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Vitality Netball Superleague: Round three talking points

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Coverage starts on Sunday with four back-to-back matches streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 12pm. On Monday, both matches will be live on Sky Sports as well as being streamed.

Team Bath Netball's meeting with Wasps Netball should finish the round on a high note (Image: Ben Lumley Photography)

Team Bath Netball’s meeting with Wasps Netball should finish the round on a high note (Image: Ben Lumley Photography)

A look at some of the talking points ahead of round three of the Vitality Netball Superleague, starting on Sunday in Wakefield.

As ever, the opening weekend was an incredible start to the season and it is now time to it all over again with round three. There are four back-to-back matches from 12pm on Sunday and then two further encounters on Monday.

Every match will be streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel for viewers in the UK and Ireland, and Monday’s fixtures will be live on Sky Sports.

    VNSL 2021: Fixtures, venues and rulesWatch Vitality Netball Superleague

Backing it up…

After saying goodbye to the longest pre-season of their sporting careers, this week players will be taking to court with many teams looking to maintain their standards.

On the opening night, Manchester Thunder recovered from a shakier start than they would have liked to overcome Strathclyde Sirens and record a solid win. The Scottish team then finished their weekend on a high note the day after, with a productive performance against Severn Stars.

Surrey Storm’s two-goal victory over London Pulse was one of the matches of the weekend, and although they lost to Saracens Mavericks on Sunday, Mikki Austin’s side have laid a superb platform for their season.

For every team that came away from the opening round victorious, it’s about refinding those energy levels and replicating the rituals they put in place last weekend.

This season contains a lot of different elements due to COVID regulations and for all, creating a new game day (and game weekend) routine that works, will be key.

Vitality Netball Superleague – Round Three

Sunday at 12pm Surrey Storm vs Leeds Rhinos Netball Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 4pm Celtic Dragons vs Strathclyde Sirens Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 6pm Manchester Thunder vs London Pulse Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 8pm Loughborough Lightning vs Saracens Mavericks Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Monday at 5pm Celtic Dragons vs Surrey Storm Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix, also streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Monday at 6.45pm Wasps Netball vs Team Bath Netball Live on Sky Sports Mix, also streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel

Mixing it up…

So, if teams want to back up their round-one results then they are going to need to replicate (or better) their performance levels, and bring something different to the table in round three.

This season, more than ever, it’s going to be all about squad depth, and the tactical nous of head coaches will come to the fore even more.

We have already seen that in action, as Sam Bird and Mikki Austin reacted to each other’s moves last Saturday. Crucially for them, they both had the players to make the moves that they wanted to, and that bodes well for both teams moving forwards.

This type of tactical duel is something Tamsin Greenway spoke about after the Vitality Legends Series as she looked the reasons why the third quarter, more often than not, is a pivotal one.

“Third quarters can often be decisive is all about the changes, made not just by one team but by both,” she said.

“Often [as a coach] you have to be brave, I remember coming into the changing room at half-time in the 2016 Superleague Grand Final and we were 12 up against Manchester Thunder. All season we had been switching the team after 30 minutes. I asked them whether they could do another quarter and they all nodded.

“We ended up losing the third by a fair margin, before they gave us a real battle in the final quarter, which we thankfully won. Afterwards, I remember being mad that I hadn’t backed myself with what had been working for us all season.”

Tamsin Greenway thoughts about being tactically smart

One thing that’s also really important at half-time is anticipating what the other team are going to do. This is where coaches really earn their stripes and show what they’re made of, and I think it’s something that perhaps gets overlooked.

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Often when you’re winning, the conversation between the players is all about the good things that are happening and as a coach, you need to also highlight that the other team are likely to have noticed them too. You need to be a step ahead of them.

Over the course of the next 18 rounds every member of every squad has a job to do. The players that are on the bench will be just as important as those who start matches, and every coach will have their knowledge tested when it comes to matching-up against other sides and maintaining players’ freshness.

Rhinos’ pride and determination

The third round starts with Surrey Storm taking on Leeds Rhinos Netball, and like last weekend, a lot of eyeballs will be on Dan Ryan’s side.

That’s not taking anything away from Storm, who command attention after their work on the opening weekend, but it’s because Rhinos will potentially be taking to court without three squad members available to them.

Donnell Wallam’s fractured radius bone will not heal in a week, and if Fi Toner and Tuaine Keenan had scans on Wednesday, it’s unlikely either will be fit. The question is, how testing will this be for a brand new team?

Judging by the way that the Rhinos handled Monday night’s disruption – they played for each other right until the final whistle – then this type of adversity is likely to increase their bond.

They will be stepping out for just the third time as a brand new Superleague team, so there will still be so much pride in putting on that Rhinos dress, and every individual will be playing for their teammate/s who are having to watch due to injuries.

Reflections from Dragons

With a 30-goal and 32-goal loss on the opening weekend, Celtic Dragons had tough time of it in Wakfield, and the challenge for Tania Hoffman and her players will be, to not let those experiences take over.

“We’ll be heading into training this week with a much higher work rate and greater expectations of one another,” co-captain Sophie Morgan said.

“Our performances simply weren’t good enough. We have to now reflect, bin it and move on. There’s a long season ahead and we have to up the intensity.”

This weekend is another double-header for the Welsh side as they face Strathclyde Sirens on Sunday and Surrey Storm on Monday. It goes without saying that every player will want to show improvements from the opening weekend, and make it clear to the netballing world that they are on the right trajectory.

Finishing with a cracker

Monday night's contest should be a tremendous tussle between two strong sides (Credit - Ben Lumley Photography) Monday night’s contest should be a tremendous tussle between two strong sides (Credit – Ben Lumley Photography)

If you cast your eyes towards the final match of the weekend, not that we want to wish the round away already, then there’s a cracker in store with Wasps Netball taking on Team Bath Netball.

On the opening weekend, Anna Stembridge’s team looked slick and focused, while Wasps Netball commenced their campaign looking much sharper than they did at the start of the 2020 season.

The joy of this match comes with the positional match-ups; Fran Williams marking Sophie Drakeford Lewis, Serena Guthrie against Iona Christian and Imogen Allison looking to disrupt Sophia Candappa’s work.

Then, when you look into Wasps’ attacking circle, you have got Rachel Dunn being marked by either Eboni Usoro-Brown or Summer Artman. Layla Guscoth could well be within Team Bath Netball’s ranks too. What a prospect!

There is no denying the fact both teams have their eyes fixed on the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague trophy, and both will be relishing the opportunity to test themselves against such high-quality opposition, so early on in the season.

Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Sunday with Round Three and four back-to-back matches available to watch on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 12pm.

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