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The First Interview: Fadoju ready to shine brighter

They say pressure makes diamonds, and in Funmi Fadoju, London Pulse know they have one of the very brightest.

Fadoju took the netball world by storm last season, establishing herself as one of the most exciting prospects around, taking home the Vitality Netball Superleague Young Player of the Season award as a reflection of her performances.

Such an accolade came as Fadoju and the rest of her young London Pulse teammates posted a fourth-place finish, reaching the play-offs for the first time in the club’s history.

It means Sam Bird’s side head into the 2023 season with a target above their heads, with other teams knowing exactly what they’re about as they look to go even better than last term, where they took many by surprise.

But while Fadoju admits she can feel the pressure, it’s not something that is bothering the 20-year-old.

“There’s a bit more pressure, but not in a bad way,” said Fadoju. “It’s a good feeling to know that we’re competing now.

“We’re no longer the underdogs, we’re actually a team where people are scared to go up against us.

“It’s a new feeling but for me personally, it makes me even more excited to go out there, with a big smile on my face knowing we can beat any single team in this league, we just need to do our best.

“Last season was just amazing. We had an aggression to every single game, we weren’t weak-minded, we came here to win, we knew we’d done the work behind the scenes, this was our year and we came fourth.

“This season, we know what we can do, we know what we can achieve and we’re just going to keep pushing on.

“The World Cup is coming up, there are some really exciting opportunities ahead of us, so we need to make sure we get as much match play as possible, and try to improve the areas that we can.”

Pulse’s young stars lit up the Superleague last season, with call-ups to the Vitality Roses programme following for Fadoju and others in pink, such as Zara Everitt, Olivia Tchine, and Ellie Rattu.

It means Fadoju is rubbing shoulders with some of the players she grew up watching and aspiring to be, and admits it is still fully sinking in.

“I still don’t know what to say about that; it’s amazing and scary at the same time,” she admitted. “Growing up, I was imagining playing and training with these girls and now I actually am.

“You feel the pressure but at the same time everyone is so supportive, and you see that they’re just like us.

“We’re all nervous for every single match but we just keep our heads down, carry on going and keep pushing on.

“It’s nice to get the international experience, playing against South Africa and Malawi, that was an amazing experience.

“Just knowing different ways countries play; it would shock you, like it’s really different – I didn’t realise until I got there.”

If an England call-up comes for Fadoju for this autumn’s series against Uganda, the 20-year-old will likely battle it out with Layla Guscoth for the goal defence dress.

But Fadoju knows that she still has plenty to learn to reach the heights of Vitality Netball Superleague Player of the Season Guscoth, and is lapping up every bit of wisdom she can get from the doctor.

“It’s incredible, she is one of my role models,” revealed Fadoju.

“She’s so humble, she just goes out there, has fun, does what she does and makes it look so easy but she puts so much hard work behind the scenes as well.

“I know that she deserves to be named as one of the best goal defences in the world. It’s nice being under her learning.

“Geva Mentor, Eboni [Usoro-Brown], Layla [Guscoth], the four of them, Stacey [Francis-Bayman] as well, I always look up to all of them, seeing what they do on court and how they work together.

“They’re amazing people, both on and off court, they all have their own special skills and I just need to see what I can bring in.

“I have so much more to learn and improve on. I’m sometimes scared that I’m not at the right place yet, but I just have to keep on listening to Jess [Thirlby], listening to Sam [Bird], Sonia [Mkoloma] as well, listening to their advice, all the little things that they tell me.

“It’s hard but you have to keep focusing on improving, getting better, and pushing on.”

All this pressure and expectation could easily get to a player still a year away from their 21st birthday, but Fadoju is a picture of serenity.

Time off the court is spent with friends, either playing badminton or in the cinema, while there is always time for a TikTok or two in between training and matches with Pulse.

“Most of us are the same age, it’s a good vibe all-round,” added Fadoju.

“We come to training, just sit down and talk to the girls, you can literally go up to any single person and have a funny conversation.

“There’ll be a bunch of girls dancing in one corner, other girls just chilling – it’s nice going to training every week knowing that it’s actually fun, you look forward to it.

“We’ll have some TikToks going on, it’s amazing to be around a bunch of girls that are chilled, good vibes, just want to go out there with no stress.

“Right now, Hali [Adio] is our main TikTok person, she loves a good dance, gets us all together.

“She finds the ones that we can all do, even for people who can’t really dance like me!

“I love badminton, everyone here knows about that, and I have a group of friends and we come together whenever we can to play.

“It’s pretty much netball, uni, a bit of badminton, hanging out with my friends, trying out new foods – I like to take a few risks with that.

“I love to go to the cinema, watching one of the new Marvel movies. I need to watch it in order, me and my friends came together to have a Marvel marathon.”

Follow @NetballSL on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or subscribe to our newsletter for the latest Vitality Netball Superleague news.

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On Twitter, you’ll be able to keep across the ins and outs with our 2023 Signing Window Twitter Moment. For specific club news, be sure to be across all eleven of our teams on their respective social media accounts and subscribe to our List.

We will also be covering each signing in full on our website, offering weekly round-ups and are offering a comprehensive overview of 2023 squads on our Transfers page. Don’t miss out!

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