Grangetown Netball Club’s first Premier League fixture of 2018 was a third versus first clash as Grangetown played host to current league leaders Hucclecote.
When the sides met down in Gloucestershire in the opening round of the 2017/18 season, Hucclecote ran out convincing winners; but after eight games, the teams had identical records of six victories and two defeats, with the Cheltenham-based club boasting a better ratio of goals scored against conceded.
Grangetown had been in fine form before Christmas, winning their previous four games, whilst the visitors were on a three-match winning streak, averaging almost 66 goals per game. However, with neither club having played a competitive fixture in over a month, predicting a winner was no easy task.
The hosts were boosted by the return of Ireland defenders Gen Slater and Katie Walton, both of whom had enjoyed excellent Nations Cup tournaments in Singapore during December. And with fellow defender Jenny Mrozik having been included within the Team Northumbria Super League squad, the defensive unit looked particularly strong; which it would surely need to be against such a free-scoring attack.
The second Team Northumbria player in the Grangetown squad, Ash Neal, was also available, however Hucclecote were able to draw on the services of no less than four members of the Severn Stars Super League squad: Samantha Cook, Ella Powell-Davies, Shona O’Dwyer and Rosie Allison.
The starting sevens were as follows:
Katie Walton GK Kellie Hull
Jenny Mrozik GD Sam Cook
Gen Slater WD Ella Powell-Davies
Vicky Rees C Lauren Brooks
Ria Small WA Shona O’Dwyer
Ash Neal GA Thea Thompson
Abbie LeBrocq GS Rosie Allison
The visitors made a bright start, and good interplay between the two shooters secured a goal against the Grangetown centre pass. A successful long-range shot from left-handed goal attack Thea Thompson gave Hucclecote an early advantage, but Sam Cook was then really unlucky when she put a foot out of play in attempting an interception. Ash Neal scored from the next play, and after Katie Walton claimed possession, an excellent pass from Vicky Rees allowed Abbie le Brocq to level the scores.
The next eight goals were shared between the teams; great movement and a fine feed from Ash set up Abbie, before Rosie Allison produced a clever dummy to draw away the Grangetown defence, allowing Thea to find the net with a looping shot. At 6-6, Ash’s feigned shot and blind pass found Abbie under the net, but when a speculative pass was picked off by Kellie Hull, Thea floated the ball to her attacking partner to bring the sides level once again.
Some neat interplay between Ria Small and Ash Neal saw the Australian find the net from long range. A goal against the centre pass followed; and Grangetown’s next attack saw a ball that was heading out of play bounce fortuitously back to Abbie off the post, but the chance was not converted.
Shona O’Dwyer then found Rosie with a looped pass, but after the goal, Thea Thompson was forced to leave the court, and was replaced by Yas Hodge-England. Ash netted, before a well-read interception by Sam Cook gave Hucclecote the possession from which they narrowed the gap to a single goal; and seconds later, the visitors tied the scores once again.
The final two goals of a pulsating opening quarter came from Grangetown, who led 12-10 as the hooter sounded.
Ria Small replaced club captain Vicky Rees at centre, with Tasha Grylls coming on at wing attack.
Hucclecote opened the scoring, then applied great pressure which resulted in a three-second penalty and a chance to bring parity to proceedings. Abbie then scored twice, and Grangetown’s next goal came from great work by Ria Small, who recovered the ball in the defensive third, and then supplied a bounce-pass to Ash, who duly fed Abbie for a simple finish.
Yas Hodge-England converted from long-range, before Rosie showed great strength to hold off the home defence and find the net. Katie Walton’s brilliant airborne interception claimed possession and Abbie’s long shot rattled the net ring, but counted. Abbie’s next goal left the scoreboard reading 17-15, but the next few minutes would completely change the course of the game.
Accurate shooting from Rosie and Yas was supported by some outstanding defensive work, with Sam Cook using her height and athleticism to claim two interceptions. Sarah Adams, who had come on at wing defence also cut out a Grangetown pass, and with Lauren Brooks and the livewire Shona O’Dwyer making the most of all the possession, Hucclecote scored no less than nine unanswered goals.
Ash broke the run with an assured finish, but literally seconds later, Rosie netted to preserve the seven-goal lead. The next four goals were shared, before Ash scored right on the half-time hooter and the teams left the court with Hucclecote leading 21-27 – a significant advantage given how close the opening twenty-or-so minutes had been.
It really was an impressive spell from the visitors, who took clinical advantage of every Grangetown mistake. Coach Gel Williams brought Vicky Rees back into the fray, with Kate Hill taking over at wing defence and Gen Slater replacing Jenny Mrozik. For Hucclecote, Laura Tildesley was introduced at wing defence.
The visitors missed their first shot of the third period, with Katie Walton securing the rebound. Not for the first time however, possession was surrendered and Shona O’Dwyer’s looped pass saw Rosie Allison score at the second attempt.
Ash Neal reduced the arrears before a lovely run attracted both Hucclecote defenders, freeing Abbie for Ria’s feed into the circle. A rare miss from the 6’2” shooter enabled the visitors to score next, but Abbie netted moments later, and Kate Hill’s long ball led to an easy opportunity for Ash. It was a vital score against the centre pass, which brought Grangetown to within five of their opponents, but once again, possession was carelessly squandered and Hucclecote took full advantage and quickly reeled off four more goals.
One of Grangetown’s main qualities is their fighting spirit, and they immediately replied with a four-goal burst of their own, with Vicky and Ria both making telling contributions to set up the shooters. Gen Slater’s interception was crucial to the fourth of those goals, another against the centre pass; but Sam Cook then produced another spectacular interception just as Grangetown were gathering some momentum.
The contest between Sam Cook and Ash Neal was one of the features of the game. Both Super League players were excellent throughout, two superb athletes, whose respective skills in defence and attack were to the fore throughout the game. Ash netted twice as Grangetown continued to claw their way back into the game. When Gen Slater’s pass set up her fellow Australian, the lead was down to just three goals, but the subsequent Grangetown centre pass flew disappointingly over the sideline, handing the initiative straight back to the league leaders.
Thea Thompson returned to the court to replace Yas Hodge-England, and Thea’s first involvement was to score with a perfectly-judged long-range shot.
Ash then threw a quite sublime blind pass backwards over her left shoulder, straight to Abbie. Another outstanding piece of defensive work from Sam Cook denied Grangetown the chance to narrow the gap, but Ash’s goal right on the hooter meant that Grangetown had actually won the quarter and Hucclecote would only take a four-goal advantage into the final period.
Harriet Baxter and Hannah Raine both took to the court for the last fifteen minutes. Grangetown scored the period’s opening goal, but a pass to a double-marked shooter was easily collected and Rosie Allison again showed great strength to net under pressure.
Vicky combined with Harriet for the shooter to score with her first attempt, a goal which was quickly cancelled out by yet another from Rosie. In Hucclecote’s next attack, there was a moment reminiscent of the film The Matrix as Thea leant backwards on the edge of the court, improbably managing to keep her balance and keep the ball in play.
The visiting goal keeper Kellie Hull latched on to a pass from Gen Slater, and possession was converted into a score that extended Hucclecote’s lead to seven. Still the hosts refused to back down, and as the clocked ticked into the final two minutes, a high-looping shot from Harriet actually reduced the arrears to three goals.
For a few seconds, it looked like the crowd would be treated to a dramatic conclusion, but a Grangetown error handed the ball to Hucclecote and the resulting goal effectively sealed the result.
It was perhaps fitting that one of the last bits of action in a high-quality and entertaining game was one last interception from Sam Cook. The final score was 48-54, a well-deserved victory for a fine Hucclecote side, but to their credit, Grangetown battled right to the final hooter and played some really good netball, but when they review the game, they will probably rue too much wasted possession and the concession of those nine consecutive goals in the second quarter.
Ash Neal was Grangetown’s best performer, but my player of the match has to be Sam Cook.
Round 7 of the Mizuno Netball Premier League Division 2 saw Buckinghamshire side Clan make the journey north to face Grangetown in what looked an intriguing clash. Both sides had identical records with four wins and two defeats from their opening six fixtures, but Clan were one position above their opponents in the table courtesy of a losing bonus point earned earlier in the season.
Grangetown were looking to record a third successive win, having followed up victory over The Downs with a great result away to Ryland. Clan’s recent record was arguably even more impressive, as they had won their previous four matches, including a notable win at Hucclecote in round 4.
The visitors included former Surrey Storm Super League player Katt Ainsworth within their squad, and Grangetown were boosted by the addition of Ashleigh Neal, an Australian shooter who has also had Super League experience with Surrey Storm and Hertfordshire Mavericks.
Katie Walton GK Sophie Short
Jenny Mrozik GD Jade Forbes-Wattley
Vicky Rees WD Ella Patrick
Hannah Raine C Natalie Brookes
Ria Small WA Katt Ainsworth
Harriet Baxter GA Suzie Liversedge
Abbie LeBrocq GS Chrissy Munro
The opening four goals were shared, before Grangetown gained the early initiative after a penalty was awarded against the Clan defence, although Sophie Short looked to have completed a fair interception. The shot was converted and the lead was doubled when Katie Walton and Jenny Mrozik played the ball out of defence despite strong Clan pressure. Ria Small looped a pass to Abbie LeBrocq and the shooter, who was celebrating her birthday, made no mistake.
Natalie Brookes fired a neat pass through the home defence for Chrissy Munro to score, and seconds later, the visitors levelled the scores. Abbie found space from the centre pass to score with a free shot from under the net, and Grangetown then forced a turnover which Harriet Baxter converted and when Abbie netted at the second attempt, Grangetown led 7-4.
Clan responded with a tremendous seven-goal burst, which began with a lovely long shot from Suzie Liversedge. Chrissy Munro scored twice as Clan drew level, before Grangetown twice gifted possession to the visitors, who duly took full advantage. At 7-9, Jenny managed to get a hand to a pass to allow Katie to complete the turnover. Ria fed the ball into the circle, but the ball was knocked out of play by Sophie Short. Strangely, possession was awarded to Clan, who scored the next two goals, the second coming from a great pass that found an unmarked Chrissy Munro under the net.
Grangetown finally broke the sequence, and when Katt Ainsworth was penalised for an early break from a Clan centre pass, Harriet made a great run, which attracted both defenders, and Ria’s long pass found Abbie free to score unchallenged. More good play by Vicky Rees gave Grangetown the chance to reduce the deficit to a single goal, but Clan ended the period strongly and they led 10-14 when the whistle brought an end to the opening quarter.
Gen Slater, who will be captaining Ireland in the upcoming Nations Cup in Singapore, was brought on alongside her international defensive partner Katie Walton for the second quarter. Jenny Mrozik moved to wing defence, and Vicky Rees took over at centre.
Great pressure from Vicky twice came close to earning a three-second penalty, but a time violation was called against Clan moments later, and Grangetown moved the ball down the court and Abbie’s long shot found the net off the far edge of the hoop. Clan quickly responded and when Chrissy Munro scored having claimed an excellent rebound, the gap was now five goals.
An off-the-ball penalty put Grangetown back under pressure, but Clan surrendered possession and excellent interplay between Ria, Harriet and Abbie resulted in an important goal. Clan reopened their five-goal advantage, but were unlucky to be penalised after another Grangetown mistake looked to have handed over the ball.
Grangetown tried to force the play, but Sophie Short easily picked out a long ball into the circle. Nice interplay between Natalie Brookes and Chrissy Munro followed as the High Wycombe side maintained their lead. At 14-19, Katt Ainsworth athletically kept the ball in play, but possession was surrendered, and a fine finish from Harriet reduced the gap to four.
Jade Forbes-Wattley was penalised after what looked an excellent interception. Harriet again took advantage, and following more good work by Katie Walton, two goals from Abbie meant that Clan now only led by one.
Some indecision in the Grangetown ranks led to a misplaced pass, but Clan’s attack broke down when an attacking pass was thrown wildly out of play. Clan did score next, but the goal was quickly cancelled out after Jade Forbes-Wattley and Abbie challenged for the ball, which somewhat fortuitously ricocheted off the post straight back into the safe hands of the Grangetown shooter.
There was just time for the home side to score one more goal, but it was crucial because it brought the sides level for the first time since the early stages of the opening quarter.
It had been a hugely entertaining thirty minutes of netball. Grangetown had shown their battling qualities to fight their way back into the game, whilst Clan will probably feel as though they had done just about enough to deserve an interval lead.
The visitors shuffled their pack at half-time, whilst Grangetown’s only chance was Ashleigh Neal’s introduction at goal attack.
The Australian made an immediate impact after Jenny Mrozik’s interception had turned over possession. Quick passing in and out of the circle gave Ashleigh the opportunity to register her first goal for her new club. Abbie missed her next shot, but regathered forcefully and found the net at the second attempt.
When Katie gathered a rebound at the other end, there was a sense that momentum was starting to swing towards Grangetown and with Ashleigh cleverly drawing a contact foul and converting the subsequent shot, the home side had suddenly taken a four-goal lead.
A superb interception by Jade Forbes-Wattley followed by Katt Ainsworth’s defence-splitting cross-court pass saw Clan open their account in the third quarter. Some great movement and a well-disguised pass by Ashleigh set up Abbie for an easy score, before Katt Ainsworth was penalised for what appeared another perfectly good interception; the Australian showing her understandable disappointment and being cautioned for dissent as a result.
Ashleigh Neal’s speed of movement and thought was quickly becoming a feature of the third period; she provided an injection of pace, but also a calming influence as the hosts gradually extended their lead. One perfect example saw Ashleigh feed Ria, her off-the-ball run attracted both defenders, allowing Ria to loop a pass to Abbie who was totally unmarked in front of the net.
Some fantastic work by Vicky Rees and Gen Slater managed not only to keep the ball in play, but also secure possession. The ball was moved down the court and the goal that followed made the score 33-25.
On Grangetown’s next attack, Ashleigh feigned to shoot, but instead fed Abbie who was perfectly-placed to further extend Grangetown’s advantage. Harriet netted from a rebound right on the whistle and after two tight and hard-fought quarters, Grangetown found themselves ten goals to the good with only one quarter remaining.
It had been a quite superb period from the whole Grangetown seven, but there is no doubt that the catalyst was the appearance of Ashleigh Neal. The result had been hanging very much in the balance at half-time, but just fifteen minutes later, the eventual outcome was effectively beyond doubt.
Despite a number of unforced errors and turnovers, there was no lack of endeavour from both sides in the closing quarter, but as the clock ticked towards the ten-minute mark, the size of the advantage had increased to fifteen goals, and afforded Grangetown the luxury of giving two more of their talented younger players, Tasha Grylls and Kate Hill some valuable court time.
There was still enough time for Ria Small to produce two sublime passes into the shooters, only for both chances to be squandered. To their credit Clan kept going right to the final whistle and had clawed back five goals by full time; the final score reading 47-37.
Katie Walton was named the Mizuno Player of the Match for another commanding sixty minutes at goalkeeper, but my vote would have gone to Ashleigh Neal, whose performance in that third quarter completely changed the course of the game. Overall though, this was a fine team effort from a Grangetown side that has gelled together really well and is producing a consistently high-standard of exciting netball.
Grangetown hosted The Downs in the fifth round of the Mizuno Premier League 2nd Division. With the season still in its early stages, Grangetown had won two of their opening four fixtures and, although the club lay in eighth position, only one point separated them from the top four.
The two defeats came against the sides filling the league’s top two positions in the lead-up to week 5, and with The Downs occupying third place, it could hardly have been a tougher reintroduction to the second tier for Grangetown following their promotion through the play-offs.
The Surrey side was relegated from the top flight last season, but travelled up to the north east with a record of three wins and one defeat, their latest outing being a comfortable home success over Sussex Thunder.
Three current England internationals, Ebony Beckford-Chambers, Rachel Dunn and Hannah Reid all represented The Downs on their way to international honours; and Grangetown can boast two current internationals of their own, with Genevieve Slater and Katie Walton (pictured below) both being named in the Ireland squad for the forthcoming Nations Cup in Singapore.
The starting line-ups for the game were as follows:
Grangetown The Downs
Katie Walton GK Lorraine Kowalewska
Jenny Mrozik GD Alima Priest
Gen Slater WD Fiona Bateman
Hannah Raine C Kate McGinley
Ria Small WA Mel Boodt
Harriet Baxter GA Neala Brennan
Abbie LeBrocq GS Abi Caple
The game started with Gen Slater and Hannah Raine both coming close to interceptions, before the visitors opened the scoring. A neat pass from Grangetown’s 18-year-old centre enabled Harriet Baxter to get the home side onto the scoreboard, before Harriet and Ria Small combined to give Abbie LeBrocq the chance for Grangetown to score against The Downs’ centre pass.
The Guildford-based side soon took advantage of a fumbled pass to restore parity and were slightly unfortunate when Mel Boodt was given offside after a collision with Gen Slater knocked her into the circle. The teams traded goals until a frenetic passage of play saw The Downs grab a two-goal lead. Grangetown turned over possession from their centre pass; only to be handed back the ball after a three-second violation. A speculative pass failed to find Abbie LeBrocq and Alima Priest’s long diagonal ball opened up the court and the visitors netted after a foul was called against Katie Walton.
Grangetown again conceded possession after a long pass went over the backline, only to receive the ball back after a footwork call against the visitors. Defensive pressure was forcing Grangetown into rushed passes and eventually it took some nice interplay between Harriet and Ria Small to set up Abbie for a straightforward chance.
With The Downs on the attack, Lorraine Kowalewska was penalised for obstruction at the opposite end of the court. It was a stroke of luck for the hosts, but the umpire blew for an early break from the resulting centre pass, and the visitors duly netted to maintain their two-goal margin.
It had been a closely-fought opening quarter, but The Downs had been slightly the better side and deserved their narrow advantage, however as the period neared its conclusion, Grangetown suddenly clicked into gear and scored six unanswered goals to leave the score 13-9 at quarter time.
Gen Slater fired a superb pass to Harriet, whose run attracted both visiting defenders. Harriet was able to feed Abbie LeBrocq who was totally unmarked under the net. An almost identical pass gave Abbie another free shot to level the scores, before Katie and Jenny Mrozik both claimed possession, firstly by intercepting a long pass, then regathering the ball after a shot rebounded off the ring.
Grangetown missed two shots of their own, but seconds later, Ria found Harriet free on the left of the circle, and the shot was duly converted. Three goals came in a frantic final minute; Abi netting three times, with the final goal coming literally seconds before the hooter sounded. The opening quarter had been entertaining, and Grangetown’s run of goals arguably belied how even a game it had been.
An unchanged Grangetown side then scored the first three goals of the second period, the third coming following an off-the-ball penalty against Lorraine Kowalewska, whose tussle with Abbie LeBrocq was one of the features of the entire sixty minutes.
Ria Small nearly pulled off a fantastic interception, but The Downs were denied a goal when great marking from Katie Walton drew a penalty. Unfortunately, the pass out of defence was dropped, and The Downs finally opened their account after nearly four minutes of the quarter.
The next four goals were shared, but Grangetown claimed a turnover after a long looped pass had been superbly caught by Katie Walton; it should have been an even contest for the ball, but as soon as the pass was in flight, there was only ever going to be one outcome. The ball travelled quickly down the court; Abbie netted, but the goal was ruled out. Abi Caple then scored from long range, before converting an easier chance from Neala Brennan’s cleverly disguised pass.
Abbie scored the game’s next three goals, but The Downs still looked dangerous, with centre Kate McGinley really coming to the fore with her ability to find space out wide and feed excellent passes into the attackers.
Lorraine Kowalewska did well to turn over possession and the subsequent goal reduced the margin to five, but she was immediately cautioned for what was seen as deliberate obstruction on Abbie LeBrocq, who had no trouble converting the shooting opportunity.
Yet again, as the quarter drew to a close, Grangetown’s outstanding fitness levels were very much in evidence. Another flurry of goals saw Grangetown go into the half-time interval 27-18 in front; it was a sizeable advantage, but one that the home side had worked incredibly hard to earn.
Hannah Raine was withdrawn during the interval, after putting in a really good shift at centre. Ria Small replaced Hannah, with Kate Hill being introduced at wing attack, and club captain Vicky Rees coming on at wing defence.
Although Grangetown scored first in the third period, following really quick interplay between Ria and Harriet Baxter, the quarter was essentially dominated by The Downs. Grangetown lacked the cohesion of the preceding half-hour, conceded far too many penalties, and the visitors were more than capable of converting the chances that came their way.
Vicky Rees and Ria Small combined to leave Abbie with an easy shot from right under the net to make the score 30-21, but the next six goals were all scored by The Downs, whose fightback was both quick and impressive. Grangetown eventually replied through the trusted Small-LeBrocq combination, but it was Harriet Baxter who really caught the eye towards the end of the quarter.
Her movement and link-up play were superb; she looked like she’d played alongside her team mates for years rather than just a handful of games; and as well as a number of excellent feeds into her shooting partner, Harriet also found the net on a number of occasions.
At the end of what had been a difficult quarter, Grangetown had managed to hold onto a five-goal lead. It was clear that there would be changes to the on-court personnel; and Gen Slater duly returned to the fray, with Vicky Rees and Ria Small combining in mid-court.
There are some talented youngsters in the Grangetown squad, but there is also a great deal of experience; and the final fifteen minutes was all about composure. The hard work had been done in the first half; a more than useful advantage had been maintained despite a strong third period from the visitors; now it was a question of remaining strong and focussed.
The first goal was created by Hannah Baxter, who took a ball from Vicky Rees and drilled a pass to Abbie at a pace she didn’t look like she was expecting. However, Abbie managed to keep her poise and once again found the net.
Katie Walton and Jenny Mrozik both played the full sixty minutes and had excellent games. They secured numerous interceptions and rebounds, and restricted the visiting attack to just five goals in the fourth period. In contrast, Grangetown recovered the fluidity they had temporarily lost in the previous quarter, and if there had been any nervousness, it certainly didn’t show as both Abbie and Harriet scored from close-range and longer distance in the closing moments of the match.
Kate McGinley, who was The Downs’ best player on the day produced one of the best passes of the afternoon to take both Grangetown defenders out of the game and set up a straightforward shooting opportunity, but Grangetown were relentless and the goal difference had reached double figures when the final hooter brought proceedings to an end.
The final score was 48-37. It was a tremendous performance from Grangetown, who showed real maturity to see out the game after The Downs had rallied so strongly. The visitors will be disappointed by the size of the defeat; and they showed enough to suggest they will be one of the division’s stronger teams. Katie Walton and Jenny Mrozik’s efforts in defence must be highlighted, but the player of the match was Harriet Baxter (below), who had an outstanding afternoon at goal attack.
Grangetown Netball Club faced a difficult opening home fixture following last season’s promotion back to National Premier League 2. Visitors Telstars travelled up from Kent having won a close encounter against Sussex Thunder in round one; whereas Grangetown had suffered a heavy defeat away to Cheltenham-based Hucclecote.
Prior to the game, Grangetown unveiled their new 2017/18 kit, but the squad contained many familiar faces from the previous campaign; the only new addition being Harriet Baxter in attack.
Grangetown started the match with a strong defensive unit of Jenny Mrozik, and the club’s two Ireland players Katie Walton and Gen Slater. Club captain Vicky Rees (centre) and Ria Small (wing attack) were the experienced mid-court pairing, and shooting duties fell to two of the younger members of the squad; Tasha Grylls and Abbie LeBrocq.
The Telstars line-up featured Amoy Clark who, at 6’5”, was always going to test the Grangetown defence, but it was the home side who opened the scoring, before Clark got on the scoresheet. Grangetown then took advantage of a penalty awarded against the visitors from their second centre pass with Abbie LeBrocq making no mistake following a looped pass from Ria Small.
One of the main features of the opening period was the way Grangetown attempted to deal with the presence of Amoy Clark. The Telstars game plan was as obvious, as it was effective, until Katie Walton picked out another high feed into the circle. Grangetown were unable to convert the turnover, but Katie made two further interceptions in the first quarter, and with chances being taken at the other end of the court, Grangetown had a six-point lead when the hooter sounded.
Grangetown had made a strong start to the game; the speed through the court was very much in evidence, although there were one or two occasions when play did become slightly frenetic, and possession was surrendered. For their part, Telstars could count themselves slightly unfortunate as a number of umpiring decisions went against their defensive pairing of Fran Beach and Caroline Hills; and Abbie and Tasha were more than happy to take advantage.
The second quarter started with an excellent piece of skill from the visitors to not only keep the ball in play, but find an unmarked shooter. The ball was erroneously ruled out of court, and Tasha duly netted from distance before Kate Hill (who had come on at wing attack) fed an excellent long ball for Abbie to extend the lead. Kate then provided a lovely floated pass to Tasha, whose shot rolled in off the outer ring to maintain the 8-goal difference.
There was then a spell of errors and turnovers from both sides. Grangetown eventually managed to score when Tasha confidently converted from the edge of the circle, before Telstars reeled off four goals without reply to half the deficit.
Grangetown were briefly, but clearly rattled. With the scoreboard reading 23-19, three forced passes gifted possession back to the visitors. It needed a nice piece of skill by Ria Small, who recovered the ball from inside the circle, whilst keeping her feet away from the line, to give Abbie an opportunity to calm the home side’s nerves.
A brilliant read from Jenny Mrozik resulted in the interception of a centre pass and another goal for Abbie. The teams traded goals until the end of the half, with Grangetown still having a five-goal cushion.
The second quarter highlighted the potency of Telstars’ style of play. Strong pressure at the back of the court, quick transitions and accurate feeds into their tall shooter. It wasn’t difficult to see how momentum could quickly turn their way. However, Grangetown rallied really well after that four-goal burst; and by the end of the period, they had certainly reasserted some level of dominance.
It was no shock to see Vicky Rees return for the third quarter to add some extra assurance to proceedings, but Amoy Clark’s withdrawal was something of a surprise. Without her, Telstars had little in the way of attacking options, and play had been underway for almost six minutes before they registered their first goal.
By then, Grangetown had scored six times. Gen Slater and Jenny Mrozik were well in control in defence; the Rees-Small-Hill trio displayed some great pass variety, and the shooting from Abbie and Tasha was exemplary. The attacking play was especially noteworthy, because Fran Beach and Caroline Hills were an athletic and uncompromising duo, and were probably the visitors’ best players on the day.
As a contest, the game was effectively over at 38-25. Hannah Raine and Harriet Baxter were introduced for the final fifteen minutes; and both made some telling contributions as the goal difference was maintained, with Grangetown eventually claiming victory by 49-36.
Even this early in the season, the squad looks extremely fit and cohesive. In previous years it has taken some time to gel, but that would be an unaffordable luxury in a division packed with so many strong teams. Grangetown showed plenty of resilience when put under intense pressure and hopefully all these positive qualities will continue to be in evidence over the next few months.
This was an excelled team performance, but my player of the match is Abbie LeBrocq, not just for her shooting, but for the way she dealt with the challenge posed by two excellent defenders.
Sussex Thunder made the long journey from the south coast to Grangetown for today’s top-of-the-table clash in National Premier League 3.
The visitors had won 13 of their 15 games and had suffered just a single defeat during the campaign, whereas Grangetown’s reverse at Poole the previous weekend had left them with a record of 9 wins and 6 losses.
Grangetown were without Jaydene Robinson, Kate Hill and Hannah Raine, but Team Northumbria’s Brie Grierson was able to start, and head coach Gel Williams was able to welcome Ellen Wright for her first full match.
The game began with two penalties being called before a pass had been completed, and Thunder duly opened the scoring. Jenny Mrozik’s first interception of the afternoon regained possession after Grangetown had lost the ball from their first centre pass. Ria Small’s looped feed to Abbie Le Brocq allowed the home side to level, and set the pattern for a closely-fought and high-quality opening quarter.
Pressure from Jenny Mrozik saw Thunder overthrow a pass after the visiting goal defence had claimed another attempted lobbed pass. Abbie Le Brocq levelled proceedings before finding the net again to give Grangetown the lead for the first time. Unfortunately a three-second call gifted possession back to Sussex, who scored a superb goal after a wonderful piece of skill to tap the ball back into play was followed by an instant pass into the circle to give the shooter a straightforward chance.
A successful long shot put Thunder back in front, and Gen Slater was then penalised for footwork; the subsequent score putting the visitors two goals in front. Great work from Jenny Mrozik and Irish international defender Gen Slater turned over possession and an outstanding catch and flick by Brie Grierson to Abbie Le Brocq offered the 6’ 2” shooter an easy opportunity to cancel out the goal against the centre pass.
The sides then traded goals, with Vicky Rees recovering possession by forcing a wayward pass with some excellent defensive pressure after Grangetown had initially turned over the ball after another three second violation. At 9-9, Grangetown managed to edge in front, but the visitors’ goal defence produced a fine interception to enable Thunder to equalise; however Abbie Le Brocq rounded off an excellent fifteen minutes of netball by netting her tenth goal from ten attempts to give Grangetown the narrowest of advantages at the hooter.
Gel Williams shuffled her pack during the break with Tasha Grylls coming on at goal attack, and Ellen Wright replacing Ria Small at centre.
Grangetown gave up possession straight from the opening centre pass, but Thunder’s long range shot was off the mark, and the hosts managed to work the ball down the court with Tasha Grylls maintaiing her side’s 100% shooting accuracy. A contact penalty against the Sussex shooter handed Grangetown the chance to extend their lead; the ball was lost, but Jenny Mrozik’s excellent rebound was followed by an equally impressive long shot from Abbie Le Brocq.
Thunder then produced an excellent spell of play and scored the next five goals, but Grangetown were possibly a bit unfortunate as more excellent work from Vicky Rees went unrewarded, and a string of penalties were awarded against the home side, including a tough call on Gen Slater for footwork after what looked a brilliant interception.
Grangetown replied with a wonderful length-of-the-court move, which included a series of quick passes and a quite superb catch and feed from Ellen Wright.
A couple of Grangetown misses followed, but a crucial three-second call against Abbie Le Brocq in the act of shooting allowed Thunder to restore a three-goal lead, which was increased to four as the hooter brought the half to a close.
The third quarter provided fifteen pulsating minutes of thrilling netball. Thunder scored three goals in the opening seventy seconds and the advantage was increased to double figures as the visitors assumed total control of the match. It took another Jenny Mrozik rebound and some great work from Ria Small to break the sequence, but Sussex immediately turned over Grangetown’s subsequent centre pass and looked supremely confident as they scored to make the score 18-28.
From the sidelines, it looked as though a number of Grangetown heads momentarily dropped, but what followed was a truly remarkable fightback that rattled the league leaders, and showed the very best of this young Grangetown squad.
18-28 became 24-28 as Jenny Mrozik picked off a telegraphed cross-court pass, before seventeen-year old Tasha Grylls made a couple of telling contributions both outside and inside the circle. Thunder had a temporary reprieve when a shot from Abbie Le Brocq rolled round the rim of the net, but did not drop; and then another three-second penalty was given against the Grangetown shooter.
To her credit, the teenager kept her composure to score with her next attempt. Two further goals followed and at the end of the quarter, the Sussex lead had been reduced to a single goal.
It was a remarkable comeback and when the hosts netted twice in the early moments of the final period, Grangetown were in front for the first time since the start of the second quarter. Thunder levelled, and nudged back in front after Abbie Le Brocq had a goal chalked off by the umpire.
Grangetown kept their focus and immediately equalised from Thunder’s centre pass, before taking the lead once again. Sussex are top of the division for a reason though, and with Natalie Miller and Sophie Jackson in particular producing some superb plays under pressure, a run of five quick goals looked to have secured the win for the visitors.
Incredibly, before the next goal was scored, Grangetown were on the wrong end of two further three-second penalties, the fifth and sixth of the game; and with probably four of the decisions being at best fifty-fifty calls, this aspect of the game undoubtedly cost Grangetown a lot of crucial possession.
Sussex continued to pass and shoot really well under pressure, but Grangetown kept pressing and reduced the arrears to two. Abbie Le Brocq had a chance to narrow the gap to a single goal, but the shot was missed and Sussex showed their skill and fitness with some superb passing and movement to run down the clock and claim the win 37-39.
Sussex Thunder are the best side to have visited Grangetown this season. They played some tremendous netball, and yet Grangetown left the court feeling it was a game they could and should have won. For those watching, it was a tremendous match, played in a good spirit between two fine sides. Along with results elsewhere, Grangetown have slipped down to third position, but only two points separate the four clubs vying for play-off places behind the runaway leaders.
The Mizuno Player of the Match was Ellen Wright, but my votes went to Jenny Mrozik and to Thunder’s Sophie Jackson.
The second of consecutive home games for Grangetown Netball Club saw the second-placed side in National Premier League 3 face Manchester-based club Dominoes.
Having overcome a determined Cumberland squad the previous week, Grangetown went into the Dominoes match without Jaydene Robinson and Brie Grierson, who were both unavailable due to their Super league commitments with Team Northumbria; but Ireland defender Gen Slater travelled over from Dublin to take her place alongside fellow international Katie Walton for the opening quarter.
Dominoes scored first, before Abbie le Brocq cleverly drew a contact foul to net with her first shot of the game. The teams traded goals until a neat pass from Gen Slater to Ria Small, gave the centre the opportunity to bounce a pass to teenage goal attack Tasha Grylls, who put the home side in front for the first time.
A stroke of luck saw Grangetown extend their lead after possession was retained when an overthrown pass hit the post and ricocheted out of play off the visiting goal keeper. Dominoes recovered quickly, and a lovely long ball into the circle was converted by the goal shooter to make the score 6-4 to Grangetown.
However, a poor pass immediately gifted possession back to Grangetown, and instead of shooting, Tasha cleverly passed to Abbie who restored the three-goal advantage.
Katie Walton’s second interception of the quarter went unrewarded as the subsequent pass into the Dominoes circle was overthrown. Kate Hill at wing attack then neatly fed Tasha who calmly netted from distance.
Some excellent interplay between the visiting wing attack and shooter should have brought Dominoes to within one goal, but the shot was missed; Katie Walton grabbed the rebound, and the ball was moved quickly down court for Abbie to score the first of three quick goals. The second of those came from more good work from Dominoes, but another missed attempt was gathered by Gen; and the third came from a fortunate rebound fell to Tasha, and Abbie netted at the second attempt.
A goal right on the hooter brought the advantage back to five, and Grangetown’s 13-8 lead was a fair reflection of the balance of play in the first fifteen minutes.
Head coach Gel Williams brought on Jenny Mrozik in place of Katie Walton for the second quarter, and after an early miss from Grangetown, Dominoes made the most of the umpires missing a ball caught out of play to score against Grangetown’s centre pass.
After Jenny was on the wrong end of another incorrect call when she was ruled to have taken the ball out of play, Dominoes netted again; and a couple of minutes later after their goal attack did extremely well to hang onto a long pass, her successful shot put Dominoes into a lead that had looked so unlikely at the end of the previous period.
Abbie restored parity, then Gen’s interception saw Grangetown’s 6’2” shooter score with a long-range effort that bounced in off the front of the hoop. Tasha’s next goal, following an interception from Ria and excellent work from captain Vicky Rees opened the gap to two; but some scrappy play and a series of misses allowed the Manchester side–who went into the game six places below their hosts–to regain the lead again.
The teams were tied at 18-18 with just over a minute remaining, but three goals in those final moments, the third from a spectacular interception from Tasha, saw Grangetown leave the court with a half-time advantage that didn’t really represent how well Dominoes had played.
Hannah Raine was introduced in place of Kate Hill for the third period; some welcome court time for the sixteen-year old who has recently recovered from a knee injury.
Tasha drew a contact foul to open the scoring, before two more goals from Abbie (one from a very good feed from Hannah Raine) meant that Grangetown had scored six without reply. Dominoes quickly halved the arrears, but the next three goals again came from Grangetown, with one turnover being brilliant secured by Gen’s shot block.
At 27-21, Vicky was very unlucky not to secure possession with some great defensive play, but the visiting wing defence was equally unfortunate when she did superbly well to keep the ball in play; only for the umpire to rule she had gone out of court. She then completed an excellent interception, but Dominoes missed their subsequent shot and Abbie converted at the second attempt to maintain Grangetown’s six-goal lead.
Gen Slater brilliantly claimed possession and a lovely move down the Grangetown right freed Abbie to score against the Dominoes centre pass, but the visitors rallied and two late goals left the score at 32-26 at three-quarter time.
If there was any thought that the six-goal lead was decisive, Dominoes certainly had other ideas, and they capitalised on a string of Grangetown errors to bring the visitors to within one goal. Moments later it was 33-33, and when a telegraphed diagonal pass was easily intercepted by the goal defence, the Dominoes shooter took an impressive one-handed catch and scored the goal that put the visitors in front
With under five minutes remaining, and with the scores level, Kate Hill returned to the court in place of Hannah Raine, and her first involvement was to set up Abbie to edge Grangetown back in front. Dominoes equalised but Tasha (twice) and Abbie both found the net under intense pressure, and when Jenny Mrozik forced a shooting error to turnover possession, the victory was finally secured.
Two more goals, one each from both the Grangetown shooters, made the final score 41-36.
It was a tense, but nevertheless enjoyable game and ultimately the differences between the sides were arguably Grangetown’s superior fitness, and the fact that over recent weeks, they have simply become used to winning. The players will probably agree that this was not their best performance of the season; but this is a talented squad, Vicky Rees and her players lack nothing in belief and determination, and this hugely important win consolidates their position behind runaway leaders Sussex Thunder.
Player of the Match – Gen Slater (below)
Grangetown Netball Club faced the London-based Cumberland in a crucial Mizuno Premier League 3 clash today.
The teams went into the fixture in second and third place respectively, separated by just one point and with identical records of seven wins and five defeats from their twelve league matches.
Grangetown coach Gel Williams was able to call on the services of Team Northumbria’s Jaydene Robinson and Brie Grierson; Ireland defender Gen Slater was also available, and the twelve-strong squad captained by Vicky Rees included no less than eight players aged under 21.
Abbie le Brocq opened the scoring, but the visitors had much the better of the opening quarter. Grangetown lost possession from their second centre pass, and Cumberland took full advantage to take the lead. A tremendous interception from goal keeper Em Donovan offered Cumberland the opportunity to go further in front, and their starting seven looked a yard quicker right across the court in the early stages.
Katie Walton, the second of Grangetown’s two Ireland internationals, claimed a rebound to secure the possession from which Ria Small and Brie Grierson set up Abbie le Brocq. Another good feed into the circle from Brie at goal attack allowed Abbie to reduce the arrears to a single goal, but the visitors responded with five unanswered goals, as Grangetown made a series of unforced errors.
Good movement from Abbie attracted the attention of both Cumberland defenders, leaving Brie free inside the circle to get Grangetown back on the scoresheet. The home side continued to be wasteful with possession, but fought tenaciously to regain lost ball, and ended the period with two further goals, Abbie’s excellent long shot right on the hooter leaving Grangetown just three goals adrift.
The second quarter got off to a scrappy start, with Abbie finally breaking the deadlock after almost four minutes when she netted from what was Grangetown’s fifth set of possession.
Soon after, Cumberland were penalised from their centre pass, and Grangetown levelled the scores, only to relinquish the ball from their own centre pass. A three-second infringement handed possession back to the hosts; Vicky Rees somehow managed to retain enough balance at the edge of the court to find Jaydene Robinson with a superb pass, Jaydene fed her Team Northumbria team mate Brie, who set up Abbie to put Grangetown in front for the first time since the game’s opening goal.
Cumberland maintained their pressure though, and had plenty of possession thanks to a combination of some well-timed interceptions and several missed attempts from the Grangetown shooters. However, Katie Walton and Gen Slater were making life just as difficult for the opposing shooters, turning over possession on four occasions in the closing minutes of the half.
Ria Small produced a couple of telling passes, which were duly converted, but whenever Grangetown took the lead, their advantage was almost immediately cancelled out, and the teams were locked at 18-18 at half time.
Gel Williams brought on Tasha Grylls at goal attack, with Brie Grierson switching to wing attack and Jaydene Robinson to centre, and the new combination made an instant impact, with Tasha taking a great catch under pressure and finding the net, either side of two more goals for Abbie.
The momentum was halted by yet another fine interception from Em Donovan, but the home side steadily began to assert themselves, and the youthful attacking quartet showed some excellent handling skills; Abbie superbly held onto a bullet pass from Brie and scored at the second attempt to widen the gap to four goals. That advantage was quickly increased to eight, but Cumberland closed the quarter with three goals of their own, and at 30-25, the result was still very much in the balance going into the final fifteen minutes.
Jaydene picked off a pass deep in her defensive third, and quickly fed the ball down the Grangetown left for Brie to set up Abbie for a shot from under the post. A series of goals against the centre pass then followed, but Grangetown were able to retain their composure and gradually draw away from a very competitive Cumberland side.
Jaydene was now dominating the edge of the attacking circle and with Vicky, Katie and Gen all doing some great work to keep turning over possession, the advantage reached double figures. Abbie netted the game’s final goal, to give Grangetown a hard-fought, well-earned and hugely important victory—the final score being 42-31.
Much of the game was played at a frenetic pace, and this may have led to the number of errors made by both sides. That said there was some tremendous skill on show; it was a hugely entertaining game, played in an excellent spirit between two very good teams. Em Donovan produced a fine performance for the visitors, but it was Jaydene Robinson who was deservedly named as the Mizuno Player of the Match.
Grangetown played host to Thoroughbreds in today’s Prem 3 encounter, looking to follow up the previous weekend’s superb win against Leyton and consolidate second place in the table behind runaway leaders Sussex Thunder.
Thoroughbreds, who were relegated from Prem 2 along with Grangetown last season, travelled up from Norwich just one place above the foot of the table, with two wins from their opening ten fixtures.
Grangetown were without Ireland defender Gen Slater, as well as youngsters Jay Robinson and Brie Grierson, but one of the club’s most promising teenagers Hannah Raine returned to the squad after recovering from knee surgery.
Grangetown starting line-up
GK: Katie Walton
GD: Jenny Mrozik
WD: Vicky Rees (captain)
C: Ria Small
WA: Kate Hill
GA: Tasha Grylls
GS: Abbie le Brocq
The visitors opened the scoring after just sixteen seconds and then took advantage of a replayed ball penalty to take an early two-goal lead. An interception from Grangetown’s Ireland international Katie Walton led to Abbie le Brocq’s first goal of the afternoon and the Harrogate-born shooter quickly converted a lobbed pass from Tasha Grylls to level the scores.
This set the pattern for an opening fifteen minutes in which the sides were only once separated by more than two goals. There were a couple of frustrating turnovers from Grangetown centre passes, but this Grangetown side has gelled extremely well and has grown in self-belief throughout the season; they weathered the visitors’ strong start and finally edged in front during the final minute of the quarter.
Kate Hill’s clever delayed pass set up Abbie le Brocq to make the score 3-3, but two of the next three Thoroughbreds goals came from long-range, and the accuracy of the visitors’ shooting was a feature of not just the opening period, but for the majority of the game.
Ria Small was prominent in the Grangetown recovery. Three successive goals again levelled matters at 7-7 before a fine intercept and long ball down court found the Thoroughbreds shooter unopposed under the net.
Much of Grangetown’s success came from lofted passes into the circle, allowing Abbie le Brocq to take advantage of both her height, but also her ability to catch the ball under pressure. A couple of overthrown passes cost Grangetown possession, but the tactic also reaped plenty of rewards, and a rare Thoroughbreds miss was punished by three quick goals, and at the hooter, the hosts led 14-12.
Grangetown started the second quarter in fine style. The defensive tri of Jenny Mrozik, Katie Walton and Vicky Rees worked incredibly hard to deny space to the opposing attackers and a couple of telling contributions from Katie Walton turned over possession and resulted in Grangetown scoring the opening five goals, a total of eight without reply.
Thoroughbreds eventually got back on the scoresheet and the teams traded goals throughout the remainder of the second period. Katie Walton was in dominant form, and secured two more interceptions, although only one led to a goal—another for Abbie le Brocq after some excellent work from Kate Hill.
The experience of Vicky Rees and Ria Small may be in contrast to the presence of three teenagers at the attacking end of the court, but a strong understanding is developing within the squad and the on-court blend of youth and experience is producing some dynamic and entertaining netball.
Sixteen-year-old Tasha Grylls was having an assured afternoon. She was not getting many shooting chances, but her passing and movement really tested the visiting defenders and opened up numerous opportunities for passes to be fed to her partner.
Grangetown were pressing strongly without the ball, but the Norfolk-based side remained a constant threat, and three unanswered goals quickly reduced the arrears to 25-21.
As the half drew to a close, Ria Small’s excellent catch and feed into the circle enabled Abbie le Brocq to extend the lead back to six goals, but a footwork penalty against the shooter gave possession to Thoroughbreds and the period’s final goal left the scoreline 30-25 in favour of the league’s second-placed club.
Another fifteen minutes of competitive and hugely entertaining netball ultimately resulted in no change to the five-goal difference between the teams, although at one stage Thoroughbreds closed to within three.
At 33-30, Vicky Rees produced a vital interception, and the ball was moved quickly down the court for Tasha Grylls to convert. The Thoroughbreds centre was then penalised for offside, and Tasha Grylls opted to pass instead of shoot and Abbie le Brocq calmly netted to restore the five-goal advantage.
The visitors responded, but Katie Walton produced yet another interception to regain possession and when Jenny Mrozik managed to get a crucial touch to allow her defensive partner to complete another turnover, Abbie le Brocq’s subsequent goal felt decisive.
Grangetown were unlucky to lose possession when the rebound from a missed shot hit Vicky Rees on the leg and bobbled back to the Thoroughbreds’ shooter, but within seconds Kate Hill enjoyed a similar slice of fortune to retain possession and set up another scoring opportunity.
Jenny Mrozik got a hand to two passes and both Vicky Rees and Kate Hill both made telling interceptions as Grangetown maintained their pressure and intensity, but with the scoreboard reading 39-34 at the end of the quarter, Thoroughbreds were still very much in the game and their performance certainly belied their position in the table.
An unchanged Grangetown needed a good start to the final period, and scoring five of the opening six goals would surely have quelled any nerves. The highlight was a bullet pass from Kate Hill that was brilliantly claimed by a closely-marked Tasha Grylls, before the teenager calmly netted.
Thoroughbreds simply refused to give up and responded with five successive goals, but after a great catch and shot from Abbie le Brocq, an overthrown pass gifted possession to Grangetown and the subsequent goal finally broke the visitors.
From 45-40, Grangetown raced into a 55-42 lead to guarantee a seventh win of the season. Each side managed one last goal each and the final hooter signalled a 56-43 success for Grangetown.
A thirteen-goal margin looks emphatic, but that would be unfair on a Thoroughbreds side that was a very real threat for more than fifty minutes of what was a thoroughly enjoyable encounter.
The opposing shooters were excellent, but I was particularly impressed with wing attack Zoe Groves. For Grangetown, it was a superb team performance and it would be possible to argue a case for any of the seven players to be named Player of the Match, but my vote would have gone to Tasha Grylls, just ahead of Katie Walton.
Grangetown Netball Club played host to Charnwood Sapphires in their opening Premier league fixture of 2017.
Charnwood travelled from their Leicestershire base as the league’s bottom side, having recorded just one draw from their opening eight fixtures following their promotion into national division 3.
In contrast, Grangetown’s four victories and four defeats (two of which had been by a single goal) saw the club sitting in fourth place, although just five points separated third and seventh positions.
Gen Slater had flown over from Dublin to join her international defensive partner Katie Walton in a Grangetown squad that is rapidly developing into a formidable and exciting blend of youth and experience.
The home side started quickly and opened up a three-goal advantage in little over a minute, as Charnwood turned over possession from their first two centre passes; and it was a lead that Grangetown never looked like surrendering.
Ahead 12-6 after the first quarter, the lead was increased to fourteen goals by half-time; and by a further ten over the remaining two periods as Grangetown claimed the victory by 49-25.
There were a number of notable aspects of Grangetown’s play, all of which contributed to the comfortable winning margin.
The defensive unit of Jenny Mrozik, Gen Slater and Vicky Rees laid the foundation with a commanding performance during the opening three quarters. There were numerous superb blocks and interceptions from Jenny and Gen, and Vicky had another typically influential game; constant pressure in defence and the perfect outlet to move possession quickly down the court.
Ria Small and Jaydene Robinson dominated the centre of the court; their speed of thought and movement was outstanding, as was the variation of feeds into the circle. The lobbed pass into Abbie Le Brocq is an obvious weapon, especially as the 6’2” shooter is clearly gaining in strength and confidence with every appearance, but there were also several flat and fast passes into the circle; and these changes in play made things particularly difficult for the visiting defenders.
Abbie’s partner and fellow teenager Tasha Grylls also continues to impress, and her long-range shooting percentages were nothing less than exceptional.
Another of the club’s younger players, Kate Hill, played two quarters at wing attack, and she did a fine job of maintaining the home side’s attacking momentum. Katie Walton and Sarah Sainty took to the court for the final period, thereby ensuring that the whole squad was able to enjoy valuable game time.
For their part, Charnwood produced some good netball at various stages of the game, but were unable to match Grangetown’s almost relentless intensity.
A few errors did start to creep in towards the end of the second quarter, and again in the game’s closing stages; but the squad has already shown its fitness resilience and determination during much closer matches; and the overall performance, as well as the result, will have delighted Grangetown head coach Gel Williams.
Gen Slater was deservedly named the Mizuno Player of the Match, but my vote went to Ria Small, whose athleticism and know-how not only created countless opportunities for the Grangetown shooters, but also gave Jaydene Robinson the opportunity to express herself and allow her own skills to come to the fore.
After the game, Ria was satisfied at a job well done: “It was great to get back on the court with the girls; and also, a great start to 2017 getting a win under our belt so soon after the Christmas break.
“Even though as players we all take responsibility for our fitness away from the court, match fitness is very hard to maintain, so I was very pleased with the girls and the result today
“It was a great squad performance and fantastic to get everyone on the court—this is a definite positive for our players and coaching team. There was a definite buzz throughout the squad it was a great family atmosphere!”
Grangetown Netball Club played host to Poole in Mizuno Premier League 3 on Sunday. It was the first time the two clubs had faced each other, and Poole travelled up from Dorset having won three of their five fixtures, after enjoying almost continuous success over the previous two years to deservedly take their place in the national league.
Poole sat in fourth position behind unbeaten league leaders Sussex Thunder, just two places ahead of Grangetown whose record of two victories and three defeats included two single-point reverses in their most recent outings.
Both sides were without a couple of regular players, but Grangetown welcomed back the Leinster and Ireland international defender Gen Slater, who was able to link up with Katie Walton for the first time since the pair had represented Ireland with such distinction at the recent Nations Cup in Singapore.
The home side got off to an excellent start, with Brie Grierson opening the scoring after just fifteen seconds. An early Poole miss was collected by Katie Walton, the first of a number of telling contributions from the Grangetown goal keeper. Abbie Le Brocq converted the turnover possession before netting two more quick goals, the second from a fine piece of skill from Brie Grierson who threw a blind pass to her team mate whilst looking in the opposite direction.
Poole levelled the scores at 4-4, but Abbie Le Brocq made full use of her height to edge Grangetown back in front—and it was a lead they would never relinquish.
Grangetown continued to play well and the homes side’s best move of the opening period came when Ria Small looped a pass into the circle and instead of catching the ball, Brie Grierson cleverly tapped the ball straight into the arms of her shooting partner.
There was a frantic passage of play when Poole overthrew a centre pass, but recovered possession courtesy of an interception from goal keeper Jessica Dale. Gen Slater then reclaimed the ball, only for Poole’s goal attack to produce an interception of her own. The Australian-born Ireland international looked to have produced an even better steal, but a penalty was called and Poole duly added to their score.
The quarter ended with another lovely pass from Poole’s consistently influential centre Tallisa Haynes, and the ensuing goal reduced the deficit to five, with Grangetown leading 13-8.
The early exchanges of the second period saw Grangetown double their advantage, with teenager Tasha Grylls impressing in an unaccustomed wing attack role. Her passes set up three of the first four goals, and with shooter Abbie Le Brocq enjoying a productive afternoon, the Grangetown defenders were in fine individual and collective form.
Club captain Vicky Rees led by example and had a superb game at wing defence; and the Ireland pairing of Katie Walton and Gen Slater were at their dominant best, although some of their work was rather less than appreciated by the officials. On two occasions, Katie reacted quickly to be first to feeds into the circle, but was penalised both times, the latter resulting in a caution for “persistent contact”.
Twelve goals to the good at half time, head coach Gel Williams swapped Brie Grierson and Tasha Grylls, and Brie had a significant impact on the third quarter; her speed of hand and thought being readily acknowledged by the visiting coaching team after the match.
The average age of the Grangetown attacking trio was less than nineteen, and the pivotal link between the experienced defence and the exciting prospects at the attacking end of the court was provided by Ria Small, whose passing and movement were superb throughout the sixty minutes.
The game was still being played at quite a high tempo in the third quarter, but mistakes started creeping into both sides’ play. It was the visitors who were quicker to regain their composure and Poole ended the quarter by scoring five of the last six goals, although Grangetown held a decisive 39-26 lead with just fifteen minutes remaining.
Both goal keepers were very much to the fore in the closing period; Katie Walton collecting two more rebounds, whilst Jessica Dale capped a strong performance with four further interceptions. To their credit Poole continued to work the ball well down the court and scored three unanswered goals as the game entered its closing moments.
Perhaps fittingly though, the hooter sounded just as Abbie Le Brocq netted to take Grangetown to their half century; the final score being 50-32 in favour of the hosts.
For Grangetown’s goal defence Gen Slater, it had been a satisfying return to Teesside: “I thought it was a good game; we came out firing from the start, and it was nice to be up by five at the end of that first quarter. This is my first game of the season back at Grangetown and there are a lot of new faces; not so much in defence, but certainly in attack we’ve got a lot of young girls, which is really good to see.
“The quick passing was a feature of our attack. Brie was excellent; she was releasing the ball as soon as she got it, and that will always beat the defender. Abbie was amazing too; I gather she’s working really hard in training, and she’s only going to get stronger and stronger. I thought Kate [Hill] did brilliantly in the last quarter. It’s not easy to come on at centre late on in the game, but she did really well.
“Obviously, we’ve got a few things to work on, and we can’t afford to have lapses of two or three minutes in a quarter. We need to be strong for the full fifteen minutes, but overall this was a good team performance and a great result.”
Gen was also delighted to be back on court with her Ireland defensive partner Katie Walton: “It was brilliant. We haven’t played together since September, but I love playing alongside her; she’s a really good talker, and I thought the partnership worked just like it did in Singapore. I love playing with Vicky as well; she runs all over the place and just doesn’t stop, so even though it was my first game back, it felt comfortable. I know the combination could work even better if we were training together and practising things; but we had a set play for bringing the ball out of defence from our baseline throw-ins which worked really well.
“Also, they swapped their goal attack during the game which is good, because it means we’re doing our job as a defensive unit. It took a couple of minutes to adjust to the change because she was much taller; but we sorted it out and did the job—so I’m happy!”
For Poole coach Hayley Peyman, it was a rare loss, but a chance to reflect on just how far the club had progressed.
“We had two key players missing today; our wing attack tore her quad training with Surrey Storm and one other was unavailable. We had to play a few players out position which left us with weaknesses in certain areas and Grangetown certainly punished those weaknesses.
“I thought their defenders were incredibly physical; I don’t think we’ve ever faced a defence as physical as that. And the goal attack [Brie Grierson] was outstanding; she was the absolute game-maker.
“When we’re at full strength, we’re definitely capable of challenging the clubs in this division, but given the standard of the Grangetown squad and the fact that we had no fresh players to bring on, I think they were always going to win today—I just didn’t expect the gap to be that wide.
“We honestly didn’t envisage that we’d be playing at this level quite so soon. We were actually looking towards the Premier League in around five years’ time, but the girls just kept on winning!
“It is quite tough at the moment because we don’t have a big squad, but we’ve got a good structure at the club; and some excellent youngsters coming through. My squad that went off to Uni should be back next year and the juniors on the talent pathway will also feed into the squad; so if we can consolidate our position this season, hopefully we’ll have a bright future.”
The result has lifted Grangetown into fourth position, with Pool two places, but just one point adrift. Only four points separates second and seventh in the league, and in what is clearly a hugely competitive division, both Grangetown and Poole face some crucial games before they renew rivalries in Dorset on 5 March.
Mizuno Player of the Match – Brie Grierson
My Players of the Match (because it's my report!) – Katie Walton (Grangetown) and Tallisa Haynes (Poole)