Manchester Thunder launched their new season with two convincing victories over the Knights Men 85-69 and Loughborough Lightning 64-52.
The Knights Men, a team who regularly play a friendlies against Superleague and Premier League teams, offer a different dynamic of opposition and a good physical test. Thunder’s shooters Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell stood up to the test and alongside Kathryn Turner they kept the scoreboard ticking over at a good rate.
Captain Emma Dovey had a particularly feisty contest in the defensive circle and led the way for Thunder’s first victory of the day. After the game the Thunder fans flocked onto the court for a meet and greet opportunity with the players, who signed everything from netballs to t-shirts while engaging with their loyal fans.
Next in line were Loughborough Lightning, last season’s beaten finalists, but now with a new look team and former Thunder favourite Sara Bayman at the helm. Shooter Amy Clinton has also made the switch to the purple and white as a replacement for the Australia-bound Peace Proscovia.
It was a lightning start for Loughborough who stormed to an early three goal lead as it took Thunder a while to settle. It wasn’t long before Kathryn Turner’s calming influence took effect and she combined well with the impressive looking Liana Leota and Mvula to set the scoreboard ticking over. Thunder took the first quarter 15-9.
For the second quarter coach Karen Greig introduced the returning Eleanor Cardwell who was impressive with her strength and movement in the circle. Thunder debutant Amelia Hall made her bow at wing attack and looks a great acquisition for the future with a solid display. Amy Clinton made a difference for Lightning and started slotting the goals away for Lightning as they closed the gap to go in 29-25 at half time.
Another youngster and pathway product, Elia McCormick, made her debut coming on at goal defence in the third quarter. Thunder produced another good scoring quarter showing the changes were not having an impact on consistency. Thunder once again extended their lead finishing the third quarter eight goals in the lead 46-38.
The final quarter saw the debut of former Lightning defender Rebekah Airey as both teams consolidated to take the final score to 64-52 in the favour of Thunder.
The new season will certainly present Greig with a selection headache, with competition for places all over the court, but what a problem to have. Thunder looked impressive and the foundations of combinations look incredibly strong. With record season ticket sales, it is certainly looking like Thunder fans will be in for an entertaining season of high quality netball and no doubt more fans will be snapping them up after today’s displays.
Greig commented: “It was great to get out on court for our first competitive games giving me the opportunity to see where the players are at and work on the different combinations. Thanks to both the Knights Men and Lightning for giving us tough competition on the day. It was great to be back in action in front of the noisy Thunder fans.”
Squad: Joyce Mvula, Eleanor Cardwell, Kathryn Turner, Ally Thomas, Liana Leota, Amelia Hall, Beccy Hoult, Caroline O’Hanlon, Amy Carter, Laura Malcolm, Rebekah Airey, Emma Dovey, Kerry Almond, Elia McCormick