The Vitality Netball Legends Series is live on Sky Sports and will be streamed on Sky Sports YouTube channel this week. Watch the first match on Wednesday from 5.30pm on Sky Sports Arena and Mix
As netball returns to Sky Sports, Tamsin Greenway talks about her delight at England taking on the Vitality Netball Superleague All Stars and runs the rule over both squads ahead of the series, starting on Wednesday.
The Roses were due to play against Jamaica this January, however, due to the continued travel restrictions as a result of coronavirus, the Sunshine Girls were not able to make the series.
Instead, all involved in the domestic league and national programme have come together to ensure that the Vitality Netball Legends series can still be played, just in a different form.
With a wealth of internationals choosing to make the Vitality Netball Superleague their home, a number of them have come together under the guidance of Karen Greig and Mel Mansfield to provide England with three matches matches behind closed doors in Loughborough.
All of the matches will be live on Sky Sports and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel this week for those living in the UK and Ireland, with Greenway providing expert analysis throughout. Here, she discusses the ins and outs of the series ahead of the opening match…
Firstly, I think that everybody is going to be so excited with the fact that netball is going ahead and that we’ll all be able to watch three live matches matches this week. After the initial disappointment of the Jamaica series being pulled, we finally got good news, and I think huge credit needs to go to everyone involved.
England Netball, the Vitality Netball Superleague sides and players have to be praised for their commitment and for their sacrifices they’re making to ensure this happens. The All Star players and the Roses have created bubbles so they are away from their families and teams as they prepare for the series which gives us all something to enjoy during a really difficult and strange time.
For the Vitality Roses, it’s really important that as a team they keep on having regular competition. They are a world class team and the reality is, when we come out of this, the Commonwealth Games and the Netball World Cup will be in their sights. England need to keep on grabbing any chance they can to play Test-match level netball.
Having ‘lost’ 2020, the Commonwealth Games is now looming. Preparations need to step up and the countdown is on. As an international head coach myself, I know how scary it is to have time flying by so very quickly, with so few opportunities to play.
The Vitality Roses will be aiming for a gold medal in Birmingham next year and so this series is very important to make sure they are tested and the All Stars team should provide great competition for England.
If you look at the England squad selected by Jess Thirlby, then your eye immediately moves to Helen Housby’s name as she returns for the first time since the Vitality Netball World Cup.
Her return certainly bolsters the shooting end! While she has been overseas, Jo Harten too, players like Eleanor Cardwell, George Fisher and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis have stepped up but it’s great to see her being re-introduced to the unit.
It highlights that the build-up is important to her and also gives us all a chance to see what combinations are like between all four players, it also brings experience and confidence to that shooting end, which is why I’m so pleased that she’s back in the group.
Elsewhere in the squad I really want to mention Layla Guscoth who, alongside Beth Cobden, is returning from injury.
The last couple of times we’ve seen England in action, the defensive end has seen youngsters step up to the mark with Williams and Quashie standing up, to add Layla to this end only helps develop these players and helps them continue to learn on the international stage.
I think she’s got a real opportunity to become England’s starting GD during this cycle, and this is a big chance for her to take ownership [of the position]. This is her chance to shine, be the key player and add some structure and experience into England’s defensive end.
Like everyone else in the netball world, I’m very happy to see Beth Cobden back. To do back-to-back ACLs on the same leg is unusual and hugely demanding on your physical and emotional strength.
It’s been a long time coming to see Beth in an England dress, at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 she was just getting to her peak. I was playing against her the day she did her first ACL for Loughborough in the Superleague final and it would have been a very different game if she’d stayed on the court. This is a huge return for her.
Turning to the All Stars team, it is a credit to the development and current position of the Vitality Netball Superleague. Over the years the UK league has brought in some outstanding overseas players and this season is no different. There’s also a great range of nationalities on display too which adds different dynamics for all players to play with and against.
Starting with their shooting end, the coaching team will be excited to have Joyce Mvula under the post, Greig’s relationship with her is also key as she and Mansfield try to cement this team in such a short period of time. Mvula is so strong on the ball and her elevation and movement will give the England defenders something to think about.
I also really can’t wait to see Gezelle Allison, who has joined Wasps Netball this season. They needed another circle player this year, and this will be a chance to see if she’s the genuine article and if she’ll have an impact for them in the league.
However, it’s the the mid-court that’s got me really excited. You’ve got Caroline O’Hanlon, who I think is one of the best mid-courters in the league, playing with Liana Leota again and then Nat Panagarry coming into the fold. All three of them are super fit, really tough and never shy to take it to the opposition.
Liana is one of the best players in the world on the ball and if those three can nail that combination and have an opportunity to play together, it could be a very dangerous mid court. What a great test it will be for England’s key players too, like Serena Guthrie and Nat Haythornthwaite.
This All Stars team needed to be able to compete with England and I think that across that mid-court, they can really take it to the Roses.
Finally, in their defensive end, I’m really intrigued to see how Jo Trip and Sam May perform. I think that the All Stars’ coaching team can be really creative in what they can come up with using Tripp and May. I think that Trip and Razia Quashie are lethal at Saracens Mavericks together and May is such an effective GK.
An obvious combination is to put Loreen Ngwira or Summer Artman at the back, with the other two out at GD, but I’d love to see Trip and May get time together to make an impact. I think they could cause some real headaches with the ball that they’re trying to win, it won’t be the obvious one, but you never know.
This All Stars team is packed with talent and flair, and yet looking through the rest of the players signed for the 2021 Superleague season there are so many other names that could have also been selected and in the mix.
From individuals we know like Rachel Dunn, Adean Thomas and Kim Commane to newer faces looking to gain greater game time and opportunities – the likes of Ine-Mari Venter, Annika Lee-Jones and Donnell Wallam. It’s incredible to think how many star players will be on show this year.
When it returns, the Vitality Netball Superleague will be jam-packed with exceptional individuals and together, they’ll all raise the bar and continue to drive domestic and now International netball forwards in England.