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Karen Greig

Thunder head coach Karen Greig has led her side to an unbeaten season so far. Image: Ben Lumley

With just one game to go in the Vitality Netball Superleague, Manchester Thunder sit at its summit unbeaten.

It is an incredible achievement for Karen Greig’s side, but the head coach knows it means nothing if they do not go on and clinch a first title since 2019.

And while Greig admits the possibility of an invincible season is impossible to ignore, focus is still firmly on the three potential remaining games and fulfilling the squad’s aims from the start of the season.

“It is probably in the back of our mind know that we want to remain unbeaten, we would be daft if we said we didn’t,” said Greig.

“It’s more about the performances that we put in week in, week out and the challenges that we face from different teams.

“When we looked at the squad that we were able to compile this season, we knew that top four was a must and the final was definitely a target and if we can win that trophy then it’s brilliant.”

Thunder have swept aside everything in its path so far this season, retaining their unbeaten status with a thrilling 56-50 comeback victory over London Pulse, and Greig believes that is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of her players and staff in a league that is ever-improving in quality.

“There have been some huge challenges across the season,” added Greig.

“You look at the first half of the season; we had some great results and we had some really tight results that pushed us and that we learnt a lot from.

“People say that it’s good to lose because you learn from losing which you absolutely do but I think you also build some resilience in being challenged by those close games and being able to pull those results out of the bag.

“That’s something that’s going to happen in those semi-finals so the resilience that the team has shown has been fantastic across the year.

“The thing for us is that we pride ourselves on treating every single team the same. We look at them the same way going into the team room and approach them the same coming out the other end.

“It’s that respect that we show our opposition that’s really stood us in good stead and that’s throughout the whole squad

“It’s not just the coaching team doing that work on the performance analysis pre- and post-game, it’s the players really buying into that as well.”

Resilience is certainly the watchword for Greig, whose side is looking to draw on the strength and knowledge of a strong spine of players that have play-off experience from three years ago.

“What’s key for us is that you look at the backbone of our squad and the experience that we’ve got,” said Greig, who is about to complete her sixth season in the Thunder hot seat.

“We’ve all been in that situation before and if you look at the players that are in our 12, they’ve been in finals positions before.

“We’ve got Nat [Metcalf] who’s won a Commonwealth Games gold, we’ve got Laura [Malcolm], Eleanor [Cardwell], Caroline [O’Hanlon], Kerry [Almond] and Joyce [Mvula] who all played for us in that 2019 final.

“There’s that experience throughout the backbone of the squad that know what it feels like to be a part of finals weekend and the knockout and the implications of it either way.

“The girls are buzzing, they are constantly asking questions to each other and pushing each other in training.

“We’re doing the same and all we can do is put them under as much pressure as possible so when they come to performing in those scenarios, they are able to perform.”

Thunder go into the final round of the season knowing a home tie against Team Bath await them in the play-off semi-final on Friday 3 June, just two days before a possible Grand Final appearance, and Greig is hoping home advantage can roar her players on to victory.

“The fact that we have had such fantastic crowd support this year across our home venue matches, that’s been key,” added Greig, whose team has lit up the Belle Vue Arena this season.

“When it comes to those finals and semi-finals we need the sell-out crowds and that can obviously have an impact on the performance and the nerves around the squad.”

“The fact that we’ve actually felt that for the whole season and actually had those big crowds, we’ve had that noise, I think bodes well for us – we’ve been able to cope with that element of it.

“We’ve also experienced, on the road, fantastic crowds at these venues as well.

“I don’t think that we’ve been to a venue that’s not been a sell-out or near enough a sell-out so the fact that people are showing up to those matches as well are absolutely huge and hopefully that bodes us well for the future

“We all want a professional league and if we can keep taking these steps in the right direction then it will definitely help our cause.”

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