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!”