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Berri Neil and Lois Pearson of Manchester Thunder.

Manchester Thunder’s squad for the defence of their Vitality Netball Superleague title will be boosted by the promotion of talented training partners, Berri Neil and Lois Pearson, to the first team.

The pair were named as training partners in Thunder’s squad for the 2020 campaign but have now been announced as registered players for the first time.

Both Neil and Pearson are long-standing pathway athletes having risen through the ranks in Manchester and will now get the opportunity to make their full VNSL debuts in 2021.

‘She will cause real havoc for defenders’

Despite her age, Neil has already achieved significant success in her short career for both club and country. In addition to impressing at Thunder, the goal shooter has also demonstrated fantastic form for England.

The 17-year-old first became an England Roses Academy athlete in 2018 when she was selected for the U17 Netball Europe winning squad. A year later, the youngster played a starring role in the triumphant Netball Europe U21 Championships in 2019 under Karen Greig.

Manchester Thunder Head Coach and Director of Netball Karen Greig said: “She [Neil] is such exciting player for someone just 17 years old and, following a solid few successful  years in our Pathway, she stepped into a Training Partner role last season.

“She is able to play effectively across three positions so gives us some real flexibility in the attacking end. She is fearless on the shot and her timing and understanding of the circle will cause real havoc for defenders.”

‘I feel the time is right to give her the opportunity’

Lois Pearson, who is currently studying at University of Manchester, has been part of Thunder’s academy since 2012. The goal attack / wing attack has also recently enjoyed success at Manchester Thunder after having been named as Players’ Player of the Year in the 2019-2020 U21 Awards.

The 20-year-old also plays for YWCA Bury in Premier League 2 alongside fellow Thunder starlets Alicia Scholes and Elia McCormick. In September 2019, she was named as one of three key players by Head Coach Rachel Henry.

Greig said: “I have worked with her [Pearson] for a number of years from my days working with the regional pathway, and her development as a player has really impressed me. She quietly goes about her business on the court with great effect and is able to play across GA, GS and WA positions which is a rare talent.

“Having been a part of the Thunder Pathway for a number of years and more recently a Training Partner, she has caused our defensive end some real challenges in training and I feel the time is right to give her the opportunity to step up.”

“The promotion of this emerging talent demonstrates in real terms the value and importance of Manchester Thunder’s Performance Pathway in identifying and nurturing young talented athletes. I can’t wait to see what Berri and Lois can achieve as part of our squad for the 2020-2021 season.”

‘I want to make a really positive impact’

“It means a lot to me because I have supported Thunder since I was a little girl mainly because of how amazing they are, and I have always respected the players,” said Neil. “I want to make a really positive impact on our squad and am looking forward to learning from other players’ experience.”

Lois Pearson said: “This is my dream ever since I started on the Thunder Pathway. I can’t wait to start training and playing with the team and show that I deserve my place in the squad. I’m really looking to helping them defend their Superleague title.”

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