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2022 VNSL Season Bath Team Captain Imogen Allison

Imogen Allison has starred so far this season for Team Bath

The call left Team Bath’s Imogen Allison speechless.

Head Coach Anna Stembridge wanted to say it in person but her mid-courter was occupied trying to win a Quad Series title with the Vitality Roses.

So Stembridge, forced to FaceTime, rang Allison and told her: “I’m just going to say it. I want you to be captain.”

“I was initially in shock,” said the 23-year-old, whose appointment to the Haines-Watts sponsored Vitality Netball Superleague side was announced Monday.

At first, Allison recalled, all she could muster was: “’Oh, wow!’

“I wasn’t expecting it. I was in the leadership team last season but then I thought I’d just keep that going. So I’m really excited, but it took me by surprise.”

On Saturday, Team Bath will join the ten other Superleague sides in Birmingham for the Superleague’s action-packed opening double-header weekend, which will see all round one and two fixtures played at Resorts World Arena.

The Blue & Gold are looking to bounce back from a gutting 49-32 loss to Loughborough Lightning in last season’s Grand Final and clinch their sixth title—a feat which would double their league-leading tally over Manchester Thunder’s three.

They’ll first face Strathclyde Sirens before squaring off on Sunday with Leeds Rhinos, who stormed to a fourth-place finish in their debut season last year.

Team Bath’s new-look leadership group also comprises Allison’s fellow Vitality Roses Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Layla Guscoth, as well as 33-year-old former captain Kim Borger.

And though Allison enjoys joking with the Aussie about their ten-year age gap, she is equally eager to silence doubters who have suggested she’s too young to lead the dynastic squad.

First and foremost, she declared: “I’m not that young.

“But people have been saying that 23 is quite young for a captain. I think I’ve got a few years of Superleague under my belt, and Anna obviously trusts me in that experience.”

Allison admitted the runners-up tag still stung, but said her squad—which remains mostly intact—is using the feeling as fuel to push themselves even harder in the build-up to the new campaign.

Stembridge has also enticed South African international Phumza Maweni back to the UK to bolster the Blue and Gold’s defence. The Loughborough Lightning and Severn Stars veteran, who describes herself as “vertical and vocal”, joins Team Bath from three years in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball.

New signing Dorset native Lily-May Catling, 26, has wanted to wear first team Blue and Gold ever since she clapped eyes on Team Bath Sports Training Village as an U13 for Bournemouth.

But a backpacking trip to Australia turned into a permanent move for the then-19-year-old former Team Bath academy athlete, who played for the club’s U19 side before settling Down Under.

Molly Hole and Lily Jones’ journeys to the senior squad are far less circuitous. Hole, who also serves as England U21 captain, and attacker Jones both earned call-ups directly from the Academy.

Allison, meanwhile, will have dual destinies in mind when she takes to the court this season: a Superleague title and a spot on the squad England head coach Jess Thirlby will select to defend the Vitality Roses 2018 Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham this summer.

Competition is fiercer than ever, so, Allison agreed,

“The Superleague is very important.

“It gives people the chance to really showcase what they’ve got, and I think we’re very lucky to have quite a few of the Roses on our team so we can keep building and other teams are the same.”

But the VNSL is also one of the most globally diverse leagues in all of women’s sport. So, added Alison, “It’s also good to have a look at other international players and see what they’re about.”

There are a number of descriptors the newly-minted captain would gladly accept this year—VNSL champion, Commonwealth Games gold medallist among them.

But if you want to avoid eating your words, you best steer clear of calling her too young for the job.

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