By Denise Evans
A blend of youth and experience has always been the pathway to success for any Superleague Manchester Thunder squad.
And the Fast5 All-Star Championship will be no different.
With the return of former captain Sara Bayman from New Zealand and in stalwart defenders Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey, the Black and Yellows have maturity, thousands of hours of court time and loyalty.
Then throw in energy, skill and tenacity from young England players Amy Clinton and Gabby Marshall, and you have yourself the ideal squad combination.
The centre court will be an especially powerful force and is set to fit in perfectly with the Fast5 format as Sophie Morgan’s pace, Dani Bloomfield’s ability to drive the ball through from defence and Bea Skingsley’s intelligence a real threat to the opposition.
But it is in attack where Thunder will strike the blows, with Roses star Helen Housby rejoining the ranks alongside Thunder’s Players’ Player of the Season 2017, Kathryn Turner, who will be on hand to slot in her trademark long-bomb shots.
Speaking of her excitement to pull on the Thunder dress once again, following a season in Australia, Housby said: “I’m super excited to be back in Black and Yellow, even if it’s just for a day.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some old team-mates and coaches and playing at an amazing arena.”
The Thunder squad also boasts significant international experience, including in the Fast5 format, as Bayman and Housby meet up with the Thunder players straight from tours Down Under, where they faced New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in several high-intensity games.
Marshall and Clinton head into the tournament with confidence high, following a successful summer in Botswana at the Netball World Youth Cup, where England won bronze.
The former is also celebrating a call-up to the senior squad, with the Roses ramping-up their preparation for next spring’s Commonwealth Games with a number of Quad Series and Test matches in a packed summer/autumn schedule.
Manchester Thunder players have a reputation for their never-give-up attitude and ability to play to the whistle, instilled in many of them from a young age, as they worked their way through the youth ranks.
Thunder were the surprise package in the Superleague last season, as they carried the ‘underdog’ tag into many games, following a difficult post-season period, which saw them lose their whole starting seven from the previous season’s Grand Final.
But they defied their critics and deserved their third-place finish after a gruelling and emotional finals weekend in Birmingham.
And coach Karen Greig will be calling for full commitment, tenacity, passion and flair from her players as they take to the court at the O2 if they are to win the inaugural Fast5 All-Star Championship.
Let’s Go Thunder, Let’s Go!