Manchester Thunder netball coach Tracey Neville is hoping that their Superleague semi-final with Hertfordshire Mavericks will be a ground-breaking Northern sporting event.
The reigning Superleague champions are to play the Mavericks at the Manchester Arena on Saturday evening.
The match could welcome a record-breaking crowd for domestic netball in the UK, which was previously set in London, and Neville believes it could be very significant for the sport in the North.
“I do think that this won’t be just a netball event which I felt it was down south, I do think it will be a North West and Northern event,” said the sister of former footballers Gary and Phil Neville.
“I know that everyone will try and make this happen in the North West because we are a region that really gets behind every sporting event, every coach and every player no matter who we support.”
As well as the challenge of making it through to the final, Manchester Thunder face the task of attracting a crowd on the same day that Manchester United play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The matches clash with each other as Thunder start at 18:10 while United kick off at 17:30.
But Neville has no fear about the competition with the city’s favourite sport and is confident that some reds will be tempted to stay at home and wear the yellow of Thunder.
She added: “We are getting a lot of football fans coming to games. I do think a lot more people have become interested… and hopefully we can transfer some of the fans across at the same time.
“I do believe those crowds who come will be people who come all the time but I reckon there will be new faces and I hope they will cement their support for the future.”
Thunder have beaten the Mavericks twice already this season and playing in the venue that hosted netball for the Commonwealth Games 2002 should send adrenaline levels high amongst the players.
But captain Sara Bayman has insisted that Thunder do not get carried away with the occasion and keep in mind that they will need to perform to their best.
“I think it’s important that as a team we approach this game like we would any other, it’s easy to get carried away with the occasion and with the atmosphere and that’s probably not the best thing,” said Bayman.
“I think my message would be to keep to the processes that are going to get us a win rather than think about the end result or the crowd or the atmosphere.
“We need to support each other and it’s about doing the things we know we can control to take the win.”
Main image courtesy of ManchesterThunderTV via YouTube, with thanks.