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Gia Abernethy: “It’s so refreshing to see rivalries being put aside to make sure the league can return”

Gia Abernethy has backed her Strathclyde Sirens to compete towards the top of the Vitality Netball Superleague ladder ahead of this weekend’s 2021 season curtain-raiser.

The Glasgow-based outfit are preparing for their fourth full campaign together with the biggest-hitters in the UK, having previously recorded sixth, eighth and ninth-place finishes in the past three completed seasons

The Sirens could barely ask for a tougher opening than against defending champions Manchester Thunder at Production Park Studio 001 in Wakefield, which will stage the first nine weeks of matches before the teams head to London’s Copper Box Arena for the remainder.

But having secured the services of Towera Vinkhumbo and Beth Dix among numerous new faces ahead of the new campaign, skipper Abernethy is confident her team can win more games than they lose.

“I don’t like saying that finishing in the bottom four means it’s been a disappointing season, but that has been the reality for the last couple of seasons and we’re definitely pushing to climb the ladder now,” said the 26-year-old.

“We want to challenge those top-listed teams and we’re approaching every game as being winnable. I felt we had a really good squad last year and with our new faces this time out we just need to keep bringing the energy.

“Towera and Bethany have joined the squad, and then we’ve got some new Scottish signings, like Caitlin Pringle and Emma Love. There are lots of new faces which is great, and we’ve just been doing our best to incorporate those girls.

“We’ve actually played Thunder in pre-season as well as Loughborough Lightning. It was a real challenge for us to play two of the top three or four teams in the league, but it really helped with our preparation and we all can’t wait to get out there for real now.”

Abernethy warmed up for the new campaign by representing the Vitality Netball Superleague All Stars against England in a three-match series, showcasing the best the domestic game has to offer.

The contests gave the Australian an insight into how tight this year’s competition is set to be and with talent spread across the 11-team league – which this year includes Leeds Rhinos for the first time – Abernethy believes a few surprises could be in store.

“When I got the call I thought they’d made a mistake,” she said. “I never thought I’d get the opportunity to play against the Roses, so it was amazing to be involved and it really got me geared up for the new season.

“The league is definitely going to be super competitive, because everyone’s going to be so driven having not been able to play since last March. We know that no matter which team is playing, there are going to be seven people on court doing anything they can to get a win.

“Leeds Rhinos have joined the league, which is great. They’ve got the likes of Donnell Wallam and Jade Clarke in their team so they look very strong. I played with Jade for the Adelaide Thunderbirds so I’m looking forward to an on-court battle with her.”

A landmark broadcast deal will see every Vitality Netball Superleague match this season televised by Sky Sports, ensuring Sirens fans don’t have to miss a minute of their side in action.

Putting smiles on the faces of supporters is a key motivator for Abernethy, who believes the league’s return will illustrate the strength of the netball community.

She added: “Having Sky as a partner is huge for netball, especially for us as Sirens. We have a strong fanbase from across all of Scotland, so for them to be able to tune in and not miss a moment is massive.

“The support and the efforts that England Netball, Netball Scotland and all the other governing bodies have put in to make sure this league goes ahead is amazing and we can’t say how grateful we are.

“It’s so refreshing to see rivalries being put aside to make sure the league can return. Netball really is the winner, as cringey as that sounds! To get the season on is huge for the exposure and engagement within the sport, and we can’t wait to get out on the court now.”

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