The Black and Yellows ran out relatively comfortable winners over Team Northumbria in the inaugural Superleague Super Saturday event, and will hope to put on a solid performance in front of their home fans in round two. However they will be without experienced keeper Kerry Almond, who missed the opening 59-43 victory, as she is currently on the sidelines through injury. Fortunately Jamaican import Malysha Kelly was a more than a capable stand-in for Almond, impressing on her debut for Thunder.
Fellow new signings – New Zealand international Liana Leota, who won player of the match against Northumbria on debut – and England star Natalie Haythornthwaite, are also set to make their home Superleague bow in front of the notoriously loud Thunder fans.
Coach Dan Ryan said: “We’re looking forward to our first home game after a great start last week. “Malysha and Liana had great débuts for us. Liana put in some beautiful balls to the shooters against Northumbria and I hope that continues throughout the season. Malysha was outstanding and very consistent – she will do quite a serviceable job back there at keeper for us in the Superleague. I’m hoping to get the whole squad out there on Saturday, including Amy Clinton. Her time will come.”
Celtic Dragons head to Manchester on the back of a heavy loss to Hertfordshire Mavericks in their opening fixture at the Genting Arena. The Cardiff-based outfit started poorly but improved significantly in the middle quarters of the game. But they were unable to get back in touch with Mavericks, who took the win 39-60.
Thunder will be confident of a victory at the weekend, but will be wary of a strong Dragons centre court, which includes Welsh international Kyra Jones.
Thunder v Dragons, Wright Robinson Sports College, Saturday, 6 February, 5pm.
Thunder have once again teamed up with top sports brand ASICS for the 2016 Superleague season. Players will be kitted out in the brand’s top-of-the-range netball trainers. A spokesperson for ASICS said: “ASICS is proud to continue supporting Manchester Thunder into 2016/17 season with the new ASICS Netball collection, setting the standard in performance and quality. We look forward to working with the team. It’s game time, go dominate it!’
Report by Denise Evans