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.”