21 February 2020

Vitality Netball Superleague: everything you need to know about new season opener

The Vitality Netball Superleague is back with the new season opener getting underway at the Birmingham Arena on Saturday.

The one-day event is a near-sell out which will involve all ten teams battling it out in a match each.

And for Manchester Thunder, they will begin their league hunt for back-to-back titles. 

Manchester Thunder

Manchester Thunder are hungry for the 2020 title (PA Images)

Last season's finish: First 

Key signings: Lauren Ngwira, Ash Neal and Joyce Mvula

Manchester Thunder will be heading into the Superleague with one goal only, and that is to create history and go back-to-back with title wins. They have remained in the top end of the league since 2014 after they first won the title. They finished runners-up in 2016 and were placed third in both 2017 and 2018. The side have lost goalkeeper Kerry Almond after more than ten seasons with the club when she announced her retirement at the end of last season. But new signing Lauren Ngwira will push to take Almond's place in defence. 

Squad: Rebekah Airey, Eleanor Cardwell, Amy Carter, Emma Dovey (Captain) Laura Malcolm (Co vice-captain), Joyce Mvula, Ashleigh Neal, Lauren Ngwira, Caroline O'Hanlon and Kathryn Turner (Co vice-captain).


Iona Christian will bring her experiences from her time spent at new franchise Severn Stars (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Second 

Key signings: Iona Christian and Alexia Baker 

The Midlands-based side will certainly be Thunder's main rivals in the league this season. They have lost South Africa captain Bongi Msomi but have gained Sophia Candappa who has returned from maternity leave. The runners-up also have England's most-capped player Jade Clarke. Wasps have also achieved something Thunder haven't, when they won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

Squad: Hannah Knights (Captain), Josie Huckle, Fran Williams, Ally Housley, Hannah Leighton, Iona Christian, Jade Clarke (Vice-captain), Amy Flanagan, Sophia Candappa, Beth Dix, Rachel Dunn, Katie Harris, Alexia Baker, Tamsin Moala and Sienna Rushton.

Team Bath 

Team Bath will continue to strive for a top three finish in the league (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Third 

Key signings: Khanyisa Chawane and new head coach Jo Vann

Team Bath have retained a large portion of their players for the 2020 season. Under new head coach Jo Vann's influence the side have their sights fixed on the play-offs. Roses star Serena Guthrie is not in action this season which means centre court player Khanyisa Chawane will step up. She played a key part in South Africa's World Cup and Nations Cup campaign within the last year. 

Squad: Eboni Usoro-Brown, Rachel Shaw, Mia Ritchie, Imogen Allison, Abi Robson, Fionnuala Toner, Kim Commane, Khanyisa Chawane, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Hannah Passmore, Summer Artman, Laura Rudland, Betsy Creak, Tash Pavelin and Rachel Fee.

Loughborough Lightning

Sam May has had experience with the youth Australian national side squad (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Fourth 

Key signings: Sam May

The side will be led by last season's head coach Sara Bayman who missed out on a finalist spot. Lightning are always a team to keep an eye out for as they reached the Grand Finals of the league in both 2017 and 2018. 

Squad: Squad: Ella Clark, Sam May, Hannah Joseph, Nat Panagarry, Lucy Parize, Annabel Roddy, Jasmin Odeogberin, Suzie Liverseidge, Alice Harvey, Beth Gabriel, Lauren Nicholls, Jess Shaw, Vicki Oyesola and Mary Cholhok.

Saracens Mavericks

Saracens Mavericks have finished in fifth over the last two seasons (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Fifth 

Key signings: Jodie Gibson and Chloe Essam

Director of the squad Kat Ratnapala managed to retain a large portion of her players ahead of the season and has welcomed England international Jodie Gibson and youth international Chloe Essam. The side will be looking for a top four finish with the likes of Roses players Sasha Corbin and George Fisher in the attacking line-up. 

Squad: Sasha Corbin (Captain), Kadeen Corbin, Jo Trip, Georgia Lees, Beth Ecuyer-Dale, Gabby Marshall, George Fisher, Razia Quashie, Chloe Essam, Jodie Gibson, Paige McCalla and Stephanie Collard.

Severn Stars

Severn Stars welcome one of the most respected netballers into their squad, Liana Leota (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Sixth 

Key signings: Liana Leota and Ama Agbeze

Severn Stars have made the most changes to their Superleague team as they look to make the Grand Final during the 2020 season. The team will be entering their second season as part of the league. The franchise secured New Zealand's Liana Leota who will bring heaps of experience to her new side and has also been appointed as captain. 

Squad: Liana Leota (Captain), Nia Jones (Vice-captain), Bethan Dyke, Georgia Rowe, Paige Reed, Lucy Harris, Ella Powell-Davies, Lucy Herdman, Ama Agbeze, Towera Vinkhumbo, Hannah Howl, Chloe Carchrie, Jane Taylor, Ellie Gibbons and Chloe Cubello.

Celtic Dragons

A change in their squad could boost Celtic ahead of the new season (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Seventh 

Key signings: Amy Clinton and Latanya Wilson

The only Welsh side in the league will be looking to make more of an impact than last season with several signings eager to make the difference in the squad. The side struggled to make their mark in the league over several years as they finished below the top five until 2013. They started to edge their way up the table with shooter Lottisha Cato who led them to the Grand Final in 2013 against Team Bath.

Squad: Dee Bolakoro, Abby Tyrrell, Paige Kindred, Amy Clinton, Sophie Morgan, Rebekah Robinson, Latanya Wilson, Shona O'Dwyer, Rhian Evans, Brittany Coleman, Eleri Michael, Laura Burton, Lucy Howells and Annie O'Rourke.

Surrey Storm

Surrey Storm will look to be strong from the start (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Eighth 

Key signings: Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin

The departures of South Africa's Sigi Burger and compatriot Shadine van der Merwe could be seen as an advantage to other teams. However with new signing Karyn Bailey, Storm will be heading into the league with confidence as they will be wanting to reach the play-offs.

Squad: Mikki Austin, Yasmin Parsons, Katy Hughes (Captain), Niamh Cooper, Yasmin Hodge-England, Emily Gulvin, Sophie Hankin, Alima Priest, Lorraine Kowalewska, Karyn Bailey, Leah Goss, Nicole Humphrys, Ellie Kelk, Charlotte Curtis and Leah Middleton.

Strathclyde Sirens 

Tamsin Greenway will bring a whole heap of experience after winning bronze at two World Cups when she was a player (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Ninth 

Key signings: Emma Barrie and new head coach Tamsin Greenway

Scotland's only side in the Superleague will continue to try and break their way into the league after they only won three games in 2019. Greenway will be looking to change this after they have failed to find consistency since their debut in 2016. 

Squad: Claire Maxwell, Nicola McCleery, Niamh McCall, Taylor Cullen, Gia Abernethy (Captain), Emma Barrie, Lynsey Gallagher, Lauren Tait, Bethan Goodwin, Kelly Boyle, Zanele Vimbela, Emily Nicholl, Natalie Bright, Cerys Cairns and Sarah MacPhail.

London Pulse

London Pulse are determined not to see the backend of the table for the 2020 season (PA Images)

Last season's finish: Tenth 

Key signings: Sigi Burger and new head coach Samantha Bird

Having finished in last place at the end of their debut season, new coach Sam Bird from Severn Stars will want all that to change. New signing Sigi Burger will use her sharp shooting skills to help the side climb the table, alongside Chiara Semple.

Squad: Adean Thomas, Chiara Semple, Halimat Adio, Kate Lloyd, Kira Rothwell, Lindsay Keable, Michelle Drayne, Olivia Tchine, Sigi Burger, Zara Everitt, Ashleigh Dekker, Funmi Fadoju, Monique Thompson, Ellie Rattu and Emma Thacker.

The Season Opener will see Strathclyde Sirens take on London Pulse in the first fixture of the day, followed by Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm, Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars and Team Bath v Loughborough Lightning and lastly Wasps v Thunder. 

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