Before each Premier League matchday of the 2019/20 season, England Netball will shine a light on one of the 30 clubs involved in the competition.
This week, we spoke to YWCA Bury of Premier League 2 after they announced their arrival in the second division with a victory last weekend…
YWCA Bury Factfile:
Position: Fourth – Premier League 2
Coach: Rachel Henry
Captain: Jenny Cross
Venue: Derby High School
Key Players: Tyrene Karim, Elia McCormick and Lois Pearson
Last Six Games: WWWWLW
Last Game: Telstars 44-55 YWCA Bury
Next Game: The Downs (H) – Sunday 29 September
YWCA Bury took just an hour to announce their arrival in Premier League 2 with a victory last weekend. Their journey to this point, however, spans years.
The club is currently enjoying one of the sharpest rises in netball after securing two successive promotions and they are showing no signs of slowing down after a winning start to the 2019/2020 campaign.
The win over Telstars was indicative of an organisation currently enjoying its most successful period in two decades.
So far, the Greater Manchester outfit have leapt from the regional leagues to the second division with the utmost efficiency. The transformation from perennial promotion hopefuls to serial winners may seem almost instantaneous but it was truly set in motion back in 2017.
The 2017/18 season proved to be the catalyst of their rise up the pyramid as they finally secured their passage out of the regional leagues via the play-offs, beating Exeter Netball 52-35 in the final.
“The hardest thing for us was breaking away from the regions so the moment at the play-offs was a really big turning point for us,” explained chair Ruth Moreno.
“We hadn’t really come up against Premier League quality before and then we came up against the three teams coming down from Premier League 3. It was at that point that we realised our aim of promotion was definitely achievable.”
The club won all of their games over that weekend in May 2018; some by a surplus of 20 or 30 goals. Their quality shone through and earned them one of the coveted promotion places.
Despite all the challenges that come with the step-up, YWCA made the transition with apparent ease and lost just three games in their maiden Premier League campaign.
Player/coach Rachel Henry, a former Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning player, led her side to a top-two finish after challenging eventual champions Sussex Thunder for the title.
“Once we established ourselves in Premier League 3, we were convincing for the majority of the campaign. Halfway through our season, promotion was something that we looked at and thought we could accomplish,” explained Moreno.
“Moving into this season, there are no doubts in our mind that this is what we’re aiming for again. It’s not a case of testing the water, it’s about sitting at the top of the tree at the end of this season.”
Henry’s squad will now be aiming to follow in neighbours Tameside’s footsteps in securing a direct passage from Premier League 3 to Premier League 1.
Having been in charge for each of the last three seasons, Moreno feels like Henry is the right coach to take the club to those heights and nurture the wealth of young talent coming through.
“Rachel Henry came on board as senior coach three years ago and the girls live and breathe her. She has a win at all costs mentality. She’s a fantastic coach and, when she plays, she changes the dynamic of the game,” Moreno explained.
“Off the court, the girls respect her highly. She’s very good at understanding the needs of individuals whether that is physical or mental. She’s been paramount and has been the lynchpin that holds us all together. We work very well as a team. It’s a relationship that just works.”
A large part of the club’s success has been the development of the young players that Moreno and Henry help develop. Children often receive coaching from those involved with the senior side.
As a result, crucial players like defensive duo Tyrene Karim and Elia McCormick have progressed through the system at Bury. The pair have been with the club since the age of 10 and, with the likes of Lois Pearson and Alicia Scholes, know what it means to don the purple dress.
Ruth Moreno joined Bury as a teenager on the same day as former Vitality Rose Tracey Neville and also went onto play for the senior side. Moreno, who balances her role with her full-time job as a Spanish teacher, therefore understands the importance of developing these younger players.
“When I first started at the club, I could hardly catch a ball, but they have helped me a lot. It’s a really friendly and welcoming club and I love going” – Jodie Gibson, 2008.
The area has been a hotbed for top-class netballers in recent times. Vitality Roses Jodie Gibson and Natalie Haythornthwaite were at the club as youngsters, as was the aforementioned Tracey Neville. The club is still producing players of pedigree and many of their stars were included in the recent Roses Academy and England U21 squads.
“We’ve worked tirelessly to make the transition from juniors to seniors seamless. That’s been a large part of our success in the last few seasons because these young players know that there is continuity here,” said Moreno.
“I try and go to a lot of sessions and Rachel [Henry] coaches down at the juniors. I want to see the four year olds that come to training playing for the seniors in 14 or 15 years.
“We are very excited about the future of the club. The team is very young but they have established themselves very quickly. They are going to be trailblazing for the next few years we hope. We have a lot of youth players coming up behind them so we’re not expecting to be a flash in the pan either.”
Their young squad will have to be at their best for the visit of The Downs on Sunday. They masterminded an astute performance in their season opener but, in their first home fixture of the season, will face stiff competition from the side that finished fourth in a congested Premier League 2 table last season.
“We obviously won last weekend which is always a nice thing going into a game. They sat comfortably in fourth position last season so I don’t think it’s something we can take lightly,” said Moreno.
“Our game plan will be to be resolute, clinical and looking for consistency across all four quarters. As long as everybody can come off court and say that they have put a 15-minute shift in then nobody could ask anymore.”
No matter the result, though, YWCA Bury will continue to harbour the lofty ambitions that have seen them progress at an inspirational rate.
Fixtures and Current Standings: