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Ama Agbeze: Former England captain has her say on the Superleague season

Ama Agbeze played for London Pulse as well as Loughborough Lightning and Severn Stars

Round 19 predictions with Ama Agbeze – Vitality Netball Superleague

Former Vitality Roses captain Ama Agbeze has a gold medal in her locker but never got to play in a Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

However, the 39-year-old experienced knockout netball during her time playing in leagues abroad and with her wealth of experience has plenty of advice for the teams preparing for this year’s showpiece.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist tasted glory in the ANZ Championship with Melbourne Vixens back in 2009 and recalled the unpredictable nature that one-off games can bring.

“I think the buzz and excitement, but also the apprehension of ‘oh my gosh, we’re kind of here, but not quite where we want to be,’ the defender said.

“I think when you look back in hindsight, we did an incredible thing and we got to the final, which, obviously, a whole season has played out, lots of teams have played, and lots of people have participated and been a part of it and so to get to the final is incredible and huge.

“I think I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have, winning or getting to finals during my career. It is just the excitement of being there and what is possible.

“Finals netball is completely different to any other netball and not just the Grand Final, but any finals netball, anything can happen.

“People play differently, they approach it with a different mindset and that’s what makes it exciting and more fun.”

Three teams have already booked their place with Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning and London Pulse now gearing up for the Play-Offs.

Team Bath have the opportunity to join them this weekend if they beat Wasps on Friday evening, but defeat could set up a showdown with fifth-placed Saracens Mavericks in the final round.

Agbeze predicted all of Round 19’s results but first, she had her say on which team is most likely to make the Play-Offs.

She added: “It’s really interesting, but I think I think it will be Team Bath. I think just because of the run-in that they’ve had, and they’ve had quite a topsy turvy season, but I just think Mavericks have been somewhat inconsistent.

“Then also they’ve had disruption in terms of injuries and having to bring people in, and people being unavailable.

“Mavericks can win and do everything they possibly can, but it’s Bath’s to lose. And so I just feel Bath will probably make that fourth spot.

“For Maverick’s sake, they have needed to make the top four. And every season I say Mavericks need to make top four, otherwise, they need to roll in the changes to figure out why they’re not winning.

“Because I think on paper, the Mavericks team this season definitely should have made the top four and actually should be making the top two.”

The former Pulse and Lightning player was first selected for England back in 2001, making her Commonwealth Games debut in 2006.

And with the Vitality Roses squad for 2022-23 named just a few weeks ago, Agbeze reflected on the special achievement of being selected for the first time with the Birmingham Commonwealth Games fast approaching.

“I think to be picked for the first time is absolutely incredible,” Agbeze said. “The Roses are going from strength to strength and they’re on the rise just generally.

“Even the public perception is increasing, so it’s just recognition of how well you’ve performed during the season. 

“To have that recognition and to then be part of the national programme is huge. So I think they’ll be really excited and keen to get started and be in the programme and have the season finish to see what transpires internationally.

“Going into tournaments is very different to going into a test series. In a tournament, you want experienced people because you never know what’s going to happen. 

“You don’t want to have someone who’s raw. I think you can potentially take one raw person who I think should be London Pulse’s Funmi Fadoju. She’s got it and she’s game-changing.”

Predictions 

Team Bath v Wasps  

Wasps have been very up and down this season, but I feel like they have sometimes pulled stuff out of the bag and left you thinking where has this been? But I just think that Bath will be too consistent against Wasps. I think it will be a close-ish game. But I think Team Bath will definitely win. I want to say by at least nine or more.

Leeds Rhinos v Saracens Mavericks

This is my number one game of the round because I think it’s going to be a really exciting game. I really don’t want to pick who’s gonna win. Because that’s how excited I am and how much I feel like they could both win. I think Rhinos being at home definitely will help them. It would be great to have a draw but I will say Leeds Rhinos.

Celtic Dragons v Strathclyde Sirens

Two teams that have performed outrageously well and then also poorly sometimes and I think they’re really well suited to each other. I think there’s also the Welsh/Scottish rivalry that is involved as well. I’m going to go Celtic Dragons by one. 

Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars 

The season end has come too soon for Severn Stars. I think they are starting to find their feet, but it’s too late. But I will say, if Mary Cholhok is playing, then definitely Loughborough Lightning, but I would hope that the score would be closer than Stars’ previous games.

Surrey Storm v London Pulse 

A local derby which makes it even more intense. I think Storm have a point to prove but I am going to say London Pulse just because of the confidence they have taken from qualifying for the finals before the end of the season.

London Pulse v Manchester Thunder 

But Pulse, have to back it up, which is difficult. They are at home to Thunder and being at home will definitely help. London Pulse can beat any team on their day, they have just got that youthful confidence about them. I think it will be a close game, which might surprise people, but I think Manchester Thunder will win, but the score will be within eight.

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