Manchester Thunder

Manchester Thunder captain Metcalf gears up for NSL title defence

Manchester Thunder captain Natalie Metcalf insists her side’s Netball Super League title defence will be achieved one game at a time.

Thunder went unbeaten in the 2022 regular season before clinching the title against Loughborough Lightning in the Grand Final in June.

Since then, they have seen a changing of the guard with just two of the starting seven remaining from that day.

It has meant a more youthful Thunder side that will start the 2023 season on Saturday, and Metcalf says her side aren’t thinking beyond their opener against Celtic Dragons.

“It’s really exciting heading into the 2023 season,” said Metcalf.

“We are definitely a team that wants to make the top four, but I think every team in Super League sets out their intentions of wanting to do that. 

“We were really proud of going unbeaten in 2022, it was a huge challenge for us. There were no easy wins, so we were really proud to go the full season unbeaten and win that trophy. 

“For 2023, we would love to defend the title but the focus is going game by game, getting that 60-minute performance title and putting out our Thunder brand of netball.”

Shooting duo Eleanor Cardwell and Joyce Mvula have both departed for the Southern Hemisphere along with midcourter Laura Malcolm, while stalwart Caroline O’Hanlon has made the switch to Leeds Rhinos.

In turn, Thunder have brought back a number of former players who came through their youth pathway before gaining regular court time elsewhere.

Ella Bowen and Taylor McKevitt return in defence, while Ioan Christian and Amy Clinton add to the attack as part of Thunder’s new era.

“We are really proud of the girls that have gone on and sought new adventures, but it has been incredible to welcome home a lot of Thunder girls who have been elsewhere at other clubs over the last few years,” added Metcalf. 

“I think the team is looking very exciting, full of depth and talent, a lot of youngsters which is really exciting.

“For us, it’s about being consistent in our performances, finding that 60-minute performance, and I think that will come across the season.”

The season is set to get underway in Nottingham on Saturday, with all ten teams on court in one bumper day of action.

There is a feeling amongst many that this could be one of the most open seasons yet after a busy signing window, and with a World Cup on the horizon in July, Metcalf is hopeful there will be more eyes than ever on the sport.

“The 2023 season is going to be the most challenging Super League season yet, and I think that is great for the sport,” she said. 

“Anyone can beat anyone, and that’s exciting for the league, for us as players and for the fans.

“The more people watching netball the better. Getting it on the TV, listening on the radio, seeing it in the press and social media. 

“The more people turning up to games, the better. If you can get down to a Thunder game, it’s going to be really exciting. We love playing in front of the Thunder fans and the Thunder drum.”

The 2023 Netball Super League season gets underway on Saturday 11 February, live on Sky Sports. Tickets to games across the season can be found at: //

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