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TeamBath v Manchester Thunder 04/03/22www.claregreenphotography.com

Manchester Thunder's Shadine van der Merwe defends against Team Bath Netball Image: Clare Green Photography

Manchester Thunder defender Shadine van der Merwe predicts a bright future for English Netball thanks to the strength of the young players coming through.

The South African international has been a key cog in the unbeaten Thunder machine so far this season, and has enjoyed playing a more senior role in the squad as players like Millie Sanders and Yomi Eza-Wilson look to break through.

“The youngsters, they keep us on our toes because they always have extra energy,” said van der Merwe on the latest episode of the Off the Court podcast with Caroline Barker and Tamsin Greenway.

“Millie Sanders is so eager to learn, she will come to me and ask me for some tips and they feel comfortable being on the bench just watching us play, because from the side line you do learn a lot.

“It’s exciting for Manchester Thunder that the youngsters are so, so strong and the future in England Netball is looking really bright – not just for Thunder but in the whole of England.

“It’s really good to see the youngsters coming through and just being eager to learn not from just the coaches, but players, myself, and Kerry Almond as well.”

Despite embracing her role as a mentor to younger players, 29-year-old Van der Merwe knows there is still a lot that she can learn and has enjoyed playing under coaches such as Norma Plummer and Tracey Neville.

She said: “For me as a player, I always feel there’s room for improvement and you’re never too old to learn.

“I’ve worked with Norma Plummer and the success she had over many, many years – I have so much respect for that woman.

“She really helped us, giving us confidence as a South African team and also for me as a defence.

“Coming to Thunder this year with Tracey Neville, I was really excited because I know she’s a good defensive coach and I’ve heard a lot of good things about her so for me, I’m very open to learn more from different coaches, to improve my game.”

Van der Merwe arrived at Thunder at the start of this season having joined from Adelaide Thunderbirds in the Suncorp Super Netball, and is one of many South African ballers playing all over the world.

It is something she feels is vitally important to South African netball as they try to compete at the highest level internationally, including at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.

She added: “It’s really important for us to play abroad because back home we’re not even semi-professional at the minute.

“Being able to get the opportunity, even with a lot of sacrifices, to play overseas – it really helps us and build netball in South Africa, especially going into a competition as big as the Commonwealth Games and World Cup next year.”

However, despite the prospect of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on the horizon, the defender is simply focused on the next Vitality Netball Superleague game for Thunder as they face a double header this weekend at the Spring Showdown.

Karen Greig’s side will look to remain unbeaten with matches against Strathclyde Sirens and Surrey Storm as ten matches take place over two days at the NEC in Birmingham.

She said: “I’ve not thought about it being preparation for the Commonwealth Games this week, it was just an opportunity to play building up for finals week and because the weeks are flying by and we’re just trying to keep up.

“We work week to week so this week we’ve got training tonight so we’ll be focusing on both Sirens and Storm because with that quick turnaround over the weekend.”

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