Prem Update (25th Sept 2022)
The latest update from Courtside Comments
Round 1 – 25 September 2022
The Premier League is back but this time it’s different as England Netball surprised us all on the eve of the season with the announcement that 15 of the 30 clubs have signed up for a Streaming service making their matches available to a much wider audience than before. The League has been crying out for this level of attention for many years so it’s very welcome news. There will be a charge involved, but this first week was free and while it’s fair to say there were some mixed results in terms of quality of feed it was largely positive, and teething problems will always accompany anything new. But for those who have never had the pleasure of watching Premier League Netball before you are in for a Sunday morning treat every week.
Newly promoted Leeds Athletic who are no strangers to League 1 Netball kicked off their new season with a home game against YWCA Bury who had enjoyed a successful first season in the division after a meteoric rise through Leagues 2 and 3. As would be expected the home side started strongly but it was Bury who claimed the first quarter 17-13. The second period went the way of the home side and at halftime, the match was evenly poised with the visitors holding just a one-point lead, 28-27. The usually decisive third period followed the same pattern; Bury took it by a point so going into the final 15 minutes it was all to play for with Leeds just two points behind, 44-42. The last quarter however saw YWCA Bury extend their advantage to take the win 59-54. It was a great result for the visitors whose average team age was just 20. Bury’s POM awards went to Emma Rayner and, on her debut, Anya Williams whilst Leeds voted for Faye Roscoe. It was also the first game in charge for new Coach Eliza Morgan who was happy with the defensive pressure her team applied to secure the win. For Leeds, Annie James was their POM whilst Cassie Howard was making her debut having moved from Telstars whilst she studies at university. Rachel Towell stated that Leeds were proud of their first performance back in the top division.
Last season’s runners-up Academy welcomed Weston Park Blades to Brunel University and the home side boasted a strong squad including the Corbin sisters, Kadeen and Sasha, Chloe Eassam and Jodie Gibson. Ziana Butt was making her debut after her move across the capital from Leyton. It was a close game that saw Academy run out winners 56-50 to get their season up and running.
Tameside made the journey south to Ilford to face New Cambell. There hadn’t been much to choose between the two sides last year, league-wise, as they finished 8th and 6th respectively. The Manchester club came with a strong Super League contingent including Rebecca Airey, Paige Kindred, Yaz Roebuck and, making her debut, Rhinos Lydia Walker. Seventeen-year-old Maisie Chrimes was making her first full start in the Premier League at GA. The hosts could include in their match day squad Super League stars of their own including Ellie Gibbons, Georgia Lees and Lindsay Keable. Indeed it was the visitors who were quick off the blocks and opened up an impressive 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The second period had a totally different look with New Cambell having dusted off the cobwebs getting about their work well and forcing errors from Tameside. So impressive was the home side performance that at halftime they had taken a two-point lead, 21-19. The third period saw this match turn on its head again as this time the visitors took the advantage and going into the last 15 minutes they had regained a lead, 32-29. As they had in the second period New Cambell responded superbly, restricting Tameside to just 6 goals whilst netting 12 of their own to take the win in a riveting contest by 41-38. Disappointing for the visitors who had debutant Lydia Walker named both Coach’s and opponents POM. New Cambell’s POM was sharpshooter Paige McCalla for her, and I quote, “unreal long bombs”. Two evenly matched sides and the Dagenham club will be very happy to get that win under their belts.
Last season’s League 2 Champions Charnwood faced a real baptism of fire as the fixtures conspired to give them a League 1 debut at nine times Champions Oldham. Last year had seen Oldham in a period of transition as they were without several key players for most or all of the season which gave them the opportunity to expose many young players such as the recently signed by Wasps attacker Hannah Diamond and Thunder’s Ruby Parker to the rigors of the Premier League. It didn’t take them long to adapt however and despite uncharacteristically losing three games they proceeded to take the league with a game to spare. For the visit of Charnwood they were able to welcome back to their ranks shooters Amy Clinton and Beri Neil as well as Oldham club captain and Manchester Thunder legend Kerry Almond. Charnwood meanwhile included two players making their debuts, Antonia Mitchell and Alice Coward. As expected Oldham flew out the blocks and at quarter time established a 15-6 lead. The second period carried on in much the same fashion, Oldham if anything becoming more ruthless as they netted 21 times to lead at half time 36-12. Charnwood kept at their task and whilst the third period again went the home sides way it was a closer quarter which saw Oldham go into the last 15 minutes leading 51-20. The final period was the closest of the game, and much credit to the visitors for that, as Oldham took it 13-10 to run out match winners 64-30. Newly returned Thunder Super league player Taylor Mc Kevitt was Player of the match whilst Kerry Almond was also singled out for an outstanding performance. Both teams were wearing similar colours which led to a bib change at the request of Charnwood during the match. Charnwood’s POM was Evie Watts while Freya Castledine at GS put in a great performance. Kelsey Taylor also caught the eye from the Oldham bench for the visitors. In attendance amongst the spectators were England’s Jade Clarke and Chelsea Pitman.
Third place last season went to Turnford who for their first match of the season headed off to the West Country to face Hucclecote who had finished 5th last time out. Aside from eventual POM Emily Gulvin, Turnford included the recent Wasps signing Peace Akinyemi in their starting line-up. This was another close game with the hosts just edging the first quarter 14-13. Hucclecote extended their lead in the second period with a 15-9 scoreline meaning at half time they had a 29-22 lead. Turnford were revitalized for the third quarter, taking it 14-7 to leave the match all square at 36-36 going into the last. Hucclecote dug deep and regained their first half advantage with a 14-9 winning 15 minutes of play that resulted in a hard fought win, 50-45. Turnford’s POM was the always consistent Emily Gulvin while Natalya Short came off the bench and was outstanding in defence, playing a large part in turning the third quarter Turnford’s way. Hucclecote’s Jess Shaw was the visitors POM.
Sussex Thunder and Exeter had totally dominated League 3 last season but their opening matches in League 2 produced contrasting fortunes. Both were up against teams relegated from League 1 ironically. Sussex were home to Linden and handed a first League appearance to Frankie Cadogan whilst Simeone Crompton was making her club debut. It started well for them with early turnovers giving them a 4-1 lead. The visitors settled however and by quarter time had opened up a 12-7 lead. Thunder were finding it difficult to settle in front of goal whilst Linden were having no such issues as they took the second period 14-6 to open a commanding half time lead. The third quarter saw Thunder’s new combos in attack begin to settle but Linden maintained their control of the game and another strong quarter went their way 18-7. Unfortunately for the hosts the final period followed the same pattern and the final score was an impressive 56-27 victory for the Midlands club. Linden were made to work for every point and Sussex produced some great passage of play which gives them plenty to work on going forward throughout the season. Sophie Marsland was awarded POM.
Exeter meanwhile had the long, long journey north to Middleborough to face Grangetown who had a season they will want to quickly forget last year. The Exeter girls provided a Service Station review on their Social media pages which really should be adopted by all clubs with long journeys this season. As I don’t wish to advertise you’ll need to check their twitter page yourself to see the hot and not so hot stops on the way. The West Country side started the game in fine style as they opened up a 14-8 quarter time lead which set the pattern for the match. By half time they had stretched their advantage to 30-17 before Grangetown came back well to tie the third period 11-11. Exeter just edged the final quarter but the match had been won in the first half and they went home to Devon with a 53-39 victory, 5 points, and a return to their favourite Service Station.
Another team with a long journey on their hands was Oaksway who had the journey from Hartlepool down to Dartford to face Telstars programmed into their Sat Nav. There’s going to be a lot of long trips in League 2 this year with a predominant South Coast/West Country and North East split. Oaksway escaped relegation by just two points last season whilst their hosts had finished comfortably in fourth spot. Telstars came out strongly in the first quarter to open up a five point lead which they continued to build on throughout the match. The home side gave Premier league debuts during the match to Centre Renee Austin and GK Princess Alagbala. Player of the match was Amanda Hicking who’s shooting percentage was in the high 90’s.
Only two points separated The Downs and Worcester Reds last season. They faced each other in Guildford and it was the visitors who took the spoils 60-48.
The final match in League 2 saw Cumberland head off West to face Team Bath Toucans and it was another successful away day with the Londoners taking home a win. They opened up a 17-12 lead in the first period, extending that to a half time score of 35-22. Bath took the third quarter 13-12 but it was Cumberland who ended the match on a high taking the fourth 15-13 to win 62-48. POM for Bath Toucans went to Lily Jones whilst Cumberland’s was M. Thompson.
Eagles were making their debut in League 3 and their first match was a home tie against London club Leyton. The visitors had escaped the relegation play-offs scrap by winning their final match of the season so this was a tricky opener against a newly promoted side. And so it proved as Eagles opened up with a 14-9 winning first quarter after they settled from a frantic opening to a more settled end to the period. The introduction of twins Jemma and Jasmine Nightingale made a dynamic difference to the Eagles play and another 14 goal haul saw them lead at half time 28-15. The second half became far more physical and defensive combo, sisters Katie and Tori Fisher, worked superbly as a unit. The home side took on a caution and had to adapt their game with 16 year olds Regan Peters and Sophia Shalabi both stepping up to make a major impact. More consistent scoring and the limiting of Leyton to 7 goals gave the Hampshire side a 43-22 lead going into the final period and they made a clean sweep of all four quarters to run out winners by 56-29. Eagles POM went to Katie Fisher.
Northants Storm were the second team promoted to League 3 and they too got a home debut as they faced Thoroughbreds who last season had been relegated from League 2. It looked to be a commanding win for Storm at one point but Thoroughbreds fought back to turn a 14 point deficit into just a four point defeat, 46-42.
The third promoted team introduced yet another club from the powerhouse that is the North West with Trafford who were also given a home tie as they faced Ryland from the Midlands. The visitors were relegated by the narrowest of margins last season so will be looking to bounce straight back to League 2. Due to personal commitments Ryland included only three players from last season as well as a new Coach, Jo Brennan taking charge of the club’s senior side. When they stepped on court it was literally their first time playing together as a team. With Trafford producing a nervy start and the visitors finding their way there was little to choose between the two sides and at the end of the first quarter the home side led 14-11. Ryalnd’s GS Abi Alcock aggrivated a shoulder injury during that first period and was replaced by 15 year old Anna Stockdale who’s birthday was only back in July, making her debut somewhat earlier than the club had expected. She settled quickly into the second quarter which ended a tie, 11-11 meaning Trafford held a slight advantage, 25-22 at half time. Ryland started the third quarter well, taking a 32-30 lead following further changes at half time but the last 25 minutes of the match was described as “the wheels coming off a bit” and that was fair comment as Trafford grew into the game, became more confident, and forced Ryland into errors Trafford went into the final fifteen minutes with a 39-33 advantage. The home side were in no mood to let that slip and they enjoyed a storming last quarter, taking it 21-6. The final score of 60-39 was a little rough on the visitors who took many positives from their first game as a new team with many new combinations to learn. As well as Stockdale another 15 year old, Liz Smith, made her debut as did Shanika Johnson, Holly Gaiger and Lily Saxon with a club debut for Nikki Green. Trafford however were fully deserving of the win with GA Meg Bentley shooting at near 100% accuracy to fully deserve the Coach’s POM award. Rae Williams in the Trafford defence had an outstanding Premier League debut to earn the visitors POM award. Trafford awarded Alanna Pullen, Wasps U19’s Player of last season, as their POM while Holly Gaiger was the squad’s player of the match. It was an excellent start for all three clubs new to the Premier League.
Billericay played host to the team that finished one place above them in 5th last year, TFC Leicester. The home side opened up a 15-7 lead in the first quarter and by half time had extended that to 27-13. TFC took the third period 10-8 to reduce Billericay’s lead slightly but the fourth quarter saw the home side finish strongly with a 12-6 score to produce a win by 47-29.
Last but not least, Norfolk United welcomed Premier Romans from the West Country to Norwich in a matchup of last season’s third place team entertaining the side that finished fourth. Norfolk welcomed back Eliza Barclay and Kirstie George while Maria Latua Rusivakula was making her club debut and Clare Currie made her Premier League debut. Norfolk took a 14-8 lead into the second quarter after a six goal spell without reply. The second period was even better as they repeated that run of scoring twice to take the period by a very impressive 20-9 to lead at half time 34-17. Romans fought back well in the third quarter and it ended tied at 12-12 before the home side just edged the final quarter 16-15. Romans will rue a slow start in the first half where the match was both won and lost.
A great start to the new season, many thanks to all the clubs and connections who have helped with this first week’s review.
See you next week……