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NSL stars shine at the Vitality Netball Nations Cup

International netball may be on hold for a while, but our Netball Super League (NSL) stars are now in full preparation after two weekends of intense competition.

The Vitality Netball Nations Cup, which was held at two huge arenas in Wembley and Leeds, was a spectacle tournament for fans to watch, including seeing some NSL stars take to court before the season starts.

Players from teams such as Loughborough Lightning, London Pulse, Team Bath, Manchester Thunder, Surrey Storm and Saracens Mavericks, took to court representing England’s Vitality Roses and Uganda’s She Cranes.

England’s first game saw them defeat the She Cranes, 62-56, with NSL players such as Imogen Allison, Razia Quashie and Ellie Rattu making notable performances. The starting line-up for the Vitality Roses saw Nat Metcalf return to the side after her historic World Cup campaign last summer. The Roses had a quick start, with Quashie making crucial turnovers and Allison giving quick feeds on the circle edge.

Uganda showed great patience to carry the ball through the court to Loughborough Lightning’s Mary Cholhok who delighted the Wembley crowd with her trademark lay-up. London Pulse’s Funmi Fadoju made an appearance at goal defence in the final quarter, wowing the fans with her standing jump and tenacity to win ball.

Team Bath’s Jayda Pechova came onto court in the goal keeper position, knowing Cholhok from the league and working out her game plan against the tall shooter.

The final whistle blew and the Vitality Roses took home their first victory.

Day two saw Uganda face World Number two, New Zealand in one of the tightest games of the series.

With Cholhok dominating the circle and Surrey Storm’s Haniisha Muhameed working tirelessly in the defensive circle, passionately fighting for every ball against Silver Ferns’ shooter, Grace Nweke.

A game that was going goal for goal saw New Zealand take one step further and push a little bit more for winning ball and turning over to goal. The game ended 65-60 with New Zealand taking the win.

Australia and England were next up in the proceedings. The World Number one’s were there and ready to fight in a historic Netball World Cup re-match. The Diamonds got the game underway with the first centre pass which Mavericks defender, Razia Quashie was able to disrupt with an early tip, but it wasn’t enough to prevent an Australian goal.

As the quarter drew to a close, Cardwell created some great space in the circle to receive another fantastic feed from Imogen Allison, and a footwork call from Australian captain Liz Watson prevented the Diamonds from adding another goal, so the quarter ended 13-18 in favour of the Origin Diamonds.

The second half was incredibly dramatic, with Jess Thirlby’s side fighting for every ball and picking up every turnover possible. The scoreline continued to switch from a one- to two-goal deficit for the Vitality Roses, with neither team able to create a much-needed turnover. Amy Carter headed to the bench and Funmi Fadoju was brought on at wing defence to create some last minute impact.

The score ended with the Origin Diamonds taking the win by two goals, 59-61.

🫵 You can get your tickets to see them at the Season Opener!

But be quick, as only a few remain 👇

Day three kicked off in Leeds with Uganda facing Australia for the very first time. The Diamonds had never experienced the fast paced game of the She Cranes, which took them by surprise in the first few quarters.

Cholhok and Muhameed were working hard in their opposite ends of the court. Australian goal keeper, Courtney Bruce found it hard to determine where Cholhok positioned herself in the circle. Despite trying to win every overhead ball, Cholhok’s accuracy and jump allowed her to receive the ball with ease.

Muhameed and Origin Diamonds shooter Kiera Austin were toe-to-toe in an on court battle for the ball. Austin’s prolific shooting ability was tricky to stop, with her accuracy second to none.

The game ended with Australia coming out on top, 63-49.

The Vitality Roses were next up, battling New Zealand for that spot in the final.

The Vitality Roses came out strongly to start the game as Razia Quashie earnt an early turnover, getting her hands to the ball before New Zealand’s Grace Nweke could. The New Zealand zone defence forced England to show great patience to take this turnover ball to goal, but they worked through this and scored, creating a 3-0 lead.

The second quarter started with an exciting goal-for-goal period with some beautiful feeds from Allison, now in the centre position, into Cardwell. Nat Metcalf skilfully faked the ball to draw the defenders out of the circle before sending a looping feed into Cardwell and on the next passage of play, the Vitality Roses placed immense defensive pressure on the Silver Ferns, slowing down their attacking play.

Allison re-entered the game in the centre position to begin the final quarter and Fadoju deflected the ball multiple times, disrupting the flow of the New Zealand attacking end, but the Silver Ferns were able to work through the pressure and score. With just 12 seconds left on the clock, Quashie and Fadoju combined to disrupt the Silver Ferns’ play. The crowd in the arena jumped to their feet and, with 12 seconds left to play, the Vitality Roses just had to hold onto possession of the ball to win. As the crowd counted down the final seconds, the Roses did just this, ending the game with a nail-biting one goal win, 58-57.

Amongst the action, NSL stars from across other clubs were on hand to sign signatures, take photographs and talk all things NSL to the fans on the concourse. Fans were delighted to see some of their favourite players in person, with only a few weeks before Season Opener.

The final day of the Vitality Netball Nations Cup was fast paced, energetic and intense.

New Zealand and Uganda saw a re-match of the second day game, with Uganda pushing for a win in this tournament. Cholhok was using her signature lay up every now and then to throw the Silver Ferns’ defence off their game. A tough battle for both teams saw New Zealand win their game, 62-57.

The final saw the Netball World Cup final replay – Australia vs England. The game got off to an exciting start with an early tip from Funmi Fadoju, whose game-saving intercept yesterday earnt her the start in the wing defence position today. Both teams immediately settled into their flow on court, each taking their next few centre passes directly to goal.

To the delight of the crowd, Fadoju ran through the court to intercept the ball on the Diamond’s centre pass. Imogen Allison found Housby in the circle and the Vitality Roses were able to build some momentum, scoring the next two goals and bringing the score to 25-20.

Thirlby made three further changes to start the third quarter, Halimat Adio entered the court as goal keeper, Amy Carter as centre and Fran Williams re-entered the game at goal defence. The Vitality Roses were looking for some turnover ball, but it was the Diamonds who found this first as Carter kept a loose ball on court.

For the final quarter, Loughborough Lightning’s Hannah Joseph came on at wing attack and Imogen Allison moved to centre. A quick ball from the hands of Allison to Housby showed the fighting spirit that remained with the Roses, who did not give up despite the growing scoreline. Housby showed commitment to the very end of the game, scoring the final goal and ending the match with a 69-49 score.

The Vitality Netball Nations Cup was an incredible tournament with fans and players now ready and raring to go for the 2024 NSL season.

With less than three weeks to go until Season Opener, make sure you get your tickets as only a few remain!

To keep up with the latest news, make sure to follow the @NetballSL on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok and subscribe to our newsletter. 

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