Ama Agbeze and Natalie Seaton reflect on London Pulse's debut season so far
"There's nothing that beats that passion you have for supporting the place where you grew up" - Natalie Seaton
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 14/03/19 11:56am
Halfway through their debut Vitality Superleague season, London Pulse are taking stock of a whirlwind journey on and off the court.
The competition's newest franchise may have reached the halfway point of their debut Superleague season at the foot of the table, but make no mistake about it, they are building - and not just towards adding to their one-win tally so far.
Seaton's passion for driving netball in the capital is fervent. She's the force behind everything that they do, and knows the work that comes with her role.
"London has always been a hot pot for creating some of the best talent in the netball world," Seaton told Sky Sports.
"The capital has a rich history in terms of developing some of the greats in netball. You've got Amanda Newton, who used to be our head coach, you've got Sonia Mkoloma, but they had to go outside of London to play at the top level."
"For me, having a top-flight team in London was critical for the development of the sport and for all of those young aspiring players to have somewhere to look forward to playing for."
"It's so important that you can support your local team. Having to look elsewhere, whilst you might have an affinity to the team for various reasons, there's nothing that beats that passion you have for supporting the place where you grew up. A place that you've got an intrinsic link with."
Natalie Seaton, London Pulse CEO
Pulse's short run-up to the new season has been well-documented. They were not the only side that found themselves chasing their own tails after the season started, but being the first new team to join the elite level in a couple of years added further complexities.
For the highly competitive duo of Seaton and Agbeze, one win from nine doesn't sit well, but it is the reality facing the franchise after the first nine rounds of the 2019 season.
Due to injury, England captain Agbeze hasn't had the court time that she would have liked, but she remains vital to the franchise and opens up about some of the challenges faced when joining somewhere brand new.
"In a lot of teams in team sports, the ethos is really key - and culture. On court, you can notice when teams have played together or know each other. When something is new, you don't have that, so you're trying to create that on-court rapport.
"Then off court, there's so many things that you never even think would come up, and they do. So it's a really difficult balance between trying to get to know people, trying to work together, and trying to manage all of the off-court things as well."
Agbeze, who has a century of international appearances for England and nearly two decades of top-flight experience in her locker, has been there and done it all before.
That experience was a major reason behind Seaton's eagerness to sign Agbeze, and the defender's knowledge means she's well-placed to make sure that Pulse don't fall into the trap that other new teams - in any sport - can fall into.
"A lot of the time, I think that you find with new teams, people start turning on each other and blaming each other [after multiple losses] and that makes it even worse than it already is.
"So far, we haven't done that. It is very difficult to lose week in and week out and still be motivated, but one positive for our team is that I think that teams are wary of us because they don't know what team we're going to produce on the day. So, if we're on form and we are consistent, we actually can match up with the top teams."
Vitality Superleague - Round Ten fixtures
|Saturday, March 16||Team Bath||vs||Celtic Dragons|
|Surrey Storm||vs||Strathclyde Sirens|
|Saracens Mavericks||vs||Manchester Thunder|
|London Pulse||vs||Severn Stars|
|Monday, March 18|
|L'boro Lightning||vs||Wasps Netball||Live on Sky Sports Mix, Action and Main Event from 6.45pm|
Following defeat to Bath on Monday night, their schedule now includes a second home game in as many rounds to start the second half of the season. It's another meeting with Severn Stars, whom they beat 51-49 at Super 10 on their debut, before they head on the road to face Celtic Dragons.
Agbeze believes that the nine rounds that they have banked will help them moving forwards. Why? Well, because a lot of squad members "hadn't even played at Superleague level" before.
Experience is vital - and against Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning, the signs were there this new squad is on an upward trajectory.
For CEO Seaton, their wider ambition is key to everything they are doing, and their presence at netball's top table is essential for the sport's development as well as their own as a team.
"From the start, the vision has been that every young person or potential player of netball [in London] has a clear route to the top," said Seaton.
"To do that, it's about going into boroughs, it's about supporting existing clubs in terms of their offerings, and creating centres where they [players] have their first exposure to London Pulse.
"For me, it's about putting structures around what exists already - or if it doesn't exist, creating new structures.
"Next season, you're going to see us expanding. You're going to see more hubs - we call them high-performance hubs - and development centres across London, where girls can have their first introduction to performance sport."
"My goal is ultimately to become the No 1 team in the UK. I think that we have emerging talent that can do that. I also, think that London has the most amount of opportunity. It's scary the talent that is coming through so that's always been my longer-term goal."
Seaton's ambition is driving Pulse's debut season
With just one win from nine so far, some may think that her vision is too lofty, or that it's merely something that, as a CEO, Seaton feels that she should say.
Those that know her well or that have come across her within the world of netball will realise that is far from the truth. Seaton won't say something unless she believes it, and will do everything in her power to achieve it, so it's worth taking stock of the journey so far.
"When I reflect, I'm actually really pleased with what we've achieved already," added Seaton.
"We've not had the results that we wanted on-court so far. However, if any company could come out of being in existence for six months, being competitive, and displaying glimpses of what we can perform, anyone would be impressed by that."
Watch more Vitality Netball Superleague when Loughborough Lightning host Wasps in Round Ten on Monday, March 18 live on Sky Sports Mix, Main Event & Action from 6.45pm. Also, Sky Sports will be showing every game of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in July.