Beth Cobden is working on remaining consistent back at Loughborough. Picture: lboro.ac.uk

It's been a happy homecoming for Beth Cobden so far, with the Loughborough Lightning one of the bolters in the Netball Superleague in 2021.

The Netball Superleague in the United Kingdom has now passed the halfway mark, and one of the bolters for the season so far is the Loughborough Lightning.

Wing Defence Beth Cobden, having just returned to the Lightning after stints in Australia, said she always thought they could have such a strong start.

“We’ve got a good group of girls. We’ve had a few new additions and we’ve got a great mix of senior and younger players.

“That’s been a really good thing that I’ve really enjoyed as well, coming back into the team.”

One of the key new additions that Cobden has linked up with is goal-shooter Mary Cholhok, a Ugandan teammate of former Loughborough Lightning player Peace Proscovia.

Cobden spoke about her impact when discussing her previous stint at the Lightning.

“We’ve got Mary Cholhok, who’s her [Proscovia’s] Ugandan teammate,”

“She’s really tall, she’s six foot seven.

“Having her there is a massive, massive help for us, [being a] big target in the back.”

Cobden is flying at the moment, but in between stints for the Lightning has come a wretched run with injury.

After suffering an ACL injury in her younger days, two further ACL injuries in relatively quick succession cut short her appearance in the Lightning’s last VNSL Superleague grand final in 2018 and a stint in Australia at the Adelaide Thunderbirds in the Suncorp Super Netball, respectively.

Cobden said the second ACL was much harder, given it also caused her to miss the World Cup.

“The first one was tough, because it was in the final here- it was right at the start of the final,” she said.

“So I was gutted about not playing the final and knowing I’m gonna be out for maybe 9 months.

“At that point I hadn’t signed for Thunderbirds, but I was in contact with them, but I hadn’t actually signed for them.

“[The] World Cup was a year out as well, so that one was kind of like a big blow at first, but over time everything still sort of worked out.

“I still managed to go to Adelaide, [and] I still got picked for the World Cup.”

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When the second ACL occurred shortly after, however, things really hit hard.

Not only was her stint was the Thunderbirds cut short but she missed out on the Netball World Cup.

“I think that one meant that I really missed out on things,” she said.

“Whereas the other one happened at the end of the season, so by the start of the Suncorp season I was ready to go for the first game of Suncorp.

“So, I didn’t miss out on anything really with that one, whereas with the other one I missed out on the World Cup and the league sort of last year as well.

“So yeah, just a bit harder the second time around.”

During 2020, Cobden was prepared to stay in Adelaide and play in the Australian Netball League, while still being a training partner with the Thunderbirds.

But, when COVID struck and Cobden faced an extended period away from home, she decided to move back.

“I was happy living in Australia at that point. I had a lovely house on the beach overlooking the sea and you know, you don’t have that lifestyle in England,” she said.

“But I think I was ready to come home.

“With all the injuries and stuff, being away from home made it a bit harder and I’m glad that I returned home.

“I think I’m more comfortable in the England setup here, doing my rehab here, so for me I think it was the best decision to come home.”

With such strong competition for spots in the England Roses, Cobden knows she has a fight on her hands to get back in the side but she remains pragmatic.

“There is a lot of competition in the mid-court but it’s great that we’ve got such depth,”

“I think if you start looking at other players in your position, you start to stress, sort of lose your mind on it a bit.

“I just think, I’ll just focus on myself and what I’m doing.

“If I can get my game well, then that’s all I can do. If that’s what the coach wants then brilliant, and if not, then I’ve just got to keep going, keep improving, trying to get back in it next time.”

Since her return from the second ACL, Cobden has been working back up to her best.

COVID enforced lockdowns helped prepare her to return alongside the rest of the team.

“I think we had three or four months at home, initially, and all you can do is do weights, all you can do is run,” she said.

“I think having that block for me was like an extended rehab. I think having that extra bit of time to get the strength [back], and [then] just go from there, kind of lead on [and] return to play with everyone else as they came back from COVID.

“It all kind of worked out well with the COVID I reckon.”

Cobden is still working on getting her confidence back, she admitted.

“I think I’m still getting there, I’m not where I want to be, I don’t think,” she said.

“I think I’ve had one game where I was like ‘that was me’ but it does take time, and it will take time, but it’s getting there.”

With the situation in England, Cobden is grateful to even be playing at this point.

“I think for us to still be able to go out and train and go out and play, I think most people are just really grateful, that we are still able to play netball,” she said.

“I think for only the first three months we were in lockdown, but then after that it’s been able to continue.

“It’s not been too bad for us, we’ve been lucky.”

Although Cobden hopes to return to the court for the Roses, she is just as determined to play consistent netball for the Lightning.

“I think I need to play consistently for Loughborough in order to get into that England team and I think the Superleague now is a great way to get those games under my belt again,” she said.

“I love playing for England, nothing beats it.

“But I know I’ve gotta focus on the now, and the games we’ve got ahead, and playing really well for my team at Loughborough.”

After such a strong start, Cobden is confident the Lightning can be there at the pointy end of the VNSL season.

“Yeah definitely, I think we’ve got the potential to get to the finals,” she said.

“We’re kind of halfway now, I hope once we’re at the end we’ll make the finals and I think once you’re in the finals anything can happen.

“It’s a long season so it’s just taking it one game at a time, but yeah, [we] want to get there, want to win.”

As for Cobden personally, her goals are simple.

“To win the Superleague is my first one, definitely want to get there and get to the finals and win,” she said.

“To just be injury free and play the whole season.

“Beyond the super league, to get back into the England squad, there’s a few tours coming up, so I hope to get picked for those tours.

“I want to be there, I want to be the starting Wing Defence, it’s always going to be my aim.”

Though her time in Australia was cut short through injury, Cobden said that returning to the country was not on the short term agenda but refused to rule it out completely.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll play for so I’m not sure, see how these knees hold up,” she said.

“Short term I’m happy here. I do really love playing for Loughborough and I feel confident and settled here.

“Maybe if something came up, I could get tempted, I don’t know.

“I never say never.”

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