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)
Grangetown Netball Club began their Premier League division 3 season with a narrow home defeat to London-based Leyton.
With head coach Gel Williams having secured the services of four talented teenagers, the new-look squad is very much a blend of youth and experience. Club captain Vicky Rees, Jenny Mrozik and Ireland international Katie Walton form a strong defensive trio, but seven out of the remaining nine members of the Grangetown squad for the opening game were under twenty years of age.
Jaydene Robinson and Brie Grierson, both members of the England under 21 squad, took their places in the starting line-up; and after the opening fifteen minutes, the home side led 11-8.
There was plenty of ebb and flow to proceedings in the first quarter, Grangetown recovering from a spell where they scored just once against seven goals from the visitors, to record five successive goals of their own. The last of those was scored by Brie Grierson, following great interplay with Jaydene Robinson, finishing off a move that had started at the other end of the court with Vicky Rees and Katie Walton combining superbly to claim possession and keep the ball in play.
There was plenty of skill on view from both sides in what was a fast, physical game; and there were a number of outstanding defensive plays to complement some incisive passing.
Straight after the restart, Leyton regained the initiative and quickly reclaimed the lead.
With the score tied at 13-13, Leyton produced some great passing to create a shooting chance, but Grangetown’s movement and defensive intensity was every bit as impressive; the shot was missed and Brie Grierson netted at the opposite end to give Grangetown a narrow advantage.
The physical aspect of the game continued, with the Leyton players being particularly quick to exert pass pressure; and there appeared to be a sense of frustration amongst the Grangetown squad, as a couple of umpiring decisions went against the home side.
Jenny Mrozik and Katie Walton both claimed important interceptions; and when Brie Grierson finished off a superb length-of-the-court move, it looked like Grangetown would take a narrow lead into the break, but Leyton responded with an outstanding goal of their own to leave the scores level 16-16 at half-time.
Tasha Grylls replaced Sarah Sainty at goal shooter, and Kate Hill was brought on for her debut as Gel Williams shuffled her pack during the interval.
The sixteen-year old shooter found the net with her first two attempts, but Leyton scored the next eight goals and dominated the remainder of the third quarter. The visitors visibly grew in confidence as their pressure and speed around the court led to a series of mistakes; and with Taylor Oram in particular having an outstanding match, Leyton maintained what looked a decisive eight goal advantage at three-quarter time.
Jaydene Robinson left the court towards the end of the period, after a hugely encouraging debut. She was replaced by Hannah Raine, the second of Grangetown’s talented sixteen-year olds; and when she was moved from wing defence to wing attack for the final fifteen minutes, Hannah injected fresh impetus into the attack alongside centre Ria Small, as five quick goals suddenly changed the complexion of the game.
All the momentum was now with Grangetown, but to their credit, Leyton’s shooters stayed calm and converted enough opportunities to stay in front. There was one brilliant passage of play during which Leyton’s Rowena Dowding claimed a fantastic interception, which was almost immediately matched by Kate Hill; Brie Grierson then fed a sublime pass to her shooting colleague and Tasha Grylls duly netted to reduce the deficit to one.
Unfortunately for Grangetown they were unable to draw level and Leyton eventually won by three goals, the final score being 36-39 in favour of the visitors.
For Grangetown it was obviously a disappointing result, but given the average age of the squad and the fact that it will take a couple of fixtures for the new line-up to gel, there was still much to admire; not least the way they fought back after such a poor third quarter to almost overhaul what had looked an unassailable lead.
My Grangetown player of the match was Katie Walton (just ahead of Brie Grierson and Jenny Mrozik), but for me the best player on court was undoubtedly Taylor Oram, whose pace and skill were a feature of a fine all-round performance from Leyton.
Grangetown Netball’s Premier League squad travels down to Sheffield for this weekend’s Premier League play-offs. Despite producing some excellent performances during the regular season, the club suffered a number of narrow defeats and finished eighth in Prem 2, frustratingly just six points away from a place in the top four.
Grangetown will join ninth-placed Premier Romans, along with the Sussex Thunder and Chester, the second and third-placed clubs in Prem 3, to battle it out for the right to play in the second division of English national netball next season.
Unfortunately for Head Coach Gel Williams, the scheduling of the Netball Europe Open Championships on the same weekend will mean that Grangetown cannot call on their international quartet, Gemma Sole and Jo Pettitt of Scotland, and Ireland’s Jan Hynes and Gen Slater.
Despite this setback, the players have been working extremely hard and there is a great deal of determination within the squad to put recent disappointments behind them and retain their Prem 2 status.
An excellent training session with England defender Ama Agbeze on Monday, was followed by an opportunity to take on the USA national team in a friendly the next evening.
The USA squad has been invited to participate in the challenge section of the European championships and this was an ideal test for both teams ahead of their respective important weekends.
The game was played over five periods instead of four quarters to allow the coaches of both sides to try as many on-court combinations as possible. The final score was 33-33, although Grangetown had held a lead right until the game’s closing stages.
“The friendly against the USA was a great chance for us to practice a few different tactics against a very good side,” explained Grangetown captain Vicky Rees.
“Their style of play was quite different to English netball but we had a good start and led by seven at the end of the first period. The USA came out fighting, just as we expected from an international team and, for a time we struggled to bring the ball through the court.
“The game was really closely contested and both sides took the opportunity to make substitutions and try out new combinations in a competitive situation. It was a physical match, but nothing too different from Prem 2.
“It was great preparation for the play-offs, we are all fit and match-ready and know what we need to do to retain our place in Prem 2.”
“This was exactly what we needed,” added Grangetown’s Ria Small. “We got off to a great start to the game, and the early 10-3 lead was really positive for us, as we know we will need to start strongly in all the matches over the weekend.
“We feel confident going into the play offs. The girls have trained and worked incredibly hard; and we believe we can and deserve to keep our position in Prem 2.”
Grangetown Netball Club’s junior teams enjoyed a tremendous weekend as both the under 16 and under 14A squads progressed through their respective Regional League tournaments to earn a place as north east representatives at the National Club finals.
The finals bring together the top eighteen teams from across the whole country, and for two squads from one club to reach this stage is a notable success.
The under 16s played superbly to finish top of the Regional group having won all seven of their fixtures—six of them by ten or more goals. The squad includes Hannah Raine and Tasha Grylls, both of whom have made National Premier League appearances for Grangetown this season, and Annike Jinadu, who has recently earned the opportunity to attend training with England’s under 17 squad.
The squad’s coach Ria Small was understandably delighted: “Not only are we going to the National Finals, but we are doing so as the best under 16 team in the north east. I couldn’t be prouder of each and every member of the squad. The girls have shown dedication, determination, grit, and most of all an abundance of talent. It’s a fantastic achievement, which they have all thoroughly deserved.
“The National Finals are being held on April 30 and May 1 at Sport Central in Newcastle upon Tyne; we’re thrilled to have qualified, but now it’s time for the hard work to continue.”
The under 14A players face a considerably longer journey for their age group finals, which are due to take place in Essex on May 28 and 29. The squad won six of their seven Regional League fixtures and qualified as group runners-up; and the strength of Grangetown’s junior set up was amply demonstrated by the club’s under 14B squad also reaching the Regional finals.
“This year is the first time we’ve had two teams qualify for the under 14 Regional League,” commented the squads’ coach Faye Summerhill. “Both sets of girls have trained really hard and I am proud of all of them for the progress they’ve made during the competition.
“The A team didn’t always play to their full potential, but still managed to win games. At their best though, they were outstanding and capable of outclassing opponents with their skill and athleticism. It’s a while until the finals, but we’ll keep training hard and make sure we’re at our best in Essex.
“The B team has a lot of promise and did incredibly well to reach the Regional League,” Faye added. “A few primary aged players made their debut and acquitted themselves really well. This squad is about developing new and exciting talent and building for the future, and this experience has made a massive difference.”
Grangetown under 16 Squad: Hannah Raine, Natasha Grylls, Annike Jinadu, Kirsty Weledji, Tilly Skidmore, Alex Elwine, Savannah Lloyd, Emily Haley, Chloe Roebuck, Abbie Wilson, Rebecca Herlingshaw, Megan Kavanagh, Olivia Aston, Catherine Hewitt, Safy Diarrassouba
Coaches: Ria Small, Sarah Sainty
Support Team: Julie Haley, Claire Willett
Grangetown under 14A Squad: Jessica Moore-Greenwood, Lauren Dixon, Tamsin Canham, Nicole Carne, Elena Bausor, Maddison Hockburn, Kimberley Briggs, Lacey Harvey, Catherine Hewitt, Safy Diarrassouba, Scarlet Hudson, Shannon Murray
Grangetown under 14B Squad: Katharine Barrett, Ellie Tweddle, Estelle Matthews, Ruby Whitney, Maisie Canterdale, Cheri Darley, Emily Burnett, Sophie Ward, Maia Bausor, Erin Wilson, Maria Chambers, Alexandra Webb, Lucie Skidmore, Ashleigh Dixon
Coaches: Faye Summerhill, Nicki Canham
Team Managers: Steve Wilson, Val Canterdale
Grangetown’s penultimate game and final home fixture of the regular Prem 2 netball season was a crucial encounter against Clan.
With Norwich-based Thoroughbreds already relegated, the teams finishing in eighth and ninth positions will play-off against the second and third-placed sides from Prem 3 to determine in which division each club will be playing in 2016/17. Clan travelled to Middlesbrough from High Wycombe in seventh position, one point and one place ahead of Grangetown; with Premier Romans in ninth spot due to having had five points deducted for conceding a game.
For a time, it looked like Grangetown may suffer a similar fate, after the Youth & Community Centre had to be evacuated following a fire alarm. Thankfully, the situation was resolved and the game eventually got underway fifteen minutes later than scheduled.
The bad news for the home side was the absence of Scottish Thistle Gemma Sole, as unexpected delays on her train journey south prevented her participation in the game. However, Dublin-based defender Gen Slater was able to take her place in the Grangetown squad, with her fellow Australian-born Ireland international team mate Emma Wakefield lining up for Clan.
The visitors’ opening goal was quickly cancelled out by sixteen year-old Tasha Grylls, but Clan produced some superb netball in the opening quarter and quickly opened up a nine-goal lead. Tash Pavelin produced the game’s first interception; the first of several from Clan’s tall and athletic goal defence; and along with Jade Forbes-Wattley at goal keeper, Clan’s commanding defensive pairing made life very hard for the Grangetown shooters.
Grangetown had a reasonable amount of possession, but a combination of misplaced ambitious long passes and missed shots allowed Clan to take control of proceedings. In contrast, both Clan’s shooters were making the most of their opportunities, with Rachel Green converting several impressive long shots. And whilst Grangetown struggled to claim rebounds, Emma Wakefield was twice able to regain the ball after rare misses, and score to maintain Clan’s advantage.
Clan’s attacking play was superbly controlled by Masego Motaung. Lightning quick around the court, her movement and incisive passing was wonderful to watch, and at 2-11, Grangetown were finding it difficult to gain any kind of foothold in the game.
But this Grangetown squad lacks nothing in character and they battled back to score four unanswered goals. Although there was pass pressure right through the court, the home side fought hard to find space and create enough chances for Faye Summerhill and Tasha Grylls to reduce the deficit to five at the end of the first quarter.
Sarah Sainty replaced Tasha at the start of the second period, but the pattern of the game continued, with a number of passing errors from the home side allowing the visitors to stretch their lead into double figures.
Clan produced the best move of the quarter when Masego Motaung threw an excellent long pass to wing attack Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, who instantly fed the ball into the circle for Emma Wakefield to score. At the other end of the court, Jade Forbes-Wattley twice turned over possession with excellent interceptions, whilst for Grangetown, Lesley Mouat also made a couple of telling contributions.
Coach Gel Williams shuffled her pack at half-time, with Vicky Rees moving to centre, Ria Small to wing attack, Marie Ewing to goal attack and Gen Slater being introduced at goal keeper alongside Jenny Mrozik.
There was a slight disagreement over which team had centre pass at the start of the third quarter, and the umpires also felt it necessary to have words with the Grangetown bench and one of the attacking players as tensions began to surface. Both sides were all-too-aware of the importance of the game and it was Gen Slater who brought an element of calm to proceedings, completing four interceptions and two rebounds in her first ten minutes on court.
Grangetown’s experienced mid-court pairing of Ria Small and Vicky Rees took full advantage to create a number of scoring opportunities and, at one stage, the gap was down to just six goals. Out of her usual position, Marie Ewing was working hard to set up Faye Summerhill, but Clan quickly picked up on the hosts’ reliance on their senior shooter. Their defenders allowed Marie the freedom to drop out of circle, but denied the feed into Faye by doubling up their marking; and by the end of the quarter, Clan led by ten goals.
There was plenty of competitive action in both circles during the final fifteen minutes; the respective sets of shooters and defenders were totally committed, even though the result was beyond doubt by this stage. The highlight of a drawn closing period was a cameo at centre by Hannah Raine, another of Grangetown’s outstanding teenage prospects. Hannah’s two interceptions and excellent movement around the court provided ample evidence of her potential, but on the day Grangetown’s best player was Lesley Mouat. One of the finest athletes in the home squad, Lesley is an excellent reader of the game and throughout all four quarters, she distributed the ball well whilst getting a crucial hand to a number of passes to interrupt Clan’s attacking flow.
At the final hooter, Clan deservedly claimed victory and those vital five points; the scoreboard reading 27-37 in their favour. Although there were excellent performances right across the court, the game’s most influential player was undoubtedly Clan’s centre Masego Motaung.
After the game, Clan’s Jade Forbes-Wattley and Katt Ainsworth gave their views on the afternoon’s proceedings and the season in general: “We’ve had a bit of a rocky season,” Jade admitted, “and obviously we’re down near the relegation play-off positions. We’ve had a number of new players joining the club; there are young players as well as older players with plenty of experience in the squad, and I suppose we’ve been through a process of restructuring.
“We’ve had some fantastic games, but then we get patches where we don’t really gel, or play as well as we know we can. Every game, we have spells where we play really well; we just have to transfer those periods to a full game.
“We’re really happy about today. We’re right next to Grangetown in the table, and this was potentially the decider as to see which team went to the play-offs, which was something we were desperate to avoid.”
“Last year we were playing off to go into Prem 1,” Katt continued, “but we had a slightly more experienced squad with a few Super League girls who would play whenever they could. It’s been a big learning curve for us this year, especially for some of the younger girls who maybe haven’t had the chance to play in Prem 1 or Super League. It’s so important for them to take the hits, to play the mental game, and to be able to push on....
“It’s about us cementing our start, which is thankfully what we did today, and being able to maintain that advantage—and in a few games we haven’t quite been able to do that. We’re really proud of the girls today!”
With one game to go, Jade was clearly looking forward to next week’s trip to Bromsgrove in Worcestershire: “Our final game is against Ryland, who are near the top of the table; but we beat them comfortably earlier in the season [55-27] and I have every confidence that we can produce another good performance. We played the league leaders Tameside last week and I was so disappointed, because we matched them for three quarters and we just weren’t quite able to finish off the game in the final quarter; but I am always confident that every game we play, we can nail it!”
“I think this has been a bit of a foundation year,” Katt added, “which is really good; and we’ve definitely seen success over the season in terms of the mental and physical aspects of the game and confidence as well. We’ve built with one another and I think these past few games, we’ve finally hit the level where we should be, and hopefully we can carry this forward into next season.”
The Grangetown perspective came from defender Gen Slater: “I thought we did alright. We had enough turnovers; we just didn’t capitalise on them and get our goals in, which is tough when we’re short on shooters. We definitely missed Gemma [Sole] today.
“Maybe we just lacked a little confidence in our attack. There were times when it was obvious to the defenders where we were going to pass, and we didn’t open up our bodies and see all the options....
“It was good to come up against my Ireland team mate Emma Wakefield today. Growing up I had an identical twin sister who’s a shooter, so we’d always have to play against each other at training. That was quite hard, but what it did was teach me how to play against someone who is a friend. Sometimes knowing someone, and knowing how they play isn’t always an advantage because they know how you play as well, but I enjoyed today and it was lovely to see her. It’s been a while, but it’s always a good battle!”
And how has the Republic of Ireland international enjoyed playing Prem 2 netball? “I’ve absolutely loved it! The girls have been amazing; they’ve been so friendly. I wish I could have come over for a few more training sessions, but hopefully next year I can do that; but I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s a much better standard than we can get in Ireland; you can’t replicate that intensity in a full game over there, so it’s been a great experience.”
Player of the Match: Masego Motaung
Grangetown Player of the Match: Lesley Mouat
Grangetown played host to Team Jets in Sunday’s Premier League Division 2 fixture. The visitors made the 900 mile round trip from their base in Jersey lying fifth in the table, with six wins and forty points from ten fixtures; three places and nine points ahead of Grangetown.
Team Jets had been in excellent form since before Christmas, winning four and drawing one of their five previous fixtures; their most recent outing being a thrilling single goal victory over a very useful Worcester Reds side. In contrast, the home side’s last game had ended in a narrow defeat at Telstars, despite Grangetown having held a nine-goal lead at half-time.
Grangetown were able to welcome Scottish internationals Gemma Sole and Jo Pettitt, both players having been unused members of the Team Northumbria squad that had lost its Super League opener to Manchester Thunder the previous evening—interestingly, the Thunder’s starting seven included Tameside’s Ellie Cardwell, who had been so impressive against Grangetown earlier in the season.
The home side started strongly, with captain Vicky Rees producing a superb interception to help set up Jo Pettitt for the second of her opening three goals. The Jets’ goal keeper soon picked off a speculative Marie Ewing pass to earn possession from which the visitors opened their account; the St Helier-based side then produced some excellent interplay on the edge of the circle and although Katie Walton was able to knock the ball out of court, the Jets netted from the restart.
The game was being played at a furious pace, and it was Grangetown who were able to make the most of a number of Jets’ errors and missed shots to open up a six-goal advantage. The attacking combination of Jo Pettitt and Gemma Sole was working particularly well, and at the opposite end of the court, both Jenny Mrozik and Katie Walton were making life hard for the Jets’ shooters.
From 10-4 however, the visitors seized the initiative and scored four goals without reply. Lynsey Pitman scored with a fine looping shot following a swift exchange of passes with centre Jacy Brown. Without the ball, the Jets pressed the player in possession and forced an error from which the deficit was narrowed to two. An offside call against Grangetown centre Ria Small offered the Jets another chance, but the resulting shot was missed and Jenny Mrozik gratefully collected the rebound.
It was a decisive moment, as Grangetown scored the quarter’s final three goals; the last coming right on the hooter to make the score 13-8.
The home side quickly added to their advantage at the start of the second period, although one goal came following a well-defended centre pass that seemed to have been delayed beyond three seconds. No question mark over the next goal though, which was created by some great movement and passing by Marie Ewing. Ria Small then showed sublime handling skills to feed Jo Pettitt, whose floated pass to Gemma Sole enabled her fellow Scottish Thistle to maintain the seven-goal margin.
The Jets rallied once again, and Lynsey Pitman remained at the heart of most of the visitors’ best attacking moves. By no means the tallest goal attack in the division, Lynsey’s speed of thought and movement were superb to watch; and her shooting accuracy was impressive throughout.
The brief revival then sparked a spell of flowing netball from Grangetown that was as good as anything the squad had produced all season. Ria Small was having a magnificent game at centre, and the host’s international shooters kept converting. Some of Grangetown’s approach play was irresistible, and it says much for the quality in the Jets’ side that the quarter ended with their own best play of the first thirty minutes; some wonderful movement drawing both defenders away from Team Jets’ goal shooter who scored unchallenged from right under the post.
With the scoreboard reading 29-18, Grangetown coach Linzi Filiata made a couple of changes during the half time interval, Lesley Mouat being introduced at wing defence; and Jenny Mrozik and Vicky Rees forming the new defensive pairing.
The eleven goal advantage was quickly extended to eighteen, with Ria Small continuing to be instrumental in much of Grangetown’s best work. To their credit, the Jets never stopped pressing and a Jacy Brown interception was the catalyst for a five-goal burst that was interrupted by a solitary response from Jo Pettitt. Grangetown needed a moment of inspiration of their own, and it came courtesy of an outstanding turnover claimed by Lesley Mouat, with Jo Pettitt subsequently converting Ria Small’s looped pass.
Lesley made two more telling interceptions in the final quarter, and Katie Walton produced one amazing shot block; and as the teams traded goals, Linzi Filiata was able to give court time and invaluable experience to Tasha Grylls and Hannah Raine, both of whom are just sixteen years of age. Team Jets narrowed the gap significantly in the closing minutes, but the two biggest cheers of the day from the home spectators were reserved for Hannah’s athletic interception and pass whilst heading out of court and Tasha’s goal, which completed the scoring and a richly-deserved 50-40 victory for Grangetown.
For Jo Pettitt and Gemma Sole, it had been a busy twenty-four hours, having both been in Birmingham with the Team Northumbria squad the previous evening: “The atmosphere was electric,” Jo smiled.” It was unbelievable to be there in front of eight thousand people—so exciting. We know everyone’s always going to be fighting to be in the starting seven, but even to be part of the squad is an honour.
“As for today, I thought it was a really good game. The intensity was good, we stuck to our structures well, and the girls are pleased to get the win.
“Personally I was happy with how things went. Gemma and I play together all the time, and it’s great when you know how the other shooter will react to what you’re doing, and I thought that Ria was fantastic; she was looking into the circle early and using fakes to create space for us, which makes such a difference.”
And from the Team Jets perspective: “We didn’t start very well,” conceded club captain, Lauren Devine. “Grangetown came out and brought the game to us, which was credit to them. We started to claw it back later in the first quarter—we got the gap down to two at one stage—but trailed by five at the break.
“We really lost the game in the second quarter, I think. We dug in deep, but it was too little too late. Grangetown punished us when we made errors, but we weren’t able to do the same when they made mistakes. Their shooting accuracy was very good and they put on a lot of pressure through the court so it wasn’t easy for us to bring the court down and penetrate through the middle.
“I think we should be proud of how we finished the game, but we need to go back to the drawing board about the start....
“Overall though, this season has been a wonderful experience. It’s been a bit up and down; obviously we didn’t start very well, but we’ve been really pleased with our recent performances. I’ve probably enjoyed this season more than the last, even though we’ve lost more games. We’ve been challenged and pushed; we’ve come up against internationals, Super League players... you can’t get better unless you meet people like that; and we’ve certainly learned a lot from Grangetown today.”
Sunday’s result may not have gone the Jets’ way, but there is certainly a lot to admire about the progress the club is making both on and off court, as Lauren explained: “On Thursday, we were named ‘Team of the Year’ in the Channel Islands for the second year in a row, which obviously gets us a lot of publicity. The papers and the radio are very good to us, as are our sponsors and the crowd. The support has grown so much over the past couple of years; it can be a bit daunting at times at home where we might be playing in front of five hundred spectators, but it’s amazing and we’re so proud to be part of it.”
Jo Pettitt 27
Gemma Sole 22
Tasha Grylls 1
Official Player of the Match: Gemma Sole
My Players of the Match: Ria Small (Grangetown) and Lynsey Pitman (Jets)
Grangetown Netball Club returned to Premier League action after the Christmas and New Year break, with a home fixture against fourth-placed Worcester Reds.
Both teams had lost their final fixture of 2015; Grangetown away to the Reds’ local rivals Ryland, whilst Worcester were on the wrong end of a narrow reverse against Kent County. One week earlier, Grangetown had defeated the Kent side, so everything pointed to a close encounter at Middlesbrough Sports Village.
The Reds arrived on Teesside with the best defence in the division, having conceded just 346 goals in their ten fixtures—a better record even than the unbeaten league leaders Tameside.
Grangetown went into the game without captain Vicky Rees, injured centre Jill Reah, Scottish international shooter Jo Pettitt, and the Republic of Ireland duo Jan Hynes and Genevieve Slater, but this enabled coach Linzi Filiata to hand a first Prem start to Tasha Grylls, who had celebrated her sixteenth birthday the previous day. Tasha took her place on court at goal attack alongside Scottish Thistle Gemma Sole, as Grangetown looked to improve on their seventh position in the table.
The visitors were quickly into their stride, scoring the game’s first three goals, before Gemma Sole registered Grangetown’s first success.
Grangetown produced a number of excellent defensive interceptions, with Katie Walton and Lesley Mouat prominent in the opening period, but on a number of occasions, hard-won possession was given away, and with Reds’ goal attack Lucy Heardman in particular looking composed in the circle, the home side were unable to get back on level terms.
A superb long shot from Gemma Sole brought the score to 8-9, but after great defence from Jenny Mrozik had forced the turnover, Grangetown were unable to capitalise, and three quick goals extended Worcester’s lead to four at the end of the first period.
The Reds’ momentum continued into the second quarter, and they scored ten of the next thirteen goals to take their advantage into double figures. The visitors were dominating the centre of the court; their movement and the passes into the circle were outstanding at times, and both Lucy Heardman and Kelly Hull were making the most of their shooting opportunities.
Following an injury time-out, Grangetown made changes, with Ria Small and Marie Ewing swapping positions to centre and wing attack respectively, and Tasha Grylls being replaced by Faye Summerhill. It had been a tough baptism for the teenager, against an experienced and uncompromising defence, but Tasha is both a gifted young athlete and a very exciting prospect, and she will have gained a great deal from the experience.
In the closing minutes of the half, Grangetown narrowed the gap slightly, as they produced their best netball of the opening thirty minutes. The final goal of the second period was a flowing move that swept the full length of the left-hand side of the court, and resulted in Gemma Sole converting her sixteenth goal, with the half-time score reading 17-25 in favour of Worcester Reds.
The visitors made the perfect start to the third quarter, scoring five unanswered goals. Grangetown’s effort could not be faulted, with Lesley Mouat, Jenny Mrozik and Katie Walton, who was having an outstanding game at goalkeeper, again forcing interceptions or errors, but with the hosts trailing by thirteen goals, it was hard to foresee anything other than a comfortable victory for Worcester.
But this Grangetown squad lacks nothing in character, and they produced an almost irresistible passage of play to score five consecutive goals of their own. The momentum was broken by a Reds’ injury time-out, but Grangetown responded to the subsequent concession of a couple of quick goals with another tremendous five-goal burst.
It has been an amazing fifteen minutes, memorable not only for some wonderful attacking netball by Grangetown, but also for two spectacular athletic interceptions from Worcester goal defence Rachel Sweet.
With the gap now down to six goals, Marie Ewing and stand-in captain Ria Small were instrumental in dictating play driving Grangetown forward in the final period. A fortunate rebound off the post allowed Gemma Sole to open the scoring, but a missed shot and a harsh-looking three second penalty enabled the Reds to extend their lead to seven.
Grangetown’s comeback was far from over however. Gemma Sole netted four times in quick succession, before recently-introduced Sarah Sainty rounded off a lovely move with her first goal of the afternoon to make the score 33-35.
Unfortunately, that was as close as Grangetown came to producing what would have been a stunning result. There was still time for Katie Walton to round off a tremendous personal performance with yet another interception, and Gemma Sole to score her thirty-third goal of a thoroughly entertaining and occasionally physical encounter; but in the end, Worcester Reds held on to record a hard-fought and deserved 37-40 victory.
After the game, Scotland shooter Gemma Sole reflected on the afternoon’s events: “We knew they were going to be physical,” Gemma admitted, “and they really brought it to us, but we’re physical and strong too. The girls have been doing a lot of training, and strength and conditioning work. They’ve built really strong bodies, so we handled that aspect of the game well.
“It was refreshing to see a lot of different combinations tried out today too, and all the players who came on made a real impact.
“The last two quarters were amazing,” she continued. “Personally I didn’t realise that the deficit had grown that large. There would have been times when we might have lost our heads, and that would have been game over; but the fact that we pegged it back to three goals at the end shows just how far the girls have come, not just physically, but also with their winning mentality, and it’s brilliant to be a part of it.”
For Worcester’s Cathy Bedney and Laura Gale, it had been a long, but hugely rewarding trip.
“We travelled up yesterday;” Cathy explained, “it’s a long way to come, but it’s a fantastic facility and it was nice to play in front of a vocal crowd as well. It’s always hard playing away from home, but we got off to an excellent start. Grangetown made some really good tactical changes in the second quarter, which had an immediate impact, and we were a little bit on the back foot going into the third quarter.”
“That’s probably the first time we’ve flowed in attack right from the outset,” Laura agreed, “although Grangetown’s changes worked and did interrupt the flow that we had. I thought their wing attack [Marie Ewing] was outstanding; the way that she moved the ball around; she was definitely Grangetown’s main playmaker into the attack. And their shooting was good for most of the game too, so we couldn’t rely on getting a rebound if we’d lost possession.
“During the second half, I think their attack flowed better than ours. They seemed to find each other really easily; we’ve got a really strong defence and our goals against record is excellent, but there were times when their players just made the game look really easy.”
“They made a lot of changes in attack,” Cathy added, “and each new partnership seemed to work well, which kept our defence thinking and meant we could never settle.”
There had been a number of excellent performances amongst the visitor’s squad, with Lucy Heardman perhaps being the pick, and Laura Gale was quick to praise the efforts of her team mate: “Lucy was immense at goal attack. She almost seems to come from behind the player to collect rebounds; she’s certainly not in the dominant position to get the ball or win a penalty, but she was fantastic today. There have been games when our shooting percentages have been lower than we would have liked, but today our shooting was spot on, and it just gives the rest of the team so much confidence when they know the ball is going to go in almost every time we get to the circle, so I think both Lucy and Kelly Hull deserve a lot of credit.”
“And I thought that Rachel Sweet made a real impact at goal defence,” added Cathy, “which is probably her natural position in this league. And bringing Laura [Gale] back on for the last quarter helped us to drive forward and dictate the space much better after Grangetown had come back into the game.”
Grangetown return to Prem action in a fortnight, with a long journey down to Dartford in Kent, to face Telstars.