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Gabriella Marshall

The future is bright for Marshall

The 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague season was jam-packed with rising stars, and one promising young athlete can now boast playing in the Grand Final at the Copper Box for Manchester Thunder.

Gabby Marshall has worked incredibly hard to become a fixture in the 2014 champion’s set-up and is also a regular in the England Under 21 side.

Unsurprisingly, her University and her VNSL side are extremely proud of her achievements – you can read a feature about Gabby below:

At eight o’clock on Friday evening Gabby Marshall headed home from her shift at her physiotherapy placement.

Twelve hours later she was heading to London to play in the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

Being a member of Manchester Thunder’s Superleague side is a big commitment but 20-year-old Gabby does much more than that.

Playing and training with Thunder, being an integral part of Manchester Metropolitan’s (MMU) BUCS team, all whilst completing her physiotherapy degree, Gabby is kept on her toes both on and off the court

Cheadle-born Gabby is the first to admit that her calendar is a challenge but is embracing all aspects of her busy life. 

“I can’t lie and say it has been easy as I’m trying to manage a lot of different commitments,” she said.

“This year has been particularly challenging because I have been out on full time placements which has involved long days of learning on the job and then rushing out to training afterwards.”

The wing defence was named in Manchester Thunder’s 2016 Vitality Superleague squad in December and competed with the team until the final, losing 55-53 in a steely battle with Surrey Storm.

Gabby’s dedication hasn’t gone amiss at Thunder and her coach Dan Ryan says he admires her loyalty.

“It’s great to see her loyalty and passion and she really is a genuine team first player and that’s really refreshing in elite sport,” he said.  

“Balance is so important for an elite athlete and although managing her studies and netball commitments has its challenges, it offers a great outlet and life balance.

“It certainly tests her level of organisation and discipline and forces her make more sacrifices than others, but she always finds a way to get everything done and I think it’s really admirable.”

Gabby has received bespoke support through her MMU Sport scholarship since she began her degree in 2014 and is thankful for the help that complements her many commitments.

“The Performance Sport team at MMU Sport have been influential in my ability to manage commitments this year,” Gabby explained.

“As a scholar I’m given access to a top class strength and conditioning suit, alongside regular physiotherapy and sports massage.

“The extended support network within MMU has been crucial to help liaise with my lecturers so that everyone is on the same page.

“All of these factors make a huge difference by easing pressure and allowing me to just concentrate on performing as well as possible.”

At 20 years old Gabby has moved from captaining the under 19s performance league side to focusing solely on being a senior player.

Although she was saddened to miss out on the Superleague title Gabby sees it as an invaluable experience.

“Obviously the result is disappointing, nobody wants to finish the season with a grand final loss,” she said.

“On a personal level it was an amazing experience to get on court during a Superleague final for the first time.

“It’s definitely given me the motivation to train harder so I hopefully never have to experience the feeling of losing one again!”

Gabby has played in two parallel netball seasons this year, also boasting an unbeaten record with MMU’s 1st team who had a dream season winning the Northern Conference Cup and gaining promotion to the Northern 1A league.

Gabby captained the England under 21 squad to unbeaten glory in Netball Europe in October but says representing MMU brings its own intensity.

“It would be easy to say that there is less pressure when playing for MMU in comparison to England and of course in a way that is true.

“However MMU have invested a lot in me to help me manage my degree with my netball and so I put pressure on myself to try and repay their support with good performances.”

Dan sees an exciting future for Gabby and believes she has the potential to go a long way.

“She’s an athlete that always wants more out of their performance, but it’s the growth in her confidence which has been the biggest factor in her emergence,” he said.

“I can see her becoming a really key figure in the senior national team in the years to come.

“She possesses all the right behaviours of an elite athlete in a high performance environment so it really is all before her.”

Next year Gabby hopes to win the Superleague final with Thunder, have another successful season with MMU’s BUCS team, aims to be selected for the world youth championships in Botswana in 2017, not to mention completing the third and final year of her degree.

Before she embarks on the most challenging year of her life, Gabby hopes to tour Australia with England under 21s, fit in a holiday and will sit back to cheer on MMU’s scholar at Rio.

Surrey Storm's players celebrate as Hannah Reid lifts the Vitality Netball Super league Trophy

Storm retain VNSL title!

After one of the closest seasons to date, the stage was set at the Copper Box Arena for the 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

Manchester Thunder and Surrey Storm took to court with the help of raucous roars from the crowd as they clapped their Vitality cheer sticks creating an electric atmosphere.

The first steal of the day went to Storm as they forced a held ball from Thunder which was quickly followed by a Storm three seconds from Georgia Lees.

Lees soon redeemed herself with an interception and Storm took the lead by a goal to nil.

The last time the two sides met, the battle between Malysha Kelly and Rachel Dunn was definitely a tasty affair, and the opening to this game was no different.

The Gilbert Goalden Shot winner, Dunn, managed to get the better of Kelly to increase the lead 3-1, shortly by a goal from Pamela Cookey to make it four.

Both defences were working hard in the opening five minutes to make things difficult in the circle for the shooters – but it was Storm who faired the better as Thunder found it tricky to work the ball to goal.

With seven minutes left on the clock in the opening quarter, Storm took an 8-2 lead, quickly followed by a flurry of goals to make it 13-3 with four minutes to go.

Defensive pressure was the key in the first period as Storm really seemed to have their formula spot-on, with the attack displaying incredible patience to maintain their lead.

Towards the end of the quarter, Thunder found their rhythm and were galvanised by two flying Malysha Kelly interceptions to pull back some momentum.

The first 15 minutes finished with Storm leading by 15 goals to 9.

Neither side made any changes going into the second quarter – as they came out on to court, the Copper Box crowd was louder than ever!

Cookey scored the opening goal of the second 15 which was quickly followed by two bagged by Dunn as Storm pulled out to 18-9 leaders.

Kelly was once again the spark to ignite a Thunder attack and make the score 19-12 in Storm’s favour.

Storm remained determined to hang on to their lead and even after an on-court chat between the experienced Laura Malcolm and Sara Bayman, Thunder couldn’t seem to get a hold on the game.

With just over six minutes left on the clock in the quarter, Storm took an 11-goal lead at 25-14.

Shortly after, Thunder called time and Jodie Gibson made way for Emma Dovey to take ownership of the Goal Defence bib.

Despite her confident performances this season, Storm’s defence made Ellie Cardwell think twice about putting her shots up – but the former basketball player stuck to task to make it 27-17 and get her side back within ten.

It didn’t take Storm long to respond, and with just a minute to go, they made it 31-18 in their favour

On the buzzer, Dunn made the crowd go wild as she sunk a long shot to make the score 32-19!

Only a fool would have written off Thunder at half time, but all seven of Surrey Storm’s side were playing the game of their lives.

It was all set up for a thriller of a second half…

Dan Ryan made his side take to court during half time to warm up again, and also made some big positional changes going into the second half.

Gabby Marshall was put into Wing Defence, replacing Malcolm, Kathryn Turner was pulled on to Goal Attack, moving Cardwell to the bench and Housby to Goal Shooter.

Storm, confident with their first half performance, remained unchanged.

The Thunder switches made the attack flow more freely as Turner and Housby linked up beautifully – the score moved to 35-25 after five minutes gone in the quarter.

Reid and Holland weren’t phased, though, as they stuck to task, working together to take tips and interceptions to shake up the new Thunder attack.

A contact call for Dunn meant Turner and Housby could take the game back to within eight goals at 38-30.

With five minutes to go, the momentum shifted to Thunder’s favour as their renewed confidence moved them to within six goals – 39-33.

Housby clung on to a tricky feed with the very tips of her fingers at 41-35 to bag the goal and roar her team forwards.

At the other end of the court (unlike the finish to the first half) Dunn couldn’t successfully shoot a long-range effort to finish the third quarter with a goal.

The third period finished 43-36 to Storm, the game still in the balance with everything to fight for.

The final 15 minutes saw Kat Ratnapala make a flurry of changes, bringing Josie Huckle on at Goal Keeper and moving Reid into Goal Defence. Kat Ainsworth took the Wing Defence bib, moving Amy Flanagan in to Centre, and Sophia Candappa in to Wing Attack.

Thunder were unchanged for the final quarter of the 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague and looked hungry to take the win, making it difficult for Storm’s attack to work the ball to post.

With ten minutes to go it was 47-42 to Storm and Thunder were slowly, but surely, creeping their way back in to the game – the Thunder bench louder than ever!

With just five minutes to go in the final game of the season the score line was 52-47 to Storm, and Dan Ryan gave Laura Malcolm and Kerry Almond the nod to come on in Wing Defence and Goal Keeper.

With that change, Cookey fell victim to some dreaded cramp, bringing Katherine Hayes to the court, but Cookey shortly came back on with the score at 52-49 with two minutes on the clock.

A crucial turnover for Thunder with less than a minute to go made it 54-53, but once again on the buzzer, Dunn made it 55 to take the game, and the Vitality Netball Superleague title for the second year in a row!

Manchester Thunder fought back as hard as everyone in the Arena expected, but it just came too late to break the spirit of Surrey Storm.

The crowd inside the Copper Box Arena was louder than ever and created an incredible atmosphere for the players from both sides.

The same could be said for the first game of the day in the third against fourth play-off, as Hertfordshire Mavericks and Team Bath really gave the crowd something to cheer about!

The unbelievably close and entertaining encounter finished with Bath winning by just a single goal against a heartbroken Mavericks to take third place in the Vitality Netball Superleague.

Both games were final-worthy, making this day of netball an amazing advert, not just for women’s sport, but for sport in general.

Congratulations to Surrey Storm for winning the Vitality Netball Superleague for the second year in a row!

Surrey Storm's player's celebrate their victory with the trophy

Sky Netball’s full Grand Final preview

The showpiece Grand Final of the Vitality Netball Superleague is getting closer!

On Saturday, 5pm at the Copper Box Arena, battle will commence between Manchester Thunder and Surrey Storm with both teams fighting for the VNSL 2016 crown.

This much-anticipated final comes at the end of one of the most unpredictable seasons yet and it’s set to be a nail-biter!

To read Sky Netball’s full preview, go to their website here: http://www.skysports.com/netball/news/12415/10269157/manchester-thunder-and-surrey-storm-meet-in-vitality-superleague-grand-final

stomr thu

Thunder and Storm preview Grand Final with Sky

The Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is just three days away and we couldn’t be more excited!

Manchester Thunder and Surrey Storm will battle it out at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday 7th May in a bid to become the 2016 Champions.

Yesterday, Thunder’s Sara Bayman and Storm’s Sophia Candappa took to the Sky Sports News HQ studios and spoke to Sportswomen about the showpiece final.

You can watch them speaking to Jane Dougall on the Sky Sports website here: http://www.skysports.com/netball/news/12415/10268432/bayman-candappa-on-centre-matchup