What a high-octane and enthralling start to the 2023 Netball Super League season we’ve had!
After Round 5, two-time champions Surrey Storm sit top of the table but there have been impressive team and individual performances across the league.
For the first of our regular features, Roses Academy Head Coach Sheonah Forbes is here to share five things she’s loved so far with a particular focus on the Future Roses and Roses Academy.
Following an action-packed Season Opener, we took the party from Nottingham to the Copper Box Arena for the first instalment of Friday Night Netball to kick off Round 2. New for the 2023 season, Kadeen and Sasha Corbin have been bringing the fun, on and off court, with their hype show, sharing their skills and taking fans behind the seasons at the NSL clubs.
As well as Friday Night Netball, two extra games are being streamed each week on the Sky Sports YouTube channel so make you subscribe to stay alerted for when the next game goes live.
You can mark your calendars with all the upcoming live games using the fixtures page on the NSL website.
This year, we have seen many younger players take to the court in the first five rounds of NSL and Roses Academy athlete, Sophie Kelly, at just 18 years of age, has been finding her range in the GA bib for Team Bath.
Her fearless approach to her shot and ability to take, turn and focus her shot against any defender is her super power. The GA position is key to a successful shooting partnership, sharing the volume of shots and knowing when to take the pressure off the goal shooter.
Sophie’s development and maturity in understanding the game is improving game after game, working on the ability to work the ball in and knowing when to deliver the longer ball into the shooter. The NSL shows an exciting variety of defensive strategies and styles from a dictating one-on-one style to more spacial marking and running on ball, so being exposed to this and being able to counteract this is key for any up-and-coming GAs.
After being out of action for the 2022 season, Rhea Dixon returned to court at the Season Opener, making her debut for Loughborough Lightning. Playing for the first time in a year, Dixon came on in the third quarter in place of fellow Future Rose Emma Thacker.
Since then, Rhea has featured in every game and has contributed 32 goals to help Lightning push up to second in the table. Vic Burgess, Head Coach of Loughborough Lightning, works with a lot of players who are part of the Vitality Roses and Future Roses programmes and Rhea will benefit from learning from her and the other players in the Lightning environment.
Before the season, Vic Burgess said: “I have been keeping an eye on Rhea for a number of years as she is incredibly creative and smart in her style of play. I can’t wait to see what she is capable of at Lightning.”
Rhea replaces Vitality Rose Ella Clark in the shooting end after she sadly suffered a ruptured ACL in last year’s Grand Final. Rhea hopes she can learn a lot from her this season: “She is an amazing player and an even better human. I am hoping she can teach me some of her skills this season and I’m looking forward to being her biggest supporter through her rehab journey.”
The wing defence position is argued by some as the gatekeeper for any team that can find you that vital possession gain at key moments in a game. We have incredible WDs in our league with varying styles who can all cherish the ball when in possession.
Future Rose Taylor McKevitt of Manchester Thunder has shown again why she is feared in the league by having the ability to mix up her type of defence, and reacting to the different WAs presented to her. Taylor’s strength has been working in a unit or with a teammate to consistently shut down space, deny attackers depth and keep them in small spaces on the court. Recently, her ability to sight ball and challenge in the centre third has been exceptional.
Saracens Mavericks’ Aliyah Zaranyikah has also impressed so far. Her foot speed and quick change of movement enables her to dictate her opponent and win ball in the air. Her agile nature to take ball out of the air is one of the best in the league and she is demonstrating this week in and week out. Attackers need to adapt to her style, quickly ensuring plenty of off-the-ball movement.
With 143 days to go until the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023, there are a lot of players in the NSL who will have the tournament in Cape Town in the back of their mind.
Of the 16 countries taking part, 10 are represented by players in the NSL including Sigi Burger of South Africa who is currently top of the scoring charts, dancing defender Shaquanda Greene-Noel of Trinidad and Tobago and Caroline Mtukule, captain of Malawi and the first player from the country to wear the famous Blue and Gold of the five-time champions.
Along with the Vitality Roses, the Scottish Thistles and the Welsh Feathers are well represented across the league and after strong showings at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, players from across the two countries will be pushing hard for a place in the final squads.
See where all the games are being shown on the NSL fixtures page.
Support your favourite club by purchasing tickets to see all the action courtside here.