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Saracens Mavericks’ Buchanan is at home at Wembley Arena

Camilla Buchanan lives in the shadow of the iconic Wembley arch and now her team will be taking centre stage right next to it. 

The Saracens Mavericks head coach hails from Harrow, just north of the famous stadium, and will make the short journey to Wembley Arena as her side take on Manchester Thunder in front of a bumper four-figure crowd on Saturday 6 April.

While Thunder may have experience of playing in big games at the AO Arena, Buchanan believes nothing compares to Wembley.

“I grew up in Harrow, literally just down the road,” Buchanan said. “I can see Wembley from my flat, sitting on the sofa and it is there.

“It never gets old really, I’m lucky enough when events are on, we can see that arch and it is always a reminder.

“Even my kids who have grown up with it, when you drive past and see it from a different perspective, they go ‘there’s Wembley, there’s Wembley!’.

“It is really cool to have something so iconic on your doorstep and to be able to take netball to that level.

“We talk about Manchester Arena or the Copper Box, but nothing compares to Wembley in my view, that is maybe a little bit biased.

“You have had such iconic people perform there, and sporting events as well, so to get us on the map from that point of view is special and to have it on your doorstep, it feels pretty incredible.”

Buchanan was part of the inaugural Mavericks Super League side back when they were known as Galleria Mavericks and has particularly fond memories of the franchise’s 2011 title triumph.

She became head coach of the Hertfordshire-based outfit in 2022 having previously served as an assistant coach and has a vision to take the team back to the top.

Part of that is through days like Sunday when Mavericks will become the first Netball Super League side to take netball to Wembley Arena.

The venue has previously hosted the Vitality Roses, in fact it is where Buchanan first saw international netball.

Her memories are of a cavernous space lit up in sparkles and it is that magic of the sport that has kept her in it for so many years.

“I sometimes sit there and think, a game I started playing in the school playground on a 30m court, some lines, a rectangle and a leather ball, it is literally a game,” she said. “My whole life and career is based around this game, it blows my mind.

“I don’t know what it is about this sport. Years ago, around the 2012 Olympics, British Handball did a talent ID thing to find new players and me and a few players, Tamsin [Greenway] was one of them, we went to these trials.

“We ended up travelling to Germany with the GB team but there was just something about it, I couldn’t connect with it.

“I asked myself what it is about netball, I don’t know but there is something.

“Even now as a coach, I’ll be involved in a session for whatever reason, and even after not playing for so many years, there is something about having that ball in your hand and being on that court.

“I can’t explain it, it just gives you that buzz and that magic that nothing else gives you.

“It sounds really cheesy but there is nothing else that gives me that buzz. It is just the magic of netball; I can’t tell you.”

The North London accent can be fully heard in that final line, with so much of who Buchanan derived from the places where she grew up and the memories she made there.

She looks back fondly on trips her brother and late father took to White Hart Lane, the former home of Tottenham Hotspur.

It is those experiences that she hopes to create for fans attending Wembley Arena on Sunday.

She said: “Success in terms of the on-court performance is one part but actually for the fan it is very much about their experience and that is something we put at the forefront, we want it to be an amazing day out.

“Obviously the cherry on top will be a Mavs win but what we are trying to create with these arena fixtures is an experience that families and supporters can come to on a regular basis and create a community.

“If I talk about my dad, when he was alive, and my older brother they used to have their thing where they’d jump on the train down to White Hart Lane, they’d buy their burger and their beer beforehand.

“It was a whole day out and those are the memories that you cherish as a family.

“That’s what we want to create for netball, we want to create those lifetime memories of an experience that you just can’t get anywhere else.”

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