Severn Stars preparing for Vitality Superleague Super 10s
Last Updated: 24/02/17 7:15am
We've met the Wasps and Sirens, now it's time to find out more about the third of the new Vitality Superleague franchises, the Severn Stars.
After the first round of the 2017 season, there was plenty of fuss about Sirens and Wasps, and justifiably so, the two franchises met in the first week and with new franchises being the story of the off-season it was selected for coverage live on Sky Sports.
Coupled with some big name arrivals for both teams, the furore was understandable, but quietly and efficiently a third franchise has been going about their business.
Severn Stars are the third of the new franchises completing the 10-team line-up for the 2017 season and from their opening salvo they too have been making their mark.
A champion with Surrey Storm last year, Pamela Cookey decided to hang up the goal attack bib and swap the court for the office, taking up the director of netball role with the Stars.
Retiring at the top following's Storm victory over Manchester Thunder in last year's Grand Final, Cookey has turned her attention to matters off the field, combining a role as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire with her netball duties.
"There are three new franchises, so we are all going to be trying to find our way and make our mark," Cookey told Sky Sports.
"It's a good opportunity to keep the development going in terms of improving netball across the whole of the UK. But also striving for those performance targets as well, because you want to be the best, whatever you do."
Although as Josie Janz-Dawson revealed at the Superleague launch, the temptation to don the relevant footwear and join in training is all too tempting for the former England international.
For the record, Janz-Dawson says Cookey has still got it - much to the delight of the younger members of the squad for whom Cookey remains an idol.
More experience has come in, with former Aussie international Mo'onia Gerrard brought in as the Stars' first head coach, giving the franchise an international flavour that helped lure Janz-Dawson.
"Having Mo'onia as a coach, she has focused on some of our individual strengths but also our weaknesses, making sure we have practised in practise matches things that we dislike and make us feel uncomfortable," she told Sky Sports.
"Having played internationally for the Diamonds and in the ANZ Championships, she has used a lot of what she has done in her career and as a player what she would like to have been done better in those driving her teams."
So with a formidable off-court presence, the process of building the squad from nothing started to become a reality.
Co-founder Anita Navin in her role as Head of School, Sports and Exercise at the University of Gloucestershire has been working alongside Mick Donovan, University of Worcester's deputy pro vice chancellor (inclusive sport and educational development) to get the franchise off the ground.
Once the Superleague licence was granted, the real business of attracting players began and the Stars plan was to get the balance right.
2017 Severn Stars Squad
|Lauren Brooks||C, WD|
|Eleanor Cardwell||GA, GS|
|Sophie Carter||C, WD|
|Josie Janz-Dawson||GK, GD|
|Iona Darroch||C, WA|
|Jodie Gibson||GK, GD|
|Laura Malcolm||C, WD|
|Afeisha Noel||GA. GS|
|Becky Oatley||GD, WD|
|Yasmin Hodge-England||GA, GS|
|Rachel Sweet||GK, GD|
|Rebecca Tildesley||GA, GS|
A balance between giving youth a chance in an area of the country looking to build and develop at grassroots level and putting together a squad capable of competing in a national competition
"Being Australian Mo'onia is pretty ambitious already - she has a winning mentality and finishing top is where she wants to be," Navin told Sky Sports..
"But we are realistic and she shares the same vision as us - that it is about blending and growing the youth but not throwing them onto court if they are not ready. We have a real focus to grow, not just a one-season win but something we can build for the future over the coming years.
"The established franchises have got their brands, they've got the players that are looking to move into a top-four franchise so it is a bit harder for us, but that is an opportunity as we can invest in some players who may not be getting onto court at other franchises.
"We can look to get them opportunities with more established players."
Eleanor Cardwell and Iona Darroch are two examples of young players who have joined the Stars looking to get a better chance of regular games, while the addition of England international Laura Malcolm, former ANZ regular Janz-Dawson and Trinidad and Tobago shooter Afeisha Noel suggests the mix is right.
So with a coaching team and a squad to go with their Superleague franchise licence, what are the targets for the Stars in their debut campaign?
Having been handed a tough opening assignment, and ultimately defeat, against the two-time defending champions, Navin feels they could do an awful lot worse than follow the Storm's formula for success.
"We have seen Surrey Storm take the title with no real imports and it shows if you give opportunities there are some players who will get onto a court and perform," Navin added.
"We talked in our interview around the Superleague bid that there was a group of individuals, 21+ who occasionally get missed. They've been playing at university or playing netball not on the England pathway.
"Amy Flanagan is a prime example. She has been playing strong club netball and playing through university - she's been given an opportunity and those players seem to be more motivated and have a real desire to make a difference."
So with plans in place off the field, the players will now look to take the Stars forward on it.
With her years of experience in the ultra-competitive ANZ Championship, a competition that has set a benchmark for netball around the world, Janz-Dawson is best placed to reveal the bond forged in pre-season as dreams finally become a reality and the Stars take their Superleague baby steps.
"We are aiming to be really competitive - when all 12 of us are at our peak as individuals we become united in the culture and structure for what we want to achieve," she says with conviction.
"Rather than trust each other on court we are looking to really trust each other - something that is raw and real - and sticking to the brand of netball that we want to play."
Vitality Superleague Round Two Fixtures
|Loughborough Lightning||v||Severn Stars||12pm|
|Team Northumbria||v||Wasps||4pm (live Sky Sports Mix)|
|Surrey Storm||v||Manchester Thunder||6pm (live Sky Sports Mix)|
|Hertfordshire Mavericks||v||Team Bath||8pm (live Sky Sports Mix)|
Superleague Super 10s is live on Sky Sports Mix from 3.45pm on Saturday and you can follow all the Vitality Superleague action on Mix throughout the season and across our Sky Sports platforms. Follow us @SkyNetball