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Vitality Netball Super League

Yorkshire Jets’ Captain Stacey Francis has taken up a column with Leeds-based newspaper Yorkshire Evening Post for this brand new Vitality Netball Superleague season.

With two losses from the first two rounds, it won’t have been the start to the season Francis will have wanted with her new side, but she’s setting her stall out to motivate her team for what’s to come.

You can read her column here:

With 120 minutes of netball, 72 hours, approximately 320 miles and over 8,500 fans it sure was one hell of a way to start the Vitality Netball Superleague season!

Losing both fixtures by a relatively significant margin, however, is definitely not the stuff of dreams.

In the England Netball environment it is often a sign that you are going ‘netball crazy’ when it begins to take over your subconscious mind. Waking up in the night because you’ve twitched so aggressively in an attempt to catch a pass that is hurtling towards your face in a dream is one recurring issue within the team.

The dreams with extravagant plots and crazy twists are another. I rarely dream, I’m not certain quite what that says about me, but it’s the truth. However, with the season not yet begun on Saturday morning I woke up from my own elaborate netball dream so its official, I have already gone ‘netball crazy’.

I found myself in a Hunger Games type scenario whereby I was competing for the honour of being the 2016 Yorkshire Jets captain. Myself and other competing hopefuls were presented before the Jets team who were asked to vote for their captain. A unanimous decision against my captaincy was made which resulted in my immediate and bloody death.

As well as not being a dreamer, rarely do I get excessively excited or nervous ahead of a game. However, when I woke up the morning of Super Saturday I knew two things:

1. All attempts I have made for a ‘normal life’ had failed, netball was well and truly back on the brain.

2. The impending season means a lot to me.

Going in to the Superleague season, Loughborough Lightning were my favourites to take the title. Having recruited four England players in the off-season to place alongside Ugandan sharp-shooter Peace Proscovia you would be foolish not to take their 2016 campaign seriously.

That is without mentioning that they are coached by two of the best mid-courters and captains England Netball has ever seen.

In the pre-season they had failed to show the form that I was expecting, however, taking the Midland-based team on in Birmingham on Super Saturday seemed to mean that the stars would align in their favour.

Moments when we executed the game-plan were frequent while making an unhappy combination with frequent and spectacular errors. Unable to sustain a consistent level of play, we lost out 65-34 to the fast and accurate Lightning.

A 30-goal margin is a big beating in most sports and certainly a harsh lesson for us about the level of netball that is required to play in the Superleague. Perhaps, fortunately, we were given very little time to skulk as round two for us would also be played live on Sky Sports on Monday night against my old side of 10-plus years, Team Bath.

Everyone else’s favourites for the season and winners on Saturday after coming back to win from 10 goals, Team Bath could potentially pose an even bigger threat. I was reminded before the game of how tough it might be to play against a team that I was a part of for so long, having truly invested and believed in what they were doing. What it reminded me of, however, was that netball is a team sport.

For me, approaching Monday with an individual mindset and mentality would be a fail. Personal battles or victories would be inconsequential if we didn’t make great steps forward as a team given our disappointments from the weekend and expectations of ourselves for the season. I was advised not to try too hard, and to remember I had no-one to impress – although following an average personal performance on Saturday and the Hunger Games dream, I wasn’t so sure about this!

Moments of consistency were greater and passages of the game when we were able to contest became longer. However, as is always the case in high performance sport when errors creep in and you aren’t able to adapt your game-plan against quality opposition you will be punished. We fell 58-38 to a Bath side I believe were at their best having found early form in a rigorous pre-season programme.

Being a person that would usually describe the glass as ‘half empty’ you might think that I would struggle to find positives in the past few days.

However, with very little reflection, it is clear to me that the capacity for growth in our team is huge.

We are fortunate to have a great combination of talented youth and international experience and when we eventually click it is going to be great. A Monday night game means we have a free weekend coming up and two full weeks’ worth of team sessions before we step back on court together.

It is a timely team-time ‘break’ that I think is much needed. I am looking forward to the lessons of the first two rounds, getting back to training and the challenges that lay ahead for us as a team.

On Saturday, I will be using my free time to coach defensive master-classes all day at Gateways School.

It will be great to spend time with some of the talent that Yorkshire has to offer and hopefully work on inspiring the next generation of ‘Netball crazies’ players.

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