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Burgess proud of relentless Lightning despite defeat

Burgess praised the performance of Emma Thacker. Image: Ben Lumley

Defiance in defeat was the message from Loughborough Lightning head coach Vic Burgess as her side were beaten by Manchester Thunder in the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

Lightning were beaten 60-53 in a frenetic final at the Copper Box Arena, with Burgess full of praise for the way her players kept going in difficult circumstances.

Lightning goal attack Ella Clark went off injured just minutes into the game before Thunder blitzed the reigning champions 20-8 in the first quarter, a lead they never relinquished.

“I’m really proud of the girls for pulling together and having that fight back throughout the whole game,” said Burgess.

“We came in at half-time and we were really positive because we felt that we could just get rid of that first half and move forward.

“They all pulled together and put up such a great fight. We reacted well under the circumstances it just wasn’t our day today.”

Despite the early setbacks, Lightning fought back through the pinpoint shooting of goal shooter Mary Cholhok to reduce the initial gap.

Burgess was pleased with the way her side kept pushing right to the very end.

“We lost to a tenacious Thunder side who have been unstoppable all season, to have a gap of seven is something that I’m really proud of from our perspective,” added Burgess.

“We had a real fight until the end, we were really competitive apart from that first quarter.

“It was a massive effort from our squad in that second half in the way that we pushed on – we were wanting interceptions, we were wanting to win ball and turn it into a goal.”

The injury to Clark was a big blow for Lightning, with the England international a key part of their attack and players visibly upset by the injury.

Burgess focused on keeping her players calm and was happy with the way 19-year-old replacement Emma Thacker stepped up to the plate on such a big stage.

“You just got to try and keep them really positive,” said Burgess.

“Just to give them some clear focuses to take their mind off it – it’s always difficult to see your teammate go down injured.

“She [Thacker] was a little bit upset herself seeing her teammate go down so she needed that real focus to be able to apply that to the court.

“She did a great job, I’m really proud of her and her performance. She’s so young, so lots of learning from this.”

Thacker was clearly not daunted by the occasion as she netted 17 goals from goal attack as Lightning tried to stage a comeback, with the player praising the support from senior members of the squad.

“It was incredible, something I’ve never experienced before,” said Thacker.

“I just had to keep my focus more than anything, keep my head and play the game.

“Get the basics right, pick the girls up as much as I could and do the best that I could as for everyone it was so difficult under the circumstances.

“Beth [Cobden] was telling me before to keep my nerve. All the support from all the girls has been amazing and we’ll be back next year.”

Vitality Netball Superleague is the UK’s elite domestic netball competition and features eleven teams from England, Wales and Scotland. For more information visit netballsl.com

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