Manchester Thunder head coach Karen Greig is looking to guide her charges as they hope to rise again to the Vitality Netball Superleague title despite relocating to two centralised hubs for season 2021.
The season will be very different for Europe’s premier netball league as the competition moves to Studio 001 in Wakefield and then the CopperBox Arena from Round 10 until the conclusion of the season.
With a number of challenges ahead for the defending champions*, Greig said her side was prepared for a difficult season of travel.
‘’I think long term isn’t something I would want to do [play within hubs],” she said.
“The travelling is the biggest issue that I have. Wakefield is not a million miles away but then obviously the back end of the season in London, which is going to be a real slug for us in terms of travel.
‘’Our fans are bonkers, best in the country and we absolutely love our fans, they really get behind us and I can’t wait to be playing back at our home venue and have all those all those fans back in supporting us.’”
Thunder is well-prepared with the most preseason games of all 11 franchises after leading the way in the off-season by organising the Rise Again Festival, broadcast globally.
Coach Greig is confident her side are primed and ready for the Sirens in round 1 on Friday.
‘’To actually have six preseason games you think is the most out of any of the team so in terms of our preparation of match play it’s been excellent as we’ve been able to give all of our full squad of 15 players, a really good run out.
‘’I don’t think it is pressure as such this year [as defending champions], I think there’s always going to be a target on your head and because you know we are technically still going in as reigning champions.
“Ultimately, you know we’ve just got to worry about the performances that we put out on court, how we perform as a team that we’re working through, we want to really look to bring some through some of our youth this year as well.
‘’We already know that anything can happen it’s going to be a season like no other, with back-to-back games and weekends, which is going to be exhausting for the players.
“With the travel we’re just going to make sure we’re really on top of management of players and ensuring that we’re putting out performances and hopefully come the end of the season, hopefully, we will be lifting that trophy high again.”
An old face joins Thunder and returns to netball
Manchester Thunder announced a new addition to their coaching and board personnel – the highly anticipated return of Tracy Neville after taking a maternity break from netball.
She left the England head coaching role after the 2019 World Cup and was a lynchpin for England netball. Greig said her experience is one of the best things about her return.
‘’She rang me one morning and said ‘I want back’,” she said.
“I jumped at the opportunity to have her back. We work so well together, and it will be fantastic to have her back and the girls are relishing having her here as well, maybe a different voice to mine.
‘’It was important that she made the decision when the time was right and that’s important that she came back on her terms. Her understanding and knowledge that she’s had throughout the international game will bring that a lot into the franchise I think for myself and support from that performance perspective.
“And you know, hopefully, we can start to really look to drive the franchise forward, even more, you know we’ve we have been successful throughout our pathway and Superleague so it’s all adding to Thunder’s vision and drive.’’
Regardless of operations back in Manchester, the excitement for the long-awaited season is thriving from the Northern franchise.
- Manchester Thunder won the 2019 season. The 2020 season was cancelled with no winner declared due to COVID-19.