Vitality Roses, Roses Futures, Roses U21s and Roses Academy players were all in action for their respective Vitality Netball Superleague sides in front of a record-breaking crowd at the Season Opener.
All 10 teams took to the court across five action-packed games at the Arena Birmingham as the 15th Vitality Netball Superleague season began.
Defending champions Manchester Thunder got their campaign off to a positive start with London Pulse, Surrey Storm, Saracens Mavericks and Team Bath Netball also securing opening round victories.
Manchester Thunder 62-55 Wasps Netball
Reigning champions Manchester Thunder got their title defence off to a strong start, overcoming Wasps Netball 62-55 in a repeat of last season’s Grand Final.
The Black and Yellows, who switched up player combinations during the game, hit the front early and were clinical with Vitality Roses Laura Malcolm, Amy Carter and Eleanor Cardwell continuing their fine form from the Vitality Netball Nations Cup.
Two-time champions Wasps Netball, who included England’s most capped player Jade Clarke, fellow Vitality Roses Fran Williams, Iona Christian and Rachel Dunn, and U21 Sienna Rushton in their squad, fought back in the second quarter but they trailed by six at half-time (31-25).
The Coventry-based franchise pulled back to within three in the third quarter but Karen Greig’s side, which also featured Rebekah Airey, remained composed to take the win and lay down a marker.
Strathclyde Sirens 51-53 London Pulse
Halimat Adio (Roses Futures), Funmi Fadoju and Kira Rothwell (both Roses U21) all played as London Pulse edged Strathclyde Sirens out 51-53 to get their second season in the Vitality Netball Superleague off to a winning start.
We all stuck together and I think the whole team in general stayed connected. It was just a lovely vibe coming onto court and coming off court so I’m really happy with today’s game.
London Pulse co-captain Halimat Adio
The Scottish outfit missed opportunities, allowing Pulse to turn a one-goal first quarter lead into three by half-time and then four with 15 minutes to play.
With little to separate the two sides in the final quarter of the fiercely-contested game, Sam Bird’s side did enough to see out the win.
Celtic Dragons 43-44 Surrey Storm
Vitality Rose Yasmin Parsons was in action as Surrey Storm completed a final-quarter comeback to secure a 43-44 victory over Celtic Dragons.
The Welsh franchise’s defence had worked brilliantly as a unit to keep Storm at bay and led at the end of the opening three quarters (15-12, 25-20, 36-31).
However, calm play from Mikki Austin’s side coupled with some hesitancy creeping into the Dragons camp saw the two-time champions draw back on level terms before sealing a one-goal win in a dramatic finish.
Speaking afterwards, Parsons said: “It was a nail-biting game. I feel like my heart rate has just lowered! What a performance in that last quarter, we knew we had it in us.”
Saracens Mavericks 70-49 Severn Stars
Vitality Rose Gabby Marshall returned to a Superleague court with international teammate Razia Quashie taking the Player of the Match honours and Roses Academy player Aliyah Zaranyika making her debut as Saracens Mavericks charged to a comfortable win.
After some high-profile off-season signings, including Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning captain Ama Agbeze and renowned midcourter Liana Leota, it was Stars who gave themselves an early advantage and went in 17-11 ahead at the end of the opening quarter.
Saracens Mavericks rallied though and with the words of Kat Ratnapala ringing in their ears, they immediately set about eating into the deficit thanks to some sharp shooting from Vitality Roses George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin.
Momentum remained with the Hertfordshire-based outfit and after taking the lead, last season’s fifth-place side never looked back and powered further ahead to underline their quality and ambition after two years of missing out on the top four.
Team Bath Netball 72-58 Loughborough Lightning
Team Bath Netball continued their outstanding record on the opening weekend of the season, winning their ninth consecutive Round One match.
In a repeat of last season’s third-place play-off, it was Anna Stembridge’s side, including new vice-captain Summer Artman, Vitality Rose Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Roses Future Imogen Allison, which came out on top once again.
I think we’ve shown we can perform consistently for four quarters which we haven’t always shown before, usually there’s a bit of a dip in the third quarter but we definitely pushed on.
Team Bath Netball vice-captain Summer Artman
After a relatively even opening exchange, prior to Vitality Rose Natalie Panagarry’s early exit, Team Bath asserted their authority and led 33-27 at half-time.
A youthful Lightning side, featuring Ella Clark and Jessica Shaw, as well as England U21s Alice Harvey, Jasmin Odeogberin and Hannah Williams, continued to battle hard but the five-time champions proved too strong.
The Road to the Grand Final
After another 18 rounds of action and two semi-finals, the Grand Final will take place on Saturday 4 July at the Copper Box Arena, London.
Tickets for the season’s showpiece event are always sought-after and, after record-breaking sales for the Season Opener, the Copper Box Arena will be centre stage once again as fans flood to London to see history be made.
England Netball members receive a seven-day exclusivity window to purchase their tickets – these went go on sale from 10am on Friday 21 February. Members also receive a 10% discount on tickets, excluding premium and hospitality packages.
Tickets will go on general sale on Friday 28 February at 10am and can be purchased here.