Netball Expert & Columnist
Tamsin Greenway's Vitality Netball Superleague Season Opener talking points
Last Updated: 27/02/20 4:39pm
After a record-breaking day for domestic netball in England, Tamsin Greenway looks back at some of the key talking points from the Vitality Netball Superleague's Season Opener.
New kids on the block
At the start of a new four-year international cycle, changes happen not only within international teams but a new breed of players come through the domestic ranks too and that was clear in Birmingham.
Personally, I'd probably underestimated just how many youngsters were going to make the match-day 10s and secure game time.
From the first game of the day, with Funmi Fadoju coming on for Pulse, to the last and Sienna Rushton gaining her first cap at Wasps, there was so much to enjoy.
Funmi is someone I'd heard about for a while but hadn't seen play in person until Saturday. The impact she had against Sirens was absolutely amazing. I loved how fearless she was, how much ball she got her hands on and how at home she looked on a Superleague court.
It was great to see Kira Rothwell entering their game at GA as well, it's such a tough area of the court to play in as a youngster, but she did a great job and steadied their attack just when they needed it.
However it was the fourth game of the day, Loughborough Lightning taking on Team Bath Netball where we saw a huge amount of youngsters but also the need to have support around them.
With Nat Panagarry's early injury and Vicki Oyesola and Hannah Joseph still returning from injury, Lightning were forced to use more younger players at one time than they had perhaps planned to.
Vitality Netball Superleague - Round Two Fixtures
|February 28||Severn Stars vs Manchester Thunder||6pm|
|Loughborough Lightning vs Strathclyde Sirens||6pm|
|Celtic Dragons vs Team Bath||6.30pm|
|March 2||Surrey Storm vs London Pulse||7pm - Live on Sky Sports & YouTube|
|Wasps Netball vs Saracens Mavericks||7.30pm|
The superbly talented Jas Odeogberin, who has so much potential, suddenly didn't have the support around her and it made for a difficult time for Lightning.
Of course, it was great to see players like Alice Harvey and Hannah Williams on court but I'm guessing head coach Sara Bayman would have loved to have them supported.
She would have wished to have had them learning their trade with others around them. Instead, she was forced to have them all on court at the same time and that inevitably meant that they struggled to get back into the contest with Bath.
In contrast, Team Bath's younger players had experience around them, like Tash Pavelin with Imogen Allison and Summer Artman next to her.
Although Imogen and Summer are young in years too, both have invaluable experience having played with Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usorob-Brown last year.
As the rounds continue I'd like to see more of these young players making an impact. With match-day squads of just 10 that's a challenge, and sometimes injuries work against you as Sara unfortunately experienced on Saturday.
However, if coaches are able to play their youngsters within the right combinations, we'll see them really thrive, drive the standard upwards within the league and build a great future for the clubs.
Bayman shares first-season lessons in bid to build
Sara Bayman will be looking for an instant response from Lightning this weekend and will be leaning on last season's lessons.
The need to avoid confusion and uncertainty…
Let's go back to the second game of the day and the final moments between Celtic Dragons and Surrey Storm.
Just to re-cap, Dragons had led for the majority of the game and went into the last quarter with a five-goal advantage. Storm weren't at their best but were gritty throughout and kept themselves in touch.
After dragging it back Mikki Austin's side led 44-43 with 17 seconds left on the clock. Storm had the next Centre Pass however, Lorraine Kowalewska was penalised for slowing the ball down and a penalty pass was given to Dragons in the centre circle.
With the possession, Dragons fed the ball to the edge, the umpire held time twice before the final feed went in with a second to go. We all thought that there was about to be a penalty pass or shot given, but the umpire didn't call that.
Instead there was confusion and eventually full-time was called. There was some talk amongst the players after that perhaps there might have been confusion about extra-time but overall it was just a strange end to the game with us all asking what's happened?!
Contests being decided in the dying seconds is what we all want to see, but what we need to ensure is that there's real clarity across the board.
Netball is a goal-for-goal sport and you are going to have late match-winning moments, so we need to help everybody in those pressure situations. Coaches, players and more importantly umpires need that assistance in order to get the best out of them and avoid all the confusion.
A record crowd in Birmingham
It was absolutely incredible to see over 9,000 people at Arena Birmingham, a record crowd for a one-day netball event in England and a number that eclipsed even the Netball World Cup final last July.
I've been involved with a lot of big netball game events but what made this special, was that the crowd were inside the arena from start to finish.
Just before the final match Whitney Houston was played and the whole arena was on their feet, nearly seven hours after the beginning of the first match. Their energy was amazing and when I had the opportunity to go around and speak to people, the conversations were all about real netball.
I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, it was a netball event after all, but sometimes that's not always the case. This time though, everyone was talking to me about different players, tactics, teams and my new role as Scotland's head coach
Speaking to the players themselves, I know how excited they were to run-out in front of such a large crowd and that they felt the nerves too! So many haven't played international netball, so it was a huge opportunity to experience a massive game day.
As fans, advocates and drivers of the netball, we should be all be incredibly proud of where the sport has already got to.
The packed house at Arena Birmingham should be something that sponsors and commercial partners really take note of, netball continues to move forwards and that there's still more to come.
Team of the Day
In my view, the team of the day award has to go to Saracens Mavericks.
They stepped up to the challenge and it was a big challenge as well having trailed by six after the first quarter against Stars. The way in which they responded in that second quarter, and throughout the rest of the game, was fantastic.
On the day I said that this could be their year and I do still believe that it could be. I believe what sets them apart at the moment is how much flair they have got.
Thunder and Wasps were a lot more structured in Birmingham, because they both needed to get used to their new attack-ends. Whereas for Mavs and their settled unit, it looked more natural out on court. They were looser and seemed to have more fun.
In defence, I thought that Razia Quashie was exceptional.
She's one of a number of players in their line-up who aren't 'young' players anymore and who need to step up. After a slow first quarter, she and her side did just that and now for them it's all about consistency.
A Superleague debut to remember
Finally, Latanya Wilson deserves her very own special mention. She was outstanding and I absolutely loved her work.
Prior to their match, I wasn't sure if Dragons would have enough structure around her, but the defensive duo of Paige Kindred and Abby Tyrrell out in front were superb.
Storm did not know what to do with Latanya and she just got her hands onto everything.
It was a really impressive Superleague debut. Latanya is going to get better with every game because she's going to be exposed to different styles and tactics, she'll learn so much.
Tactically teams are going to have to plan around her, just like they had to do against Shamera Sterling. What a debut it was and I can't wait to see her progression as the season continues.
Coverage of the Vitality Netball Superleague season continues on Monday, March 2 when Surrey Storm entertain London Pulse, join us on Sky Sports Arena, Mix and YouTube from 7pm.