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Five things to watch in Round 4 of the Netball Super League

After a hectic double helping of action last week, the 2023 Netball Super League returns to normal proceedings with Round 4 this weekend.

While there is little to be made of the table just yet, teams and fans alike across the league are already getting a feel for how their season might pan out with three rounds under their belts.

But there is no time for looking back, with another weekend of thrilling action just around the corner; here are five things to keep your eye on.

Dragons and Stars looking up 

Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars picked up just three wins each last term, but both sides have already picked up a win apiece against sides they failed to beat last season.

Stars stormed the Season Opener with an impressive 59-55 win over Saracens Mavericks, as new boss Jo Trip made a dream start to life both on the court and on the bench.

Dragons bounced back from successive defeats to Grand Finalists Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning with a 54-45 win over Team Bath – their first over their local rivals since 2014.

It sets up a mouth-watering encounter at the cauldron that is the House of Sport in Cardiff on Friday night, as both sides look to notch a second win in just the fourth round.

Chelsea Beard shone in the shooting circle for Dragons on Monday and will hope for another sterling performance on her return in a green dress.

Stars’ 50 goals against London Pulse is the most scored against Sam Bird’s side so far this season, with the form of Sigi Burger a big part of that success; the South African is just two goals behind current top scorer Proscovia Peace.

First centre pass is at 7pm on Friday 24 February with highlights available on the Netball Super League YouTube channel

Just how good are Lightning? 

It’s fair to say Loughborough Lightning have blitzed their way through the opening three rounds.

An opening day 86-52 win against Team Bath made the rest of the league sit up and take notice, and with good reason; their total was just two fewer than the highest-ever score in the NSL, which was achieved by last season’s invincible Thunder side.

They have since backed that up in style, easing past Celtic Dragons and Strathclyde Sirens with goal defence Fran Williams putting in Player of the Match performances on both occasions.

It is a start that has got everyone wondering whether this Lightning side could be ready to go one better and avenge last season’s heartbreaking Grand Final defeat.

The visit of Saracens Mavericks on Friday night, live on Sky Sports, will certainly test that theory, with Camilla Buchanan’s side fresh off the back of victory over Leeds Rhinos.

Mavericks will certainly have an eye on the top four, and victory over Lightning would be a huge boost to those hopes.

First centre pass is at 7.30pm live on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports YouTube on Friday 24 February

Bath back on home court 

It has not been the start to the season Team Bath head coach Asha Francis would have dreamed of, with the Blue & Gold losing their first three matches.

Defeats to likely play-off candidates Loughborough Lightning and London Pulse were then followed up by a loss to Celtic Dragons, but Francis won’t be worried too yet with plenty to get excited about in the West Country.

Bath finally make their return to the Team Bath Netball Arena for the 2023 NSL season, and they will be hoping the roar of the crowd will help them to their first win.

Youngsters Sophie Kelly and Jayda Pechova have been the standout performers in Blue & Gold so far this term, with goal attack Kelly a constant threat in the circle and defender Pechova already notching 19 turnovers this term – the fourth most in the league.

In their way will be a Strathclyde Sirens side hoping to bounce back from defeat to Lightning and hoping to conjure some of the magic that helped them beat Severn Stars 60-51; plenty of eyes will be on midcourters Stella Oyella and Beth Dix to make that happen.

First centre pass is at 7.30pm on Friday 24 February, with highlights available on the Netball Super League YouTube channel

Thunder hoping to strike back 

Manchester Thunder’s 23-match unbeaten streak came to an end against Surrey Storm last weekend, but there would be no better way of bouncing back than a win against London Pulse at the Copper Box Arena.

A win for Karen Greig’s side would end Pulse’s unbeaten run of their own, with Sam Bird’s charges boasting three wins from three so far this term.

Much of that success has been built on the laser-like shooting of Olivia Tchine, as they recorded over 70 goals for the first time in their history against Team Bath.

But there is plenty to shout about defensively too, with Funmi Fadoju, Zara Everitt, and Lindsay Keable forming a near-impenetrable guard around the circle, while the return of Hali Adio has added further depth.

They will face their toughest test yet this season in the form of Lenize Potgieter, who has made an excellent start to life in Manchester, with the ever-reliable Nat Metcalf and Iona Christian providing plenty of ball.

Pulse have made no bones about their intentions to challenge at the top this term, and victory against Thunder will be a real test of those credentials.

First centre pass is at 6pm live on Sky Sports YouTube on Saturday 25 February

Five-and-0 for Storm? 

Surrey Storm are the early pacesetters this season, courtesy of four games from four wins in just eight days.

The standout result is their 56-49 victory over Thunder to snap their winning streak, and Mikki Austin’s side will hope this is just the start of their own.

Proscovia Peace is as lethal as ever in the circle, aided by the addition of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis but the real standout from the start of the season has been the defensive partnership of Layla Guscoth and Leah Middleton.

The pair have had just four games together but have already gelled into an imperious force in the circle, with Guscoth leading the league in deflections with 20, just three ahead of second-placed Middleton.

Storm will hope their defensive steel will help them make it five on the bounce to start the season with a win against Mavericks, who will be set for their second game in as many days.

First centre pass is at 6pm live on Sky Sports YouTube on Saturday 25 February

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