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Emma Rayner of Manchester Thunder.

Pathway U21 player Emma Rayner steps up to the Manchester Thunder first team for the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) 2022 season.

Rayner, a mid-courter, has been part of the Thunder performance pathway from an early age, as well as being in the north west pathway in the Regional Academies.

Rayner was selected for the England Roses Academy in 2018 and has since won the Netball Europe U17 Championships in 2019. This year, she has been selected for the England U21 squad, along with Thunder first team member Millie Sanders.

When asked about being selected for the Thunder first team squad, Rayner said: “To be honest I am really excited and honoured for the opportunity, and I cannot wait to get the season started. It was a big shock at first, but I think it’s starting to sink in, and I’m just ready for it to all begin.

“I’ve been making my way through the [Thunder] pathway from a young age, going through the U17s, U19s and U21s squads, and now I’ve been given the opportunity to take part in the Superleague in 2022. I had only recently been selected in to the U21s pathway, as well as the new MTHP, which is a bridge been the U21s to the Superleague.

“It was our first training session a few days ago, and after, I got a Zoom call from Karen [Greig] asking me to come up to the Superleague. You couldn’t take the grin off my face, and all I did was smile the whole way through the Zoom call.

“I play wing attack and centre positions. Next season, I can’t wait to get the experience, watching everyone from the side-lines and having that opportunity on court, and just seeing how the season goes. Nat Haythornthwaite, who has just come over [from playing in Australia], was also a YWCA Bury player like myself from a young age, and playing in wing attack. She is one of the players I love to watch on court.”

Karen Greig, Manchester Thunder Head Coach, said: “Emma is an unknown player to a lot of people, but she has been on my radar for a long time. She is another product of our successful pathway, and she is a super smart and rapid attacker who is bound to cause teams problems.

“She has worked extremely hard through our performance pathway, and had a stand-out season last year. Emma is a wing attack who can also offer centre, and with people like Nat [Haythornthwaite], Laura [Malcolm] and Caroline [O’Hanlon] around her, it’s exciting to see how she will progress.

“Once again, I am super proud to see the fruits of our labour at pathway level pay off.”

Rayner becomes Manchester Thunder’s 11th signing of the 2022 Signing Window after Natalie Haythornthwaite, Shadine van der Merwe, Laura Malcolm, Eleanor Cardwell, Joyce Mvula, Caroline O’Hanlon, Kerry Almond, Elia McCormick, Lois Pearson and Millie Sanders.

You can see the Thunder squad as it develops here.

For all the latest of signings during the window, make sure to follow the @NetballSL on Twitter, Instagram and visit our Transfers page.

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