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Kerry Almond | New Season | Who'll top the table?

280 days since the 2019 Grand Final. 280 days since we’ve had top level domestic netball in the UK. 280 days since I was lucky enough to be part of that winning Thunder team. But now, finally, it’s here - VNSL 2020.
10 teams going head to head to fight it out for the top prize – to be crowned the Vitality Superleague champions 2020. Current champions Manchester Thunder will be looking to take their first ever back-to-back titles and they certainly have the squad to do it. They’ve retained 8 of their 10 from last season, losing only Liana Leota to Severn Stars and, well, me to retirement. Coach Karen Greig has recruited well in picking up the experienced Ash Neal and Lauren Ngwira both from London Pulse. Thunder start their season off by taking on their 2019 final opponents Wasps. Wasps will be looking to start the season off with a bang by taking the scalp of Thunder. Wasps have kept the core of their squad from last season and have added some youth and flair in Iona Darroch from Stars. Wasps will certainly be a force to be reckoned with again and this should be a titanic battle at 6pm. Loughborough Lightning will be looking to improve on their 3rd place table finish from last season and with 6’7 Ugandan GS Mary Cholhok another year older and experienced who’s to say they won’t? Led superbly by Natalie Panagarry this Lightning side is notoriously tough to break down – any side coached by Sara Bayman would be! They’ve added well, with GK Sam May making the move from Wasps. Team Bath are their opponents at the Season Opener today and this team have a point to prove. The 5-time champions last reached a final in 2013 and will be looking to better their semi-final appearances of the last 2 seasons. They’ve kept hold of Aussie GS Kim Commane who combined strongly with young England Rose Sophie Drakeford-Lewis last term. The one question over Bath is have they replaced Serena Guthrie in mid court well enough? South African Khanyisa Chawane will certainly be hoping she has done. Centre pass 4:15pm.
Saracens Mavericks have plenty to prove having missed out on play offs the last 2 years. They have a team stacked with talent and coach Kat Ratnapala will be hoping that they gel. Mavericks have added strength in Jodie Gibson in defence but there will be questions over how strongly she returns having been out of action for over a year. The key for Mavericks will be how well the shooting pairing of Kadeen Corbin and George Fisher work and if they can find the right combo in mid-court to get them the ball. Severn Stars have recruited well in the off season but losing star defender Sam Cook will certainly be a blow to them. However, Malawian Towera Vinkhumbo and former England Captain Ama Agbeze will be hoping to cover that gap. Liana Leota has switched to the midlands-based side and will be looking to hit the ground running with her signature flair in attack. Centre pass 2:30pm Celtic Dragons will be looking to continue their improvement of recent seasons. The questions will be if they’ve covered the loss of stalwarts Kyra Jones and Suzie Drane, as well as their shooting pairing from last year of Kalifa McCollin (Steel - NZ) and Chelsea Lewis (pregnancy). They have picked up 2 Jamaicans in Rebekah Robinson and Latanya Wilson who will certainly add some Caribbean flair and grit to the Welsh side. Surrey Storm have definitely recruited well, covering the loss of Sigi Burger (Pulse) with Karyn Bailey from Mavericks. Player/coach Mikki Austin has also added some cover in defence with former Queensland Firebird training partner Leah Middleton making the switch. Storm should be much improved this season IF they can get Bailey the ball. Centre pass 12:45pm Strathclyde Sirens will be a familiar looking team to their fans this year, with only a few new faces, most notably South African defender Zanele Vimbela who should add a bit of bite in the circle for them. Their shooting circle is key for Sirens and if they get that right then they will definitely trouble some teams this year. London Pulse are the team that should improve the most this season. They finished bottom last year in their first season in the Superleague and this year it’s all change. New coach and an almost completely new squad - only 4 of their 15 from last year remain – but they’ve added strength in key areas. Michelle Drayne has moved from Mavericks and will be a great addition to their mid court alongside Jamaican Adean Thomas and the previously mentioned Sigi Burger from Storm. We’re looking forward to seeing how she links with Chiara Semple. When Semple is fit and her shooting eye is in she’s unstoppable. Centre Pass 11am. The Season Opener is sure to be cracking way to start the 2020 campaign - we can't wait for the action to begin, and I can't wait to experience it as a fan rather than out on court. Kerry Almond Netball UK Sales & Purchasing Manager (and current Superleague Champion)

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