualification last autumn, and hopes are high in Cardiff of an improved showing this year.

So too will Strathclyde Sirens, with Scotland also set for Cape Town in July; steady improvement on last year’s eighth place is the name of the game in Glasgow.

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: //