Last Updated: 23/02/20 11:31am
Eleanor Cardwell continued her strong form as Thunder looked slick
Karen Greig hailed Manchester Thunder’s fast start but still wants to see more from her side as they look to retain their Vitality Netball Superleague title in 2020.
The head coach’s assessment arrived after their 62-55 victory over Wasps Netball in front of 8,374 fans at a sold-out Arena Birmingham for the Season Opener.
Thunder’s productive pre-season, triumphing over all before them, had pointed towards a fast start and Greig was delighted to see it come to fruition on the main stage.
“I’m really, really pleased,” the head coach said to Daily Week Sports post-match.
“Ultimately, we came out of the blocks pretty strongly which was something that eluded us sometimes last year.
“So, to come out and have the scoreline that we did at the end of the quarter and us being able to maintain that throughout the game and push on [was great].
“There were times when we could have put our foot on the gas a little more and we just got a little bit sloppy. It’s about knowing what everyone’s roles are in those critical moments.”
After securing the 2019 title last May, Greig was able to retain the vast majority of her squad. The only departures were Kerry Almond to retirement and Liana Leota switching over to Severn Stars.
The overall composition of Thunder’s unit is something that England Netball head coach Jess Thirlby highlighted pre-match in Birmingham.
“Given that Karen Greig has lost Liana Letoa, I actually think that she’s got the strongest 10 that she’s had for the last couple of years because of the versatility and the coming of age of the likes of Amy Carter,” Thirlby said.
“It’s a really nice position to be in, it’s a luxury as a coach to have such versatility and particularly across the mid-court and in the shooting circle. She’ll be able to change things up quite seamlessly off the bench.”
What a day at the @NetballSL Season opener!Congrats to all teams win or lose the real winner today was the sport 👊🏻 So inspired to see how far the sport has moved & grateful to all the fans for making history&filling the arena today. You are my ‘player of the match’
— Jess (@JessThirlby) February 22, 2020
Thirlby’s pre-match assessment proved to be 100 per cent accurate as Greig unleashed the likes of Caroline O’Hanlon and Joyce Mvula off the bench and highlighted the positional versatility of Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm.
The fact that Thunder were able to maintain their level throughout sends an ominous message to the rest of the league, and further enhances their belief in their own abilities.
“It’s nice to know that whatever team we come up against, we’ve got something that we can throw at them,” Greig added.
“It’s a bit of a headache at times, but a nice [selection] headache to have.”
Greig and Thunder will now prepare to travel to Severn Stars for Round Two on Saturday and they will be greeted by a disappointed Stars outfit.
After the first quarter against Saracens Mavericks, Melissa Bessell’s team had led 17-11 before Kat Ratnapala’s team spun the match on its head.
A 23-8 second quarter in Mavs’ favour, turned their deficit into a nine-goal lead at half-time. Stars felt the heat for the remaining 30 minutes and fell to a 70-49 loss.
Thunder will not take their opponents lightly, though, especially with Letoa’s presence there. However, the defending champions look well-placed to tackle anything that Stars or any other team, are about to throw their way.
Coverage of the Vitality Superleague season continues on Monday March 2 when Surrey Storm entertain London Pulse, join us on Daily Week Sports Arena, Mix and YouTube from 7pm.