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Ugo Monye celebrates a try

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Round 16 predictions with Ugo Monye – Vitality Netball Superleague

“If you like fast-paced, high-octane action from the first whistle to the last, choose netball.”

Not our words but those of rugby legend Ugo Monye, one of a growing number whose passion and admiration for netball grows every time he tunes in.

The England and British & Irish Lions great doesn’t just talk the talk – he’s played the game. Ugo’s former club Harlequins share Surrey Sports Park training facilities with Surrey Storm and in his playing days he saw some of the world’s best ballers up close, including trying his own hand.

“Our skills coach at the time thought it was really important to incorporate netball into our training,” remembers Monye.

“He highlighted the usage of space, communication, different types of handling skills and passing, as well as controlling your zones which was so important for us in defence.

“I really enjoyed it. It’s also humbling because you think you’re fit as an elite athlete and then you play netball and you’re like, ‘I can’t do this!’

“The pace of it is relentless. Rugby can be incredibly high tempo but you do get moments of rest. You rarely find that in netball, if ever, so I’ve always been drawn and attracted to it.”

Ugo took in a number of Surrey Storm home games and Tamsin Greenway, Pamela Cookey and the Corbin sisters are among allies in the sport.

A sporting nut full stop, the spectacle of live netball has always left an impression on Monye.

“It’s a really cool sport to watch live. Those arenas are absolute cauldrons of noise,” he says.

“Also the age demographic of fans is unbelievable. It’s such a great environment to be able to take your kids, take your friends and just have fun.”

When it comes to sparking an interest in daughters Phoenix and Ruby, it sounds like Dad will be first in line.

““I think they’d love it” he admits.  “Finding a sport that your children thrive in is a great journey as a parent, and netball gives you so much, not just on the court but beyond it.”

2022 is a massive year for netball with the Vitality Netball Superleague reaching crunch time and the England team looking to defend their title at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.

So what would Ugo say to sports fans who want to find out more about the game?

“Get to a match, support your local club, tune in and watch!  We are at the sharp end of the season now and those players need each and every one of us to support them as they battle it out to be crowned top of the domestic league.  If you want to see exhilarating netball, athleticism, skill and international world class athletes on court, this is your time to show up and support the game.”

PREDICTIONS

Leeds Rhinos vs Loughborough Lightning

Loughborough Lightning have only lost one game this season and the smart call is with them. Teams from near Leicester are going well at the moment – look at the Tigers – so it’s hard to back anyone outside that postcode!

Team Bath vs Saracens Mavericks

Bath are a team in transition and they aren’t quite having the season they hoped for, but they are building a way back into the fight for a top four spot. I know Sacha and Kadeen but they play for Sarries and as a Quins man, I can’t go for them, so I’ll say Team Bath!

Severn Stars vs London Pulse

Pulse are a young side, they’re exciting and have lots of talented England players. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree when it comes to Alicia Scholes, either. I’ll give London Pulse this one.

Surrey Storm vs Strathclyde Sirens

There were just the two points between these two teams when they last met. Out of pure loyalty I’m going for Surrey Storm.

Wasps vs Surrey Storm

Storm have it tough with two games in less than 24 hours. It will be about how they manage their recovery and whether they can back it up. With them being my home team, I’m going to back Surrey Storm again.

Strathclyde Sirens vs Severn Stars

I’m just in awe of Liana Leota. Five children! I’d just be knackered by the late nights. It’s unbelievable what she’s done to get back to the level she has and is so inspiring, so I have to plump for Severn Stars.

Manchester Thunder vs Team Bath

Thunder have been incredible this season, so consistent. When you’re so dominant, there’s a danger you start chasing records and people will start talking about an unbeaten season. They’ll be focused on keeping that level of quality in their game because the top four only gives you a shot at it, you don’t win anything by coming top of the table. But this will be a step too far for Bath, I think Manchester Thunder will win.

Saracens Mavericks vs Loughborough Lightning

This isn’t a Saracens bias, but Lightning have been very strong this season and Saracens have to play two games this weekend. I think Loughborough Lightning will win quite convincingly.

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