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Berri Neil

Image: Ben Lumley

Breakout star Berri Neil has only got one thing on her mind: improvement.

The 20-year-old has established herself as one of the country’s most exciting prospects with a season of scintillating performances at goal attack for London Pulse.

She scooped the Young Player of the Year award and the goal attack bib in the All Star VII as she completed the transition from impact sub to one of the first names on Sam Bird’s team sheet.

But Neil has no interest in reflecting on how far she has come in such a short space of time, with her relentless focus on learning proving the secret to her success.

“I just want to keep getting better,” said Neil. “Even though I would class this as my best Super League season so far, I am nowhere near where I want to be.

“In terms of personal development, I know I still have so much more to learn. I don’t put too much pressure on myself, I just want to make sure I am always getting better.”

Berri Neil

Berri Neil earned the Young Player of the Year award. Image: Ben Lumley

Neil’s speed and artistry in and around the circle was a key part of Pulse’s season that saw them top the regular season table for the first time, before losing out to Loughborough Lightning in their maiden Grand Final.

At just 20, Neil is the youngest of a youthful Pulse squad with just three players having previously played in a season showpiece and the attacker is backing her side to come back stronger.

“It wasn’t meant to be, and we definitely didn’t play our best,” she reflected.

“It is devastating but the season as a whole has been really successful, and I always feel that I learn so much more from a loss than a win so hopefully next season we can push on and get the gold.

“So many of us haven’t done this before so it was a very new experience and we are so young that hopefully we will be in a million more finals.”

Despite defeat, Neil was once again a standout performer for Pulse with her performance on the biggest stage yet of her career another box ticked for anyone doubting she is the real deal.

It is certainly not something worrying her head coach Sam Bird, who believes Neil is destined for the very top.

“Berri is the next Helen Housby in my mind,” said Bird. “She is a very exciting athlete to work with.

“She is just a great kid. She came to us last year, she tries really hard, she doesn’t have any clue how good she is or what her potential is. She is a very sweet girl but underneath that very driven.

“She missed out on going to Fast5 with England last year and I think that gave her a kick up the butt.

“There was a time when she was not a friend of the gym but now she is in there putting in all the hard yards behind the scenes, that is part of our culture.

“That is why we have Jade [Clarke] and Chelsea [Pitman] here to show those professional cultures and what is required to be a world class player.”

The demanding environment created at Pulse has all been part of a broader growth for Neil as both player and person, with the 20-year-old admitting she has had plenty of growing up to do since moving to London aged 18.

“I have definitely had to grow up a lot,” explained Neil. “I have definitely matured massively since coming to Pulse because I wasn’t going to get away with not having the right kit, and I have to sort it myself – I can’t rely on my mum.

“Even when it comes to eating, I never thought about needing to go to Sainsburys and get salt and pepper was a big shock at first because I thought since when does anyone do this?

“I have grown massively when it comes to eating before a game and being mature enough to eat the right thing to help my performance.

“Small changes in lifestyle choices have made a huge difference to how I have been playing and training.

“One of the best people for that was Lisa Alexander. She was another person I really looked up to and she really helped me grow and helped me find the person I wanted to be on court and also off court.

“We have such a supportive environment, it’s great to be able to speak to the coaches about things outside of netball and that massively helped when I was moving here.”

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