For years, the back pages of our newspapers have been dominated by football … sometimes cricket, and maybe occasionally rugby union; but rarely does a so-called minority sport grab national headlines.
Netball did just that in April this year, when the England Roses claimed the Commonwealth Games gold medal with a truly remarkable last-second victory over the tournament hosts and competition favourites, Australia.
All of a sudden, this group of elite female athletes (largely unknown away from their sport) were all over television screens, the internet and the press, as the country celebrated a quite outstanding achievement.
The profile of netball has never been higher, with international success being supplemented by the Vitality Super League, which is given such great coverage by Sky Sports. One step below the Super League franchises are the three divisions of the Mizuno Premier League, and a local club has recently secured promotion to Division 1 for the first time in its history.
Grangetown Netball Club is based a few miles outside Middlesbrough, and this promotion (as Champions of Division 2) has been the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the players, coaches and volunteer support team.
Grangetown is now ranked within the top ten clubs in the entire country, and as well as the elite squad, there is a thriving junior section, with both the under 16 and under 14 squads competing in their respective national championships. 600 teams entered the under 14 competition – so for Grangetown to finish seventh just last month is not only a fantastic result, but it also demonstrates how well the club is building for a strong and successful future.
The Premier League season runs from September to March, with each club playing 18 games. The geographical spread of clubs is huge, and Grangetown regularly travel in the region of 4,000 miles to fulfil their nine away fixtures.
The 2018/19 Premier Division 1 league will include teams based in Leeds, Manchester, and Oldham – a far cry from last season when Grangetown’s “local derby” required a 300-mile round trip! The other clubs hail from Hampshire, Middlesex, Essex, Herfordshire, Worcester and Bristol.
Grangetown is now hoping that the north east will get behind the club and the Premier League squad as they fly the flag for local netball right across England; and a number of brand new and exciting sponsorship opportunities are being made available.
The Grangetown club captain is Vicky Rees, and members of the squad include the current Team Northumbria Super League captain Ash Neal, Ireland’s first-choice international defensive partnership Genevieve Slater and Katie Walton, as well as some of the region’s most promising youngsters, such as Catherine Hewitt, who progressed from junior age-group netball right through to her Premier League debut towards the end of last season.
Affordable sponsorship is a great way to promote your company or business, whilst making a huge difference to a squad of talented and dedicated athletes. If you are interested in being part of Grangetown’s amazing story, full details of prices and what each package contains can be obtained by e-mailing Head Coach Gel Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For my part, I will be doing a number of in-depth player interviews and compiling full match reports on all the home games, and some of the away fixtures too. It promises to be a fantastic season – why not come along and be part of it?