Wasps Netball’s Mel Mansfield believes the Vitality Netball Superleague will be stronger this season – but is confident her side will be up to the challenge.
The two-time league winners begin their 2019 campaign against Loughborough Lightning on Saturday 5 January (centre-pass 1pm).
The fixture is part of Super 10 and will see all ten Vitality Netball Superleague teams compete on the same day at Arena Birmingham.
It will mark the start of Wasps’ quest to win an unheralded third successive league title, and if successful, would become the first team in league history to do so.
Mansfield will be entering her first season as a Vitality Netball Superleague Head Coach following two seasons as Assistant Coach to Tamsin Greenway.
She says that her team are focusing on improving every day but the initial target has to be a top-four finish.
“The first title was a sweet victory, in year two the pressure was off a bit but at the moment we’re not thinking about a third title,” said Mansfield.
“We are seeing consistent improvements in training and in the last few sessions you can really see connections developing with our new players.
“The league has seen some great players arrive and it will be a challenge, but we know that when we are at our best we will be a quality side.
“We’re really excited about our new goal attacks Tamsin Moala, Katie Harris and Chloe Essam. They all have the ability to challenge for a spot in our starting seven.
“The first challenge is to reach the play-off semi-final. Of course we want to win that third title, but we have got to put in the hard work to get there.”
When Wasps meet Lightning it will be a rematch of last season’s Grand Final and will see the two teams meet at Arena Birmingham for the second time.
The two sides’ first clash at the venue came in the 2017 Grand Final, with Wasps winning 55-51 and taking home the Vitality Netball Superleague trophy, with history repeating itself the following year at London’s Copper Box Arena.
Lightning recently appointed former England international Sara Bayman as Director of Netball.
Mansfield believes Loughborough will be a force once again this season, despite changes in their playing and coaching personnel.
“Of course they’re going to be good, they always are. Sara will no doubt get her team playing some great netball,” she said.
“We’ve had back-to-back finals against Lightning, and now we’re playing them in our first fixture. It’s a very exciting fixture, a good opening test for us and I’m sure it will be a crowd pleaser.
“We always love Super 10, it’s a great showcase of the Vitality Netball Superleague and we’re looking forward to getting out there on the court.”