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Taylor McKevitt

Image: Stephen Gaunt of Touchlinepics.com

Taylor McKevitt knew there was a chance she would never be back when she left Manchester Thunder four years ago but half a season into her return, it is like she has never been away. 

A Player of the Match award at the Season Opener almost reduced McKevitt to tears, such was the fairy tale way she had marked her long-awaited Super League debut in a yellow dress.

Fast-forward two months, and the 25-year-old is now an integral part of a side that has won eight in a row, seamlessly bouncing back from an early defeat that ended a 23-match unbeaten run.

A successful start has been built on distinctly Mancunian foundations, with McKevitt not the only former Thunder player to return this season, and the mid-courter admitted the move back home has been made easier by familiar faces.

“It was a big risk moving back to Thunder,” she said. “With any team, you never know how it is going to go and if you are going to play, but especially coming back to the team who were undefeated Super League champions last year.

“Most of the girls I knew from playing in Manchester, or knew anyway, so it wasn’t like moving to a brand-new team, it was very homely.

“A load of the girls that have come back I played with when I was younger, a lot of us are around a similar age which is nice as well. It shows how strong a pathway the North West has, to have created all these players. We have gone and done our own thing and come back when the time is right.

“When I was at Sirens, it was never the end plan. I had no idea if I was going to ever get back to Thunder so to get into the squad and get Player of the Match, I was very happy with the whole thing: I said to Amy [Clinton] ‘Oh my God, why do I feel like I am going to cry?’”

It was a moment that was the culmination of years of hard work and many miles travelling from Manchester to Glasgow.

Three seasons with Strathclyde Sirens were invaluable for McKevitt, who saw her game develop thanks to regular court time, and while the long journeys and packed schedule proved difficult, it is a route that McKevitt gives rave reviews.

She added: “I loved being at Sirens. I loved the girls, loved the training and I was very comfortable there. It was a big decision to leave because I love that club so much.

“When I was playing in Scotland, I was still living in Manchester, so I was travelling up and down each week. I was still at university, so it was a lot to juggle. You have to be very organised with your time or you will get behind on everything.

“There are weeks you don’t have a social life, or you are tired all the time but ultimately you have to do what you have to do, and it pays off; there are loads of rewards.

“You can learn a lot from training and from coaches but the most valuable experience you can get is from actually playing on court, no matter what team you are in. It’s that court time that has been pivotal to help improve me.

@thunder_netball Netball icks 😂 #netball #manchesterthunder #netballsuperleague ♬ original sound – Manchester Thunder Netball

“It is definitely a good idea as a younger player to go to other teams to get the experience, get the court time. It was a big risk, going to Scotland is not just down the road, but it is what got me here today so I would recommend it to everyone.”

McKevitt is now a key tenet of a Thunder side looking to finish in the top four, with her performances at wing defence earning plenty of praise.

And while the 25-year-old has been impressing on the court, she has been making waves off it too with her work on the Manchester Thunder TikTok account.

The club has racked up over 700,000 likes on the platform thanks to their videos that give fans a peek behind the scenes of life at Thunder, with one video amassing over 3.7m views.

McKevitt has a unique role as both a player and a social media creator, something she believes helps create the best possible content for fans.

She added: “Social media is important. TikTok isn’t necessarily a sales platform, but it is good to get names and branding out there and that can only help the exposure of the sport.

“Once I posted a TikTok and saw someone from Australia tweeting about it, so it does have a reach.

“There are people from so many countries watching these videos – and that doesn’t help ticket sales at Manchester Thunder – but it is good outreach for the sport which will have positive impacts in the real world.

@thunder_netball Netball life 🤪 #netball #manchesterthunder #netballsuperleague ♬ original sound – 🎧

“TikTok can only be successful if it’s not too corporate, it has to be organic. You can only get those moments if you are in the changing room, at the trainings, which is why it helps when you are a player.

“As a consumer of content myself, I always find it interesting when it’s people from random sports showing us what their day looks like and it’s never what you’d expect.

“I always like a little nosey at what other people are doing!”

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