The Netball Superleague is just days away and reigning champions Manchester Thunder are ready to defend their crown.
The Gorton-based side famously triumphed in last season’s final against favourites Surrey Storm in the most dramatic fashion.
Young shooter Helen Housby netted the winning goal with seconds left on the clock, leaving Surrey staring at a stat to forget – three Superleague finals without a win.
But Housby, who won a call-up to the England squad for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as a result, is determined to remain grounded and is desperate for the new season to start. And it’s a baptism of fire. As Surrey travel to the Thunderdome on Monday.
The 20-year-old Cumbrian said: “I still can’t believe what happened and how it ended with an England call up.
“I think that goal will end up being the highlight of my career.
“It’s been nice to not really have a long off-season as I’m still quite fresh but I know I’m coming into a season with more pressure but I’m looking forward to that and delivering on the fact that it wasn’t just a one-off.”
There has been plenty of movement off-season for all eight Superleague teams, with players coming in from overseas and other swapping allegiances.
Thunder have strengthened with the addition of experienced Australian attacker Chelsea Pitman, who has moved to the UK from ANZ team West Coast Fever.
“We have been working on integrating Chelsea into our play in training. “She brings a faster game,” said Black and Yellows coach Tracey Neville. Shooter Housby, has been impressed with the 26-year-old’s ‘intensity’.
Pitman, who recently became engaged to Salford Red devils fullback Kevin Locke, has settled well into life in Manchester. She said: “I can’t wait for the season to start. I’ve been working hard in individual sessions.
“It’s different over here, as for the ANZ, being a netball player is close to full time.
“I’ve seen the last 30 seconds of THAT Surrey game and I hope we have moments like that again this season.”
Neville knows the other teams will be out for Thunder’s blood, but she believes her players can handle the pressure and fans can expect the younger players of the squad to step up this year.
“It will be very, very difficult to win back-to-back championships but we have the belief.
“Mavericks will be putting out their strongest team ever, Jets are the ones to watch and Surrey have signed Pamela Cookey. “But we are ready.”
Thunder will need to be on their a-game from the starting gun, with matches against Team Bath and Hertfordshire Mavericks following the season opener with Surrey on Monday.
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