The wait is finally over – the 2018 Vitality Netball Superleague season is here and Team Bath Netball are raring to go as they set their sights on a record sixth national title.
Confidence is high in the camp ahead of Saturday’s trip to Team Northumbria (6pm) after a productive pre-season campaign which included reaching the inaugural British Fast5 All-Stars final, matches against New Zealand and Wales, and victory in a sell-out home tri-tournament broadcast live to a global audience by BBC Sport.
England attacker Kadeen Corbin has returned to the Blue and Gold, while rising stars Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Tash Pavelin and Abi Robson also come into a squad that features ten players who helped Team Bath finish fourth overall last season.
That appearance in the Final Four came after a stunning run of seven successive wins in the second half of the season and Team Bath Netball Head Coach Jess Thirlby is looking for more consistency this time round.
“There are definite learnings from last year, one of them being we have to start the season stronger,” she said.
“The major positive from last season was that the players showed they have a never-say-die attitude, and that bodes really well having retained a high percentage of the squad, but we need to find more consistency.
“There is no hiding place in this league and for any team to make the top four, they will have to put out match-winning performances and prevent those dips in form.”
That view was backed by Layla Guscoth, whose outstanding defensive performances during 2017 led to her being voted into the Superleague Team of the Season by her peers.
“Last year we had some performances that were great and showed we definitely could have finished higher but we were too inconsistent, so that is something we can improve on,” she said. “It’s a challenge but we have been pushing each other to try and get better and want better.
“All of the teams are looking in better shape than last year and I think it’s going to be a really exciting season but I genuinely believe we can win the league.
“I think we have the team that can do it. We’ve got some great new additions – Kadeen Corbin, for example, is someone who can win you a game – and we have a nice vibe in the squad. We definitely want to make the play-offs at least and once you do that, it is anyone’s game.”
Team Bath will travel up to Newcastle on Friday for the following day’s match at Sports Central and Thirlby believes that chance to spend time together could work to her team’s advantage so early in the season.
“It will be good to get out on the road as a group and get everyone together for an overnight stay,” she said.
“Northumbria away is never an easy fixture but we have done our homework. We are going to have to really work hard for the full 60 minutes and it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
A trip across the Severn Bridge to face Celtic Dragons follows on Monday, February 19, before Team Bath have three home matches on back-to-back Fridays – against Surrey Storm on February 23, UWS Sirens on March 2 and Manchester Thunder on March 9.
Tickets for all three matches are selling fast and Guscoth says packed houses at the Team Bath Arena could make all the difference.
“I’m probably biased but we definitely have the best crowd,” she said. ”It is so deafening when it is a full house and I can think of key games, like when we beat Wasps last season, where it was the crowd that carried us forward.”
To purchase tickets or to see the fixture list in full, go to netball.teambath.com.
Team Bath Netball are sponsored by Sitec and supported by partners Mogers Drewett, Investigo and Netball South West. Centurion Chartered Financial Planners are supporting the team’s performance analysis capabilities, Viper 10 are their Sportswear Supplier and Skins provide the team with compression wear.
Report courtesy of the Team Bath Press Office at Matchtight Ltd.