The Cooperative Netball Superleague returns this weekend, with a new sponsor, a new TV deal and new line ups to bring even more excitement to England’s so called “best kept sporting secret”! More than 2.5 million people watched international netball on tv last season, and signs are that audiences are set to enjoy an even more thrilling season in 2007-8.
Reigning champions TeamBath start their campaign for a third straight title without the services of six England internationals, who are about to embark for the Netball World Championships in New Zealand. With their line up missing established names Binns, Bayman, Cookey, Greenway, Harten and Mentor, potential stars like England U21s Serena Guthrie and Stacey Francis will want to establish their claim to a regular first team place, while England squad members Asha Tett and Eboni Beckford Chambers will want to steady the TeamBath ship and lead them to their first win of the campaign. Meanwhile, their opponents Mavericks, who narrowly lost the last time the two sides met, in last season’s Grand Final, will be hoping to take advantage of the weakened TeamBath line up, despite missing England internationals Karen Atkinson, Louisa Brownfield and Amanda Newton for Monday night’s game. Play starts at the Hertfordshire Sports Village on Monday evening at 7.30pm, and the game will be shown in full by Sky Sports on 01 November 07.
Numerous player transfers have occurred during the summer, and all eyes will be on the Northern derby on Saturday, to see what reaction there may be when Leeds Carnegie face close rivals Northern Thunder. In addition to Director of Netball Anna Newell, who will be coaching the Superleague side, Leeds Carnegie has lured former Thunder stars Loren Taylor, Darcie Worsdale, Tracey Neville and Hannah Mercer over the Pennines, and it will be interesting to see how new coach Caswell Palmer’s young Thunder side can respond. Play at Leeds Carnegie starts at 4.00pm.
Overseas stars are likely to have a key influence on the third game of the weekend, when Brunel Hurricanes hosts Team Northumbria at Guildford. Brunel has recruited former Australian U21 star Lara Welham to replace the shooting gap left by the departure of their other Aussie star Bridget Tait, but Team Northumbria has also recruited overseas, with former Melbourne Kestrels stars Elissa Mcleod and Lara McLeod and Southern Sting’s Megan Hutton expected to join Fijian Ala Mailulu in the North East franchise’s line up. This could be the closest match of the weekend – play starts at the Spectrum Centre at 3.00pm.
The final match of the season sees a determined Celtic Dragons side host Loughborough Lightning in Cardiff at 3.00pm. Lightning have been disappointed to miss out in the play offs for the past two seasons, and will be looking to stamp their authority on the competition early, but with the side missing England stars Jade Clarke and Ama Agbeze, and Welsh international Becky James, things could be more even. However, the Dragons will be missing a host of Welsh internationals of their own and it will be up to their younger squad members to take the opportunity and stamp their own authority on a playing place.
For all results and match reports, please log onto www.englandnetball.co.uk – and see all the matches on Sky Sports on 01 November 07.