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Celtic Dragons vs Saracens MavericksVitality Super League06/02/2022.

Celtic Dragons v Saracens Mavericks (Image: Ben Lumley)

Sky Sports’ commentator Katharine Merry has been behind the microphone for all the big moments in this season’s Vitality Netball Superleague, so we got her thoughts on the season so far and her predictions for Round 12.

Merry has been the voice of Sky’s netball coverage since it started, after initially commentating on the radio, and is enjoying the growth that the league has seen in recent times.

All eyes on the Superleague 

“There are more eyes on us,” said Merry.

“It is a Commonwealth Games year and we’re mentioning it in commentary all the time.

“There are more eyes on the league. Everybody always expects Thunder and Lightning to do well but I like what’s happening behind them, in terms of the likes of Pulse sitting in third.

“It really has been exciting and I can’t remember a season like it.”

This season features a particularly tight race for the top four, with just three points separating Saracens Mavericks in fourth and Leeds Rhinos in seventh, something Merry is relishing.

She added: “The scrap for the top four places has been great from the get-go and you’re not allowed to slip up.

“It’s really good, really exciting, and there’s a lot more impetus with it being the Commonwealths this year and it being in Birmingham.

“As a neutral, who hasn’t got a franchise to cheer on these next seven or eight weeks are the most exciting part of the season for me because I love the battle for fourth, the twists and the turns.

“There are five teams that could potentially grab that top four spot.”

This season has also seen new faces into the Vitality Netball Superleague, including the recent arrival of Temalisi Fakahokotau, something Merry says demonstrates the strength of the league.

“When you bring in the players from New Zealand or the Silver Fern players, [Cathrine] Tuivaiti before Temalisi came in, it’s really important.

“People are talking about it, no one saw Temalisi coming over to the UK.

“That’s what’s really exciting and really does raise the profile and prick the ears up of those down under.

“I think now the VNSL stands alongside the two leagues down under in terms of quality of players and interest.”

Being behind the mic 

Merry has built a reputation as one of the best broadcasters in sport after her athletics career that saw her take Olympic bronze in the 400m in Sydney in 2000.

“We’ve got a really nice family at Sky, we do say that and there is a real feeling of camaraderie between us all which is nice,” added Merry.

“We really are over these last few years we’ve really become a female power unit and we love it, and all of us are individually delighted to play a part in that.”

Commonwealth Games

Merry’s own involvement with netball was first kindled at school in the West Midlands, which is where the Commonwealth Games will take place.

Netball is set for the NEC after an increased demand for tickets at Birmingham 2022 and Merry is backing England to do well again.

“Such is the popularity of netball, such is the growth, especially after the win in 2018, the sport has exploded even more,” she said.

“I’m backing England to defend it, even with the loss of Serena [Guthrie], who is a massive, massive loss, let’s not underestimate that centre role and the captain Serena was.

“But I’m backing the team because of the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown, making the move to Australia, she’s looking fitter and as mean as ever, she’s going to pull up some trees.

“I think collectively they’re going to come together.”

Prediction Time 

Surrey Storm v Team Bath Netball – Storm by 4 

“We’re starting the round with a tough one. Storm are chasing their fifth win in a row and are fifth in the table. But Team Bath are coming off the back of a Round 11 win against Sirens, so they seem to be getting back on track.

“I’m going to go for Storm, on their home court again. It was packed when they had their win last week so I’m going Storm to do the double over Team Bath.”

Saracens Mavericks v Celtic Dragons – Mavericks by 6 

“I’m going to go for the Mavericks to get their seventh win of the season. It’s easy to look at it on paper and go Mavericks but you never know which one is going to turn up.

“I like Danielle Titmus and Dragons have got another scalp in them, 100%. They pushed Thunder so close, so they’ve got another win coming. And if Mavericks don’t turn up, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be them. But I’m going Mavericks by six.”

Manchester Thunder v Severn Stars – Thunder by 15 

“I can’t see Thunder losing it, either home or away. I think they’re going to remain unbeaten, but another caveat with Stars – I love the [Liana] Leota and Cat Tuivaiti partnership. Thunder by 15.”

Leeds Rhinos v Strathclyde Sirens – Sirens by 3 

“This is probably the toughest one to call. They’re coming off the back of losses, Rhinos lost to Lightning and Sirens lost to Team Bath.

“It’s going to be close again, Sirens‘ play hasn’t reflected where they are in the table and Gia Abernethy is having a great year. Let’s go Sirens for the win to reverse the Round 3 loss, by three. ”

Team Bath Netball v London Pulse – Pulse by 2 

“This one is even more difficult. On the opening weekend, this was Pulse’s first-ever win against Bath and I remember the big celebrations.

“They’re third with 21 points but the loss of Funmi Fadoju is huge, it’s a massive blow to them and they’re coming off the back of that 20-goal loss to Loughborough Lightning.

“I think London Pulse will come back with some fire in their belly after their loss to Loughborough, so Pulse by 2.”

The story so far….

Quarter Time Podcast set a new target for everybody else with a tremendous performance in Round 5.

Quarter Time Podcast – 33 points (6 games)

Iwan Thomas – 29 points (6 games)

Tamsin Greenway – 27 points (5 games)

Chloe Merrell (The Guardian & The Netball Show – 27 points (6 games)

A reminder of the points system

3 points for the correct outcome

5 bonus points if score prediction is correct

3 bonus points if score prediction is within 1-3 goals

2 bonus points if score prediction is within 4-9 goals

1 bonus point if score prediction is within 10-15 goals

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Follow Katharine on Instagram @katharine.merry and on Twitter @KatharineMerry

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