During the 2019/20 Premier League season, England Netball will shine a light on all of the 30 clubs involved in the competition.
This week, we spoke to Tameside Netball Club of Premier League 1…
Position: 5th – Premier League 1
Coach: Paul Harper
Captain: Ally Thomas
Venue: Manchester Metropolitan University
Key Players: Ally Thomas, Rebekah Airey and Rebecca Hoult
Last Six Games: LLLWLW
Last Game: Cumberland 39-56 Tameside
Next Game: Turnford (H) – Sunday 12 January
Tameside Netball Club’s victory over Cumberland in January represented the perfect beginning to a brand new year and a brand new decade for the Greater Manchester outfit.
The previous ten years was convincingly the most successful period in the club’s history and those involved will be hoping to witness a similarly fruitful spell in the 2020s.
Tameside will begin this new decade four divisions higher than their position in 2010 when the club was sitting in the regional leagues and were vying for promotion to the newly-formed Premier League 3.
Founded in the 1990s, Tameside were just beginning to establish themselves as a senior side in the region after many years of prosperity at youth level. Now, with a team for their talented young players to transition into, the club were on the cusp of announcing themselves on the national stage.
It was the introduction of a competitive senior side which signalled the start of their assault on the divisions above them, rising from the regional leagues to the top flight in just five years.
Laura Chisnall has been part of the club for more than 15 years and, at 17, was there at the beginning of ten years of sustained success between 2010 and 2020. Now a senior coach, Laura remembers the start of this dramatic journey.
“When I became a senior, we had a very big uphill battle. We were an established junior team but we never really had anywhere for players to filter through to as seniors or to compete at any form of high level,” explained Laura, who also works as a physiotherapist.
“As a result, we started off as a very young senior team at regional level. We went to regional play-offs for Premier League 3 and we got in with very young players. We eventually ended up going from regionals all the way to Premier League 1 within the space of five years.
“To know what we’ve achieved in the last ten years, in such a short space of time, is just a great thing to look back on. Our rise from regionals to the Premier League just speaks volumes about the time everyone has dedicated to the club.”
Laura and her young teammates were now playing in a national competition for the first time but were not intimidated by their more experienced opposition. In fact, they only found themselves at that level for two seasons.
Despite the new challenges that came with promotion, Tameside had achieved their original target of avoiding relegation in their first season and were now beginning to shift their focus towards a more ambitious goal.
In 2014, they had achieved promotion as champions of Premier League 3 and were quick to capitalise on their accomplishments. At the end of the 2015/2016 campaign, they miraculously managed to finish top of Premier League 2 without losing a single game.
“As we got more successful, we got more ambitious. It was the first time that we have ever tasted Premier League netball so we just took each season as it came,” said Laura, a former captain.
“We got more ambitious after a year or two in the Premier League because we realised our capabilities. We were a young side but we wanted to play against the better players, better teams and more established clubs.
“Naturally, we were competitive and wanted to win. We’ve got very successful individuals who play in the Vitality Netball Superleague and who are part of the Roses Academy programme. People were pushing themselves individually as well as part of the team.”
The rise from relative obscurity to top-flight competitors was instigated by head coach Paul Harper who, as co-founder, has been the soul of Tameside Netball Club since its inception along with his wife and two daughters.
“In terms of major influences on my career, Paul Harper from Tameside sticks out.” – Rebekah Airey.
His devotion to Tameside and his inclination to pass on his knowledge to both his players and coaches has meant that his club has evolved into an organisation the entire region can be proud of.
“Paul has not only had an influence on players but every single person that coaches at Tameside has been positively influenced by Paul and learned everything from him,” said Laura.
“I don’t think I’d be coaching now if it wasn’t for him and I don’t think many coaches or players would have the talent they currently have if it wasn’t for him either.
“The way we’ve been able to maintain our success is down to Paul. At Tameside, the success all stems as a result of Paul’s hard work to help develop both players and coaches over the last 20 years.”
Paul’s development of players and coaches meant that when he fell critically ill in 2019, the team still thrived in his temporary absence.
The club rallied around their inspirational leader and due to people like Phil Thomas, who took over head coach duties, and former Manchester Thunder player Ally Thomas, who went above and beyond the responsibilities of her newfound role as captain, they managed to maintain their record of always finishing in the top half of Premier League 1 last season.
His work also means Tameside have produced players such as Vitality Roses Amy Carter and Rebekah Airey as well as youth internationals Hannah Williams and Grace Mills to name but a few.
As a result, achievements at youth level have been a regular occurrence for the club. Tameside won both the National Clubs U16s Finals and National Clubs U14s Finals in 2016 before retaining the former a year later. With further success in the ENG Netball Cup last year, the future looks bright.
“I think we can be really proud of our youth development especially considering, 15 years ago, I had no platform or a senior side to aspire towards,” said Laura, who recently retired from playing after falling pregnant.
“Players like U21 internationals Ella Standring and Millie Sanders were in those [National Clubs] sides. They have got their opportunities at senior level and any young players who do well will get their chance.
“For example, one of the standouts of the U16 [ENG Cup] team was Savannah Dada-Masscoll who we will be looking to integrate with a few others in the coming years.”
The last decade was a poignant one in the history of Tameside Netball Club with hard work behind the scenes translating into tangible, on court success.
With a gifted generation waiting in the wings and a growing collection of dedicated personnel, the next ten years at Tameside might just be their most prosperous yet.
Fixtures and Results:
Catch up with our previous editions of our Premier League In Focus series including; Oldham Netball Club, YWCA Bury, Turnford Netball Club, BSV Billericay, Grangetown Netball Club and Cumberland Netball Club.