Three time title winning Manchester Thunder captain Emma Dovey announces her retirement from netball

Emma Dovey retires from Manchester Thunder

Emma Dovey hangs up her dress for the last time

Speaking exclusively to presenter Lindsey Chapman, thirty-year-old Emma Dovey said:

“I am officially, after thirteen years, announcing my retirement from [Manchester] Thunder and from netball. I’ve been debating it for the year, thinking ‘is it my time?’ and then I found out the week after the end of season that I’m actually pregnant, which made the decision quite a lot easier.”

Through all of her major achievements throughout the years, Dovey didn’t always love netball, as she explained:

“I was forced in to netball by my mum, and if it wasn’t for being forced in to it then I would not be playing now.”

Throughout her career, defender Dovey has won the Netball Superleague with Manchester Thunder three times in 2012, 2014 and more recently in 2019 where she lifted the trophy as captain. She has also been capped five times by England Roses at senior level.

Reminiscing about one of her first ever Manchester Thunder [formerly Northern Thunder] games, Dovey recalled:

“The league was very different back then. I don’t remember if it was the very first game, but it was definitely one of the first few, and Mike Greenwood was the coach back then, and we were away in Bath. I was marking Pam Cookey, and I was only seventeen. He [Mike] took me off at half time and I remember, clear as anything, he said to me ‘I had to take you off then, you were like a lamb to slaughter, I didn’t want your confidence to drop.’ That is all I remember from that first season, as well as a lot of losses, as we [Northern Thunder] were not the best in that season.”

“At the start, there wasn’t really anything that I wanted to achieve. To be honest, as a youngster, I never really got selected for County, and I was always in development squads. It was Mike Greenwood one year that asked me to come and play, and as I said previously the league was different back then, and a lot less professional that it is now. So, I just went and played and didn’t think much of it, and just thought it was like another club team. Then before you know it, you are playing on Sky Sports, and my thoughts changed so that my biggest aim was winning the league, and then once you’ve won it once and got that feeling it’s to just keep bettering yourself and keep trying to win.”

“My highlights have got to be us winning, from the three times that we have won [the Netball Superleague.] But my main highlight is the first time that we won in 2012 because in previous years we had taken some quite big defeats, and I think that year it was just expected that it would be the same. Then all of a sudden, we were in the final and we were winning it, and after that, the momentum and the mindset all changed and now, we expect to be in the top four, and we expect to be in the final, and we’re going out there to win it. I felt in that year [2012] that we were just going and taking each game, and it was just such a shock and surprise when we won, so I would say that is my biggest highlight.”

Karen Greig, former teammate in the 2012 title win, and current Manchester Thunder Head Coach, said:

“Manchester Thunder without Emma Dovey just isn’t going to be the same. She has been the backbone of Manchester Thunder for thirteen seasons, which is a fantastic achievement for anybody playing across the Superleague. I look back fondly at our times together as teammates, lifting the first title back in 2012, and then to see Emma lift that trophy in 2019 as captain was just a phenomenal achievement.”

“I think Emma is the most underrated player I have worked with across the Superleague. She is super dependable, and when we needed a turnover at crucial times, Emma would always be the one that would pop up with the ball, sometimes from nowhere, and I think we will miss that this season. She has been a fantastic friend, captain, teammate and now she will go on to be a fantastic mum. So I say good luck Emma and enjoy retirement.”

Talking about becoming captain for Thunder in 2016, Dovey said:

“I didn’t see it coming. I think that year [2016], we lost quite a few players, and I think we were focusing more on what the squad was actually going to look like. Obviously, it was a huge honour for me to be captain, and then remain for the four years after that. To the next Thunder captain, I say good luck and please win this year!”

Sara Bayman-Francis, the newly appointed Assistant Coach for Scottish Thistles to help their preparation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, said:

“I remember turning up to Thunder in 2009 and Emma was a scrawny little teenager who didn’t say much but kept telling me off for passing her the ball, and she was like ‘I don’t want the ball, I’m terrified every time I get it, so just don’t pass me the ball.’ So, it fills me with pride now to see her driving down the court delivering the ball and not looking quite as terrified. She is an incredible player and incredible person, and what a legacy she is leaving for Thunder. She’s done an amazing leadership job and the team will miss her from both a leadership and player point of view. I am so proud to be a small part of her journey and to have shared the court with her, so I hope she enjoys retirement and puts her feet up.”

Dovey concludes:

“At the moment in time, I wouldn’t want to go in to [netball] coaching or anything like that, but I will never say never. At the minute, I have spent a lot of my life at netball and I will obviously still be a massive Thunder fan and probably be there every single week. In that sense, I won’t stay involved in netball in a coaching capacity, but I will still be involved in Thunder in some kind of capacity.”

“I just want to say a massive thanks to all the fans, not just for supporting Thunder as a franchise, but for supporting me as a person as well. I think we definitely have the best fans in the country and there is nothing like playing at the Thunderdome when you have a full capacity crowd. It is just absolutely unbelievable, so a massive thank you for that and keep on supporting.”

“I’ve known Karen [Greig], Debbie [Hallas] and Tracey [Neville MBE] for years now. Karen was captain when I first started playing at Thunder, and I just want to thank everyone who has been a part of the journey, because yes I’m the person who has had to train, but without the support and the help from all of those people, and the belief in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”