The Black and Yellows defeated Yorkshire Jets 41-35 in the first game, before seeing-off Team Northumbria 54-24 later in the day. It signals a positive start to pre-season preparations, with coach Dan Ryan seizing the opportunity to give his players competitive court time before the season begins.
Ryan’s side is competing in the tournament – aimed to bridge the gap between Superleague and NPL teams – alongside five other Superleague outfits over three weekends, with Thunder hosting the final day’s play on Saturday, November 7. The new coach, who travelled with the team to the first round of matches in Newcastle, said: “It was good to see some of our young talent out on court and we certainly made some good improvements across the two matches. “We kept our focus very simple and we really just concentrated on doing the basic things well. It was a good starting point for us with plenty of take outs and things to work on moving forward.”
Ryan was particularly pleased with the performance of England u21s captain Gabby Marshall, along with a number of other young players who took to the court in the north east. He added: ”I was pleased with the efforts of Gabby Marshall, she’s a real workhorse in the middle and has terrific natural leadership skills which is exciting to see in such a young player. And 18 year old Amy Clinton posted some impressive numbers during her time in GS and looked quite comfortable out there. I think she’s a player that will continue to grow with every outing and the Next Generation League is the perfect platform to do so. We had six players unavailable for the first round of the competition, so I’m looking forward to integrating the rest of our young athletes into the line up and seeing what they can in the next two rounds.”