Match Preview: The Grand Final

So, here we are.  The Grand Final.  It’s been a tough old journey for Manchester Thunder to get here, but they’ve done it.  Through hard work, grit and determination, they’ve done it, and will face Wasps at the Copperbox on Saturday 18th May.

Thunder started the season brightly, winning four games on the bounce.  But, there have been a couple of nerve-racking moments, where Thunder just made it that bit more difficult for themselves.  A shock loss against Severn Stars and both Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning getting the better of Thunder each time they met across the season.  The Black and Yellows cut it down to the wire to qualify for the semi-finals and secure a home semi-final.

But, the moments of tension have been far out-weighed by the moments of brilliance.  Doing the double over reigning champions Wasps, once at the Ricoh Arena and the other on an electric night at the Thunderdome.  And, of course, securing their spot in the Grand Final with an emphatic win over Team Bath.  A team who Thunder had struggled against in the regular season.

Thunder have proved this season that they can show up for the big occasion, and beat anyone on their day.  The strength in depth of the team has been evident, with Head Coach Karen Greig able to get all 12 squad players on court on two occasions this season.  But also leave the same seven players on court for 60 minutes in a feat of sheer stamina and determination, as we saw in last week’s semi-final against Bath.

There are many stand out performances to choose from.  Not least, shooter Joyce Mvula, who has completely come out of her shell in this campaign and has consistently played with obvious enjoyment.  Liana Leota and Caroline O’Hanlon, who have provided security in mid-court and combined together in a manner that seems almost telepathic at times.  And, of course, Kerry Almond, who has bolstered Thunder’s defensive third for her final season, providing second to none protection along with captain Emma Dovey.  There have been impressive moments from the whole squad, making the Player of the Season in the Thunder Camp a tricky one.

All that said, there is still one game to go.  The most important of them all.  Thunder haven’t won the title since 2014 and will be looking to prevent Wasps from winning a third consecutive title.  Thunder have proved they can beat Wasps this season, and beating a Bath side in the semi-final who they were unable to get the better of in the league will certainly boost team confidence heading into the final.  The looks of relief on the players’ faces after the semi-final spoke a thousand words.  Thunder will head into the final with a little less pressure on their shoulders, they’ve got to where they wanted to be, now they can just go out there and enjoy it.

The Vitality Netball Superleague has been an unpredictable one, with so many twists and turns it is impossible to say what could happen this weekend.  Wasps may have back to back titles on their side, but Thunder head into this match up with confidence, composure and, of course, the #ThunderFamily.

The Grand Final will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Mix and tickets are still available here >>