Starting on the 30th January 2016, the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season had an incredible buzz around it.
This was largely thanks to the season-opening spectacular known as ‘Super Saturday’ coupled with one of the busiest pre-season recruitment processes the Superleague had ever seen!
During the months and weeks leading up to the opening day of the VNSL the excitement crept up on all domestic netball fans with the arrival of new faces from all over the world.
This, coupled with welcoming back some of our Roses from the ANZ Championship and bringing through a plethora of brand new faces, all eyes were on the opening day of the league.
Eight teams, four games, almost 400 goals scored and more than 7,500 fans came together under the Genting Arena roof in Birmingham for the biggest day of Superleague netball ever.
The day kicked off with Celtic Dragons taking on the previous year’s finalists Hertfordshire Mavericks.
Early in the game Mavericks’ imports Sammy Wallace, (who in turn picked up Player of the Match) and Joline Johansson showed what they had to offer the league with classy displays.
The team from Hertfordshire proved to be too much for Dragons as the final score at 60-39 in favour of Mavericks.
The second game of Super Saturday saw Yorkshire Jets, led by Stacey Francis, and Loughborough Lightning, led by Jade Clarke, take to court.
Lightning and Jets went out of the blocks hard but it was Lightning who were the stronger of the two with their mixture of youth and experience across the court and they finished the game 65-34 winners.
Ama Agbeze, returning from the ANZ Championship took the Player of the Match award for the team in purple.
Manchester Thunder and Team Northumbria were next up with the 2014 champions taking no prisoners on the opening day of the season.
Northumbria drafted in the experienced Lynsey Armitage at shooter after last minute changes to their team but it wasn’t enough to stand up to the strength of Thunder.
Thunder’s signing from New-Zealand, the legendary Silver Fern Liana Leota took home the Player of the Match accolade for her role at wing attack. The penultimate game of the day saw Thunder take the win 59-37.
The final match of Super Saturday was a spectacle to behold! The 2015 champions Surrey Storm took on the five-time champions Team Bath.
The packed arena rose to the occasion as these two sides, packed with talent, pushed each other to the final whistle. Bath stole the victory from Storm’s clutches, 47-44, to set the tone for this exciting 2016 season.
Regular netball on our TV sets!
Shown on Sky Sports for another season, the Netball Family were able to watch a VNSL match every Monday night and this year absolutely didn’t disappoint.
Amazing televised games included Storm’s 55-49 win over Manchester Thunder in Round 6 where Gilbert Goalden Shot winner for 2016, Rachel Dunn, picked up Vitality Player of the Match.
Another feast for netball fans’ TV sets was this year’s London Live between Surrey Storm and Hertfordshire Mavericks held at the Copper Box Arena.
Mavericks came out on top of this fierce battle, winning 55-50 against their rivals. Trinidad and Tobago international Sammy Wallace put in another Player of the Match performance with her impossible reach and composed shooting.
In Round 10, Celtic Dragons welcomed Loughborough Lightning and the Sky cameras to Wales as the sides vied to finish in the highest position they could.
What a treat this was for viewers as Dragons pushed Lightning all the way, but a match-winning performance by Roses captain Ama Agbeze meant her side eventually took the spoils 51-48.
At the business end of the season, Thunder hosted Netball Manchester Live at the Manchester Arena as they faced off against Yorkshire Jets.
In the reverse fixture at Jets, Thunder won by the slim margin of 49-44, making this fixture a mouth-watering prospect, but Jets didn’t quite have the same performance in their ammunition as Thunder ran away with a Round 14 win – 67-43.
With this game finished the rounds of the Vitality Netball Superleague 2016, moving us on to the all-important Semi-Finals and Grand Final.
The big finale!
The Semis were set up between Manchester Thunder and Team Bath, followed by another repeat of London Live as Surrey Storm took on Hertfordshire Mavericks.
The first fixture saw an inspired Thunder take hold of their place in the Grand Final with both hands as Jodie Gibson put in a fantastic defensive performance to help them to a 53-46 win over Bath.
Moving on to the second game of the day, as is always the case with this fixture, neither Storm nor Mavericks were going to take a defeat lying down. Both sides put in battling performances for their fans but it was Storm who pipped Mavericks to the post with a nip-and-tuck 53-51 victory.
The Grand Final we’d all been waiting for was set up and the title was for the taking – first up was the third place play-off between Mavericks and Bath.
A final-worthy match was played out in front of the Copper Box Arena crowd as the sides in blue and purple fought their way to the final whistle, not giving each other an inch.
Team Bath finished their season on a high as they took third-place and subjected Mavericks to an agonising and breath-taking 48-49 defeat!
We didn’t have long to catch our breath as Thunder and Storm soon took to court for their warm-ups and it was Grand Final time.
It would have been easy for this game to be an anti-climax after the thrilling display beforehand but that was not to be – it was a game packed to the brim with fantastic netball.
The Vitality Netball Superleague went right to the wire, with Storm taking a two-goal lead in the final quarter, finishing the Grand Final 55-53 winners. What a season!
The 2017 season now awaits in just over a month’s time – with three new teams added and an array of new-look sides packed full of a combination of youth and experience.
The 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague appeared to be unsurpassable but with the most exciting year for young netball talent on the horizon, we don’t think this is the case
Bring on netball in 2017!