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TN’s Ashleigh Neal: “A competitive group”

Team Northumbria’s Ashleigh Neal is confident that the versatility of the squad will pay dividends in the 2018 Vitality Netball Superleague.

With an influx of new faces in the off-season, the group have had to quickly get to know each other ahead of their opener against five-time champions Team Bath Netball.

And Neal believe the competition for places in the starting seven will keep pushing the players to perform at their best.

She said: “We’ve been learning each other’s strengths and what we need to focus on.

“Having eight new players, you’ve got to find some common ground.

“I think having so many new players, we’ve actually got a really competitive group – we’re fast, fierce and charismatic.

“I don’t think we have a set seven – we’ve got players fighting for spots which is interesting and obviously seeing how they react if they’re not where they think they should be.

“I think they (the other teams) are going to have to expect a lot of variety and you’re probably going to see a few players in positions you’ve never considered or seen before which keeps our coach’s options massive.”

While game day nerves creep in for some players, Neal is instead feeling more relaxed and can’t wait to get started.

She said: “I’ve kind of moved out more to the WA role, I’m more of a leader and kind of have to set the tone for everyone else.

“I’ll be excited but not nervous at all!”

Team Northumbria are out to better their three wins and ninth-place finish from 2017 and Neal is confident and determined that they’ll give the other teams a run for their money.

Her own individual aims for the new season are also clear.

She said: “Personally, it’s just to enjoy the game.

“We’ve got a new coach so just to continue learning.

“As a team, I just want us to be competitive because I think we can be.”

And the team will be looking to maximise the mid-season break for the Commonwealth Games.

She said: “It’s obviously going to make the competition more exciting because teams are going to be able to go away for five weeks and have a look at where they won or lost games, what strategies teams are putting in place and really have a go at them in the second half of the season.”

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