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Loughborough Lightning v Manchester Thunder

Image: Ben Lumley

Two experienced sides and huge rivals will go face to face on Saturday in the Netball Super League Grand Final.

Four-time champions Manchester Thunder will look to become the joint-most successful franchise in the NSL while current title holders Loughborough Lightning will aim to do what only three clubs have done before and retain their crown.

They will do so in front of a record crowd at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, with the third-place play-off between Severn Stars and London Pulse kicking off proceedings.

For defending champion Alice Harvey, her own experience but also those of Lightning legends Nat Panagarry, Hannah Joseph, Beth Cobden and Ella Clark, could prove invaluable.

She said: “People have definitely said to us, Lightning can win when it matters.

“We do know how to turn up for these big games and that comes from the culture that the club have driven in us.

“In the past it has helped us to get into so many consecutive finals and hopefully on Saturday it can help us get onto the right of the scoreboard.

“Players aren’t afraid to demand more of each other and want more of each other and we’ve got an environment where we are able to learn from each other.

“I’ve learnt so much off those four [Nat, Beth, Hannah, Ella] and I’d like to think that I might have been able to give something back to them as well and that is a really great place where anyone in their 12 or the wider 15 can contribute and ask more of each other.”

 

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Thunder’s Taylor McKevitt is in a different situation, as Saturday will mark her first time playing in a Grand Final, although she is still surrounded by title-winning know-how.

The mid-courter is relishing the chance to go up against Thunder’s great rivals, with the record from the regular season standing at one win apiece.

McKevitt said: “Last year was my very first semis, this year is my very first finals.

“I feel like I’ve gained a little bit of experience, but I feel like nothing will kind of prepare you for a final really. I think all of us in the camp are just trying to treat it like a regular fixture.

“We both know each other’s styles well, so there is a little bit of a rivalry, but also obviously a lot of respect there.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but ever since last year when we lost to them in the semi-finals, we just can’t wait to play them again and show what we’ve worked on this whole year.”

@thunder_netball Semi final tik toking #netball #NSL2024 #manchesterthunder ♬ original sound – Manchester Thunder Netball

In the third-place play-off, London Pulse are hoping to show that despite finishing two places lower than last season, the 2024 campaign has been successful.

For star defender Funmi Fadoju, she has reached new heights while hoping to ensure a podium a finish for a third season in a row.

“We had a long talk about the semi-finals and about what went wrong and what we could do differently,” Fadoju said.

“Now I feel like everyone knows we didn’t come out of the blocks hard enough and we don’t want that to happen again.

“It is our last match of the season together and we want to go out there, have fun and just play as a team. We know we need to work together, carry on supporting each other, and stay positive.

“Everyone is now at ease after we have talked it out, we’ve worked on the little things that broke down during the semi-finals and we have found a way to combat whatever situation gets thrown at us

“I feel more confident in myself and as a team and we hope what we have been doing in training can show on court. We’ve had a good season, we know what we can do, we just need to show that to everyone else.”

Severn Stars are in unchartered territory as they will be making their Grand Final day bow in what will be their final game as a club.

Despite that shooter Sigi Burger is confident her side can deliver and give fans and the players the perfect send-off.

She said: “What we’ve done in two years has been absolutely amazing and I am so proud of the girls, it is a huge credit to people such as our coaches and what [head coach] Jo Trip has done for our team.

“We’re going to medal, we’re going to play good clinical netball because at the end of the day netball is a game where both teams start at 0-0 and it is the team with the fewest mistakes that is going to win.

 

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“It will be a big moment of pride to play on a Grand Final day. We have come such a long way and there are so many others over the years that couldn’t get there and so we will be playing for each other and the club and it is going to be so exceptionally special.”

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