Netball Expert & Columnist
Vitality Netball Superleague Season Opener: Tamsin Greenway preview
All five matches will be live on Sky Sports and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel on Saturday from 11am
Last Updated: 21/02/20 12:41pm
Tamsin Greenway looks ahead to "epic" 2020 Vitality Netball Superleague Season Opener and analyses where each the contests might be won and lost.
It's here, it's finally here! The 2020 Vitality Netball Superleague is upon us and I can't wait to be at Arena Birmingham for this year's Season Opener.
There's going to be a record crowd for the marathon day of netball, it's going to be epic. We all say that we want to be able to see more live netball and that's exactly what's happening this weekend with every match being live on Sky Sports and being streamed on YouTube too, there's no excuses.
After a long pre-season, this is the first opportunity to see where every side is at and with the matches being based on franchises' finishing-positions last year, we've got some cracking match-ups.
So, what better way to look ahead to this weekend than to analyse where I think the contests will be won and lost.
First stop, Strathclyde Sirens taking on London Pulse...
Pulse have several new players expected in their squad of 10 under the leadership of a brand new head coach Samantha Bird. With Pulse still being a relatively new team to the league, such turnover in personnel often happens until they can stabilise and establish their core group.
'There's no way we will ever come last this season'
Lindsay Keable shares her belief in London Pulse's new squad and why they'll be difficult to beat this Vitality Netball Superleague season.
I think this game is going to be about the battle of the shooters with Sigi Burger down one end and Emma Barrie or Beth Goodwin at the other.
Sigi was so effective last year at Surrey Storm, hence the scalps they gained and that was because she was fed brilliantly by Yas Parsons. I'm intrigued to see if she's going to get the same supply from Pulse's mid-court.
It's all well and good having a superstar shooter but you need to ensure that you can feed them. With Gia Abertheny in her second season at Sirens and named as captain for the side, she will be key to bringing out the best in the circle.
This match comes down to which set of mid-court players are allowed to play and can get the ball confidently into their target shooter.
With that in mind, I'm looking forward to seeing Adean Thomas play for London Pulse. I think she's a great talent, and was the fallout of a poor Jamaican World Cup. Having an opportunity in the Superleague this season is going to help her career no end.
'Scotland role the perfect fit for me'
Tamsin Greenway opens up about her reasons for taking the role as Scotland's new head coach and shares her excitement at working with such a forward-thinking nation.
Also, from a personal point of view, I'm incredibly excited to see Sirens play because a number of those players will be crossing over into the Scottish national team, so it'll be my first taste of seeing what they can offer.
It's tough to call this one, so I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the first 60 minutes of the new season play-out in Birmingham.
Second on court are Celtic Dragons and Surrey Storm, this one is going to be a feisty affair and I'm going to be keeping a close eye on their defensive ends.
Dragons have recruited Jamaican star Latanya Wilson who was very impressive in the Vitality Nations Cup and is one of my players to watch this season.
However, at this level, it's not just about the individual and it'll be whether she can create a defensive partnership with the likes of Dee Bolakaro or Abby Tyrell? Have Dragons had enough time and done enough work to set-up a structure that creates opportunities for her?
Latanya's a very natural reader of the game, who likes to come out and win ball, so Dragons' defensive set up will need to complement that.
Vitality Netball Superleague - Season Opener on Sky Sports & YouTube
|Strathclyde Sirens vs London Pulse||11am|
|Celtic Dragons vs Surrey Storm||12.45pm|
|Saracens Mavericks vs Severn Stars||2.30pm|
|Team Bath vs Loughborough Lightning||4.15pm|
|Wasps Netball vs Manchester Thunder||6pm|
When it comes to Storm, defender Leah Middleton has arrived from Queensland Firebirds. She was a training partner at the Suncorp Super Netball side, and I was pretty impressed when I saw her at a pre-season game against Wasps.
She made the experienced Rachel Dunn have to work and her presence in Storm's defensive end could pay dividends for them.
They had the firepower up front last season with Sigi Burger, and have replaced her with Karyn Bailey, but out the back they were missing a key dominant GK. I think that Leah might just be their answer!
Again, it will be about the way that she partners up with her GD - Katy Hughes - but I think that relationship will form quickly as Katy is a solid and experienced player. Overall, I believe Storm will come out on top at Arena Birmingham as they'll have that edge across the court.
'One per cent gains will make the difference'
Saracens Mavericks are focused on small margins as they fix their sights on reaching the Vitality Netball Superleague's top three.
Severn Stars and Saracens Mavericks will be next on court and I have to say, I'm really looking forward to this game.
I think that Stars have become a little bit of a bogey team for Mavericks. If Kat Ratnapala's side are going to make the top four this year, and be real title contenders, then they need to put this game to bed early and come out on top. It's going to be a real test for them.
Mavericks are one of the most settled sides in terms of the players that they have retained whilst Stars have a brand-new coach and a lot of changes in their 10.
Although Stars lost Sam Cook, Jodie Gibson and Jodi-Ann Ward in their defensive ranks, they have certainly re-stocked with experience as Ama Agbeze arriving alongside Malawi international Towera Vinkhumbo and Welsh star Nia Jones.
Agbeze hoping to 'heal' more at Stars
Ama Agbeze hopes that time will be a great healer as she takes to court with Severn Stars for the 2020 Vitality Netball Superleague season.
Head coach Melissa Hyndman-Bessell is known for developing team culture and gaining significant buy-in from her players, so this will be a real test to see how well she has got them all playing together.
I'm intrigued to see how well Liana Letoa is playing in the new line up and how the head coach harnesses the experience that's housed within her new squad.
For Mavericks it's almost their lack of experience which has let them down in the past. Their line up should be lethal with potentially six England players in the starting seven.
They need to win this game, even though it's the first of the season, to set them up for the rest of it. These are the kind of matches which they have slipped up on in the past. I think Mavericks will do it, but it's going to be a real battle and I can't wait to see it play out.
Looking on to game four, Team Bath Netball and Loughborough Lightning I'm going to be focusing closely at their mid-court.
We all know that Serena Guthrie isn't going to be around this season, replacing her was going to be tough, however they have brought in Khanyisa Chawane, South African international another one of my Superleague players to watch.
For Bath, who play with a rotating circle with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane, the feeds and service into the duo need to be nailed.
When you lose one of the best mid-court players in the world [Guthrie] others need to step up. I want to see where they play Khanyisa, as she covers all three positions and then how effective she will be.
Loughborough have gone and strengthened their defensive end, which is what cost them last year as they let in far too many goals. Sam May's arrival will be vital for them, but it will only be truly effective if the work is done in front of her too.
Natalie Panagarry and Jess Shaw will be key to that. I watched Jess play in pre-season and I want her to really kick-on this season. She's such a play-maker, but she needs to match that with consistency for 60 minutes.
Overall, the match-ups in the defensive end third will determine the outcome of this match, can Bath win ball early so Mary Cholhok doesn't get supply, and can Lightning slow down the short sharp ball to service Commane? I think that Loughborough will win this battle and will take it on Saturday.
Last but not least, it's a 2019 Grand Final re-match between Wasps Netball and Manchester Thunder.
Thunder losing Liana Leota this season is huge, we know how strong she was, she led that team, so it's all about how quickly they are able to establish a new formation up front.
I'm intrigued to see who they play there, is it going to be Laura Malcolm who will arguably be playing in her third choice position or is Ashleigh Neal getting the nod?
Another key area is how they manage their combinations, with such a strong squad It can almost be a hindrance.
At C/WD they have Caroline O'Hanlon, Laura Malcolm and Amy Carter, three doesn't go into two and the same with Joyce Mvula, Eleanor Cardwell and Kathryn Turner in their shooting circle. This will no doubt be a good headache for Karen Greig to have to navigate this year.
Cardwell: We can achieve back-to-back titles
Manchester Thunder are entering a new Vitality Netball Superleague season with total belief in their ability to secure back-to-back titles.
As for Wasps, it's all about another one of my players to watch, Ioana Christian. She's a young player who has a great deal of potential and also has a point to prove to England as well because I truly believe that she should have a stronger presence in that set-up than she's had so far.
In Superleague, it's going to be about how quickly she builds a partnership with Rachel Dunn because you know that the experienced shooter is still going to score you 40+ goals a game, if you can get her the ball.
This match is all about how Wasps fair against a very strong Thunder style and one that traditionally they don't match-up well against. I hope it's going to be a really close game, one in which two quality coaches will really earn their stripes.
Sky Sports is your home of netball and is back on your screens this week. The Season Opener from Arena Birmingham will be live on Sky Sports Mix & Arena, plus streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel, from 11am on Saturday.