Key players from the 2015 season have been retained, including captain Sara Bayman and her England team-mate Helen Housby. Thunder’s newest signing Natalie Haythornthwaite, who joins from Rose Rivals Yorkshire Jets, is named in a balanced squad, which combines youth and experience. And with more players still expected to join the Black and Yellows, the squad will change.
On the depth of his squad, Ryan said: “I’m really happy with the 17 athletes we have named in our initial long squad and I’m excited by the depth of talent we have in the region. We had some pretty tough selection decisions to make which is a great position to be in and I feel that we have the right blend of senior established NSL players and some promising youngsters who are ready to take the next step.”
The Melbourne-born coach will lead Thunder for his debut season in the Superleague after switching from Australian ANZ outfit Adelaide Thunderbirds, where he was assistant coach. He says fans should expect a few ‘big names’ joining the squad ahead of the first game of the season, against Team Northumbria on Super Saturday on January 30, 2016 in Birmingham. ‘We’re looking forward to making some exciting announcements very soon. It’s been great to get out on court this week with the squad and start our preparations. There’s a good energy and feel amongst the group and so far I’ve been relativity pleased with where everyone is at. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us and I’m looking forward to seeing how we progress over the next few weeks,” said the 31-year-old coach.
Thunder will hit the ground running with their pre-season preparations when the Next Generation competition starts this weekend. The Thunder team for the brand new tournament, which includes five other Superleague teams, is expected to feature a selection of athletes from the long squad.
Speaking about Next Generation, Ryan added: “This league is a critical step in the development for upcoming English athletes because at the moment there is a big gap between the NPL and NSL. We are using this competition to provide opportunities for some of the young players in our squad to get out on court and show what they can do. There will be some key themes and targets that we will focus on but our main priority in the competition is to expose and develop our athletes and give them important court time against strong opposition.”
The final Superleague squad will be decided after the conclusion of the Next Generation competition.
Full Manchester Thunder Superleague long squad:
Kerry Almond, Sara Bayman, Eleanor Cardwell, Amy Clinton, Taylor Cullen, Emma Dovey, Jodie Gibson, Lucy Harris, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Beccy Holt, Helen Housby, Paige Kindred, Laura Malcolm, Gabby Marshall, Alice Travis, Kathryn Turner, Abby Tyrell