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Vitality Superleague 2021: Sirens take on Wasps and Team Bath this weekend after a flying start

Coverage of Round Seven of the Vitality Netball Superleague commences on Sunday, with four matches streamed back-to-back on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 12pm.

Paul Prenderville

“There is a lot of ducking and diving, and there are a lot of quirky characters in dodgeball but I can’t say I have ever dodged a wrench before,” laughs Beth Dix, the World Cup-winning England Dodgeball captain now trying to help Scottish franchise Strathclyde Sirens crack the netball elite.

It’s quite the sentence but then the 22-year wing attack has had quite a journey, combining a blossoming netball career through the Saracens Mavericks and Wasps pathway programmes with a leading role for the country’s mixed and women’s dodgeball international teams.

Dix is looking ahead to a double-header for Sirens that will measure just how far they have come after their best ever start to the season. This weekend they face two-time champions Wasps and a red-hot Team Bath who have won all five of their games so far this season.

Dix was handed player of match honours by the Sirens fans in the defeat to Leeds Rhinos on Monday night and Sky Sports’ Tamsin Greenway labelled her introductions to both the Rhinos game and the pulsating draw with Saracens on Saturday as game-changing.

Vitality Netball Superleague – Round Seven Fixtures

Sunday at 12pm Manchester Thunder vs Celtic Dragons Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 2pm Saracens Mavericks vs London Pulse Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 4pm Surrey Storm vs Team Bath Netball Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 6pm Strathclyde Sirens vs Wasps Netball Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Monday at 5pm Team Bath Netball vs Strathclyde Sirens Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix, also streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Monday at 6.45pm Leeds Rhinos Netball vs Severn Stars Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix, also streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel

However the starting point for the conversation is dodgeball and after a quick discussion about how much of the Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn movie is true to life, Dix reveals how she initially fell into the sport.

“At school I played everything under the sun, I love being in that environment and more than anything I am a team sports person where I can lean on other people and they can lean on me,” she tells Sky Sports.

“I never played tennis, but football, rounders, hockey and any team sport, I played and dodgeball was a one-off school tournament – it’s not on the curriculum! – so I just went for it.

“I wasn’t running away from the balls, I was trying to catch them because of my netball background so I stood out as a girl and an England player was running the competition asked me to trial for England.

“I was 15 and I got straight in the under-21s and that’s how it started and hasn’t really stopped.

“A lot of the skills are interchangeable, like in lots of sports. The skill of dodging a ball can be a skill to win you ball in netball. Things like spatial awareness, ball handling it can’t hurt to be involved in two sports.”

Not stopped is an understatement. As Dix was progressing through the youth systems in netball, her dodgeball career, even at such a young age was blossoming.

Having played in her first European Championships at 16 she has gone on to captain her country, and has the rare privilege of being an England captain to lift a World Cup.

With a dodgeball season on hold, Dix has taken the plunge netball-wise, leaving the relative comfort of being close to home with her last club Wasps to throw herself into a brand new challenge.

An off-season switch from Wasps to Sirens has paved the way for more court time and she is seizing her opportunity as her new franchise have made an impressive start to the season.

“It was a big decision to move to Scotland and I loved my time with Wasps who were incredible and helped me learn so much. The calibre of player I was around, you can’t help but learn and grow in that environment.

“I got to the stage where I needed court time, I needed to put myself out of my comfort zone – I am from down south so coming to Scotland really was that.

“Lockdown has sort of helped because we’ve had no choice but to train and use the facilities – it’s all we are allowed to do!

“We are grateful to have that opportunity and don’t take it lightly knowing that everyone else is stuck indoors so training and matches are our outlet, that’s where we can put all our emotion into things.”

Strathclyde Sirens….season so far

Round 1 L 36-53 vs Manchester Thunder
Round 2 W 36-30 vs Severn Stars
Round 3 W 52-35 vs Celtic Dragons
Round 4 W 35-30 vs London Pulse
Round 5 D 34-34 vs Saracens Mavericks
Round 6 L 36-43 vs Leeds Rhinos

Sirens are now in their fifth year as a franchise having been granted a Superleague licence for the 2017 season and a flying start to the season has them positioned just outside the top four with three wins from their opening six games.

Established as Scotland’s only semi-professional female sports team, Dix has been impressed with how quick they have hit the ground running – but not surprised.

“It’s my first year at Sirens so for me I have only come into the environment and seen the hard work that goes on so I can’t say I am shocked with our start, but I am pleased.

“I have been lucky enough to be at a few franchises and it is one of the best set-ups – little things behind the scenes make a difference.

“Training is so intense, pre-season was tough and we’ve had a lot of time together and from talking to other people at other franchises I think we doing a lot and that has helped get our connections right.

“From analysis meetings to an app every morning that we check in on how we are feeling, how our body is feeling and what training we are doing – that is a really professional environment to be around.

“It’s something that has been building for a few years so it’s a number of things all coming together and we are seeing results.”

Up next is a severe test of their credentials in a weekend double-header when they take on two-time champions Wasps and less than 24 hours later Team Bath who have won all five of their games so far this season.

Third-placed Wasps are up first on Sunday, before they face Bath in the opening game of Monday night’s Sky Sports Mix doubleheader and Dix can’t wait.

“You can’t be anything but excited to play the best teams in the league and it is going to be a tough challenge that will test our mentality and our physicality. We’ve been able to get a few early wins and really show up and give people a bit of a shock.

“I know we have it in us physically but the mental side in being able to achieve small victories to get a big victory over what is going to be a tough weekend.”

It helps that with her boyfriend Callum Brittain impressing for promotion-chasing Barnsley there is a competitive spirit to drive them both on in good times and bad, and at the moment both are enjoying successful seasons.

“We are competing against each other at the moment, but they are flying and I hope they can get promoted.

“You know what to say to each other if you have had a tough game, or a good game, so you know what the other one needs. It’s been really useful to have that.”

And season’s targets, have they changed following an impressive start?

“For whoever makes the top four the season changes and becomes semi-finals and then a final so it’s a cliché but we are taking each game as it comes, they are all very different challenges.

“We pushed Mavericks and got a draw and then a day later Rhinos held us off in the last minutes so it is always a new challenge and one we take on.”

Whether a title push is on the cards for Sirens remains to be seen, but soon they will be another title challenge as another season is hopefully just around the corner. Dix may have moved north of the border for netball but they’ll be no switch of allegiance in the dodgeball arena.

“Scotland are pretty big on dodgeball too, there are quite a few teams up here and they are one of England’s main rivals.

“But I can’t leave my team back home, we are six-time dodgeball Superleague champions!”

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