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Nat Metcalf

Nat Metcalf of Manchester Thunder

Manchester Thunder will have a tough task living up to last season where they won all 22 of their matches to win the 2022 Netball Super League.

However, it has been an off season of change and with a refreshed look to the squad, Karen Greig will be hoping she can still harness the same desire which led to that invincible campaign and retain the title.

Last Season

The championship-winning season in 2022 was built on an unstoppable attack – 1509 goals was 173 more than the next-best, Loughborough Lightning.

But to finish the season undefeated, Thunder had to rely on a knack of always being on the right side of tight matches.

Eight of their 20 games before the finals were decided by single-figure margins, so despite the league table giving a look of infallibility, Greig’s side needed to weather some tough tests.

A 60-53 victory over Loughborough in June’s Grand Final capped off the sensational campaign in style.

Signing Window

A number of departures have seen an injection of fresh faces at Belle Vue.

Five of the Grand Final starting seven have left for pastures new, headlined by shooting circle duo Eleanor Cardwell and Joyce Mvula, who have headed to Adelaide Thunderbirds and Central Pulse respectively.

Laura Malcom, Caroline O’Hanlon, and Millie Sanders have also departed but coming the other way is South African shooter Lenize Potgieter, who is joined through the door by Taylor McKevitt, Amy Clinton, Ella Bowen, Josie Huckle, and Iona Christian.

Star Player

All eyes will be on Lenize Potgieter, who will be expected to shine this year, and fill the goalscoring gap left by Cardwell and Mvula.

The South African returns to the UK after a stint at Team Bath in 2016, when she scored 372 goals aged 22, but now returns with a wealth of experience from spells in New Zealand and Australia.

One to Watch

Ella Bowen enjoyed a breakthrough season at second-place Loughborough Lightning in 2022, and has earned a move north to the champions, for whom she played for as a youngster.

The 20-year-old can play across the defence and made 19 appearances last year in her first season in the senior division.

Bowen will hope to form a key part of the defence alongside existing duo Shadine van der Merwe and Kerry Almond.

What they said

“It’s really exciting heading into the 2023 season,” said captain Nat Metcalf.

“I think the team is looking very exciting, full of depth and talent, a lot of youngsters which is really exciting.

“We were really proud of going unbeaten in 2022, it was a huge challenge for us.

“There were no easy wins, so we were really proud to go the full season unbeaten and win that trophy.

“For 2023, we would love to defend the title, but the focus is going game by game.”

Coach’s Corner

Karen Greig is one of the most recognisable names on the bench in the NSL, having been head coach at Thunder since 2016, winner two Super Leagues in that time and the former England international has eyes on a third in 2023.

“We’ve never defended the title back-to-back and 100% that is something in our eye line that we want to achieve,” she said.

“There is a 100% a target on our back and we know that.

“Some of the players that are in our squad this year, weren’t part of the squad last year so it’s going to feel a bit different to them and the pressure is going to be on them to perform as well.”

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