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Fran Williams

England's Fran Williams has re-signed for Loughborough Lightning. Image: Ben Lumley

With just a week to go until the Vitality Netball Superleague Signing Window slams shut, nearly all sides have confirmed their squads for the 2023 season.

It has been a summer of change across the league, with several sides seeing a number of new faces and plenty of players trading one Superleague side for another to set up some exciting reunions next year.

While many clubs got their business done early, others have left it later to show their hand ahead of the new campaign.

Last season’s runners-up Loughborough Lightning were one of the last sides to announce their squad, and head coach Vic Burgess has made a few adjustments to the side that only lost to Manchester Thunder last term.

Established Vitality Roses such as Beth Cobden, Nat Panagarry, Hannah Joseph, and Francesca Williams all return in purple, while Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok is back once more with eyes on the Gilbert Top Goal Scorer crown after netting 633 times in an injury-hit 2022.

Experience is laced with exciting youth, with goalkeeper Alice Harvey making her senior England bow against Uganda on Wednesday. Harvey is joined by young attackers Suzie Liverseidge and Emma Thacker, with Thacker hoping to build on her appearance in last season’s Grand Final.

A new name on the roster is a familiar one as defender Jas Odeogberin returns from London Pulse to complete the final year of her studies at Loughborough University.

The one completely new face is Rhea Dixon, with the forward joining from Leeds Rhinos. The 24-year-old has come in to replace Ella Clark who was ruled out for the season after sustaining an ACL injury in the Grand Final.

And Dixon is eager to join one of the most settled line-ups in the league.

She said: “Obviously, the calibre of players that are there now, all players being within the Roses system and, being in Futures Roses now, I want to get back into that full-time programme.

“The best place for me, in my opinion, is to be training with these women week in week out.

“I think learning how to win and being in that winning culture will be a huge step in my development going forward.”

Severn Stars have also confirmed their squad, with head coach Jo Trip hoping to start a new era in Worcester.

Trip is registered as a player as well as a coach this term, with the former Saracens Maverick donning the dress once more despite retiring in 2021.

The New Zealand-native has brought in plenty of new signings too, with defender Rebekah Airey joining from Leeds Rhinos in a bid to add further steel alongside Lucy Herdman, who has re-signed and is hoping for big things from the West Midlanders.

“It’s a complete new-look team, it’s really exciting to get in there, get connections gelling early on, it feels really exciting to be a part of,” said Herdman.

“Everyone that has come in has said we want to make top four. Last year we finished bottom, we don’t want that, we want top four and the hard work starts now.

“We’re all on the same page off court, so hopefully we can get into training, get gelling and hopefully it will be a really good season.”

Also swapping Rhinos for Stars is South African shooter Sigi Burger, who will hope to add more strength to Stars’ attack alongside fellow new recruit Grace Namana, while Gabby Marshall will hope to supply plenty of ball from mid-court having arrived from Mavericks.

Wasps have also been busy under the guidance of new boss Cat Tuivaiti. Wing attack Iona Christian has left for Manchester Thunder but Georgia Lees has arrived from Saracens Mavericks in her place.

Regulars in the black and amber such as Josie Huckle, Ella Powell-Davies, and Rachel Dunn all return, while attacker Chloe Essam returns to Coventry after spending last season at Mavericks.

There is plenty of exciting young players at Tuiviati’s disposal too, with defender Peace Akinyemi joining from Pulse to team up with Beth Gabriel, Hannah Diamond, and Wasps Young Player of the Season Rachael Fee.

Goal defender Fee combines her netball with her studies at the University of Exeter, and the 21-year-old has her eyes set on a starting seven spot in 2023.

“I would definitely say one of my main goals and what I would love to achieve is starting seven, that’s definitely a big aspiration of mine,” she said.

“Cementing a good position, developing goal defence a lot more because last year, goal defence was quite a new position to me.

“I did feel like I improved throughout the season and I just now need to keep building on that.”

And finally, Strathclyde Sirens were the last side to name their full squad of 12, with Uganda international Stella Oyella the final name on their list.

A retiring Gia Abernethy and Thunder-bound Taylor McKevitt have both departed Scotland, but much of the squad has remained the same so far.

Towera Vinkhumbo will lead the Sirens defence once more, with Emily Nicholl and Abby Tyrrell also returning to the Emirates Arena at the back.

Mid-courters Bethan Dix and Claire Maxwell are back too, with Scottish duo Bethan Goodwin and Emma Barrie leading the line.

  • The First Interview: Stella Oyella excited to start-up at Sirens

“I think we’ve retained a really solid base and I think that says a lot when a lot of players stay,” said Nicholl. 

“We’ve got a really good core and there may be a familiar face coming back to Sirens. And then some exciting talent that we’ve not worked with before.  

“It’s a nice blend. We’ve got quite a few new players, which I think will bring new energy but then we’ve retained that core so Sirens still has its identity.   

“I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be interesting to see how the squad looks.”  

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