Loughborough Lightning team

Looking ahead to the VNSL

There is just over a month to go until the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) gets underway and we cannot wait. There has been some change in team structure (players and coaches) since the final whistle blew on the 2021 season. We take a closer look at the key transfers below and make a prediction on who will lift the 2022 VNSl trophy.

We’re looking forward to seeing Elite Netball Academy Ambassador Natalie Metcalf back on British soil for Manchester Thunder and with Tracey Neville as their defence coach, they will be a tough team to beat this season. So just what does the VNSL have in store for us this year?

The 2022 Vitality Netball SuperLeague (VNSL) teams

Once again 11 teams line up for the 2022 VNSL season

Celtic Dragons

Leeds Rhinos

London Pulse

Loughborough Lightning

Manchester Thunder

Saracens Mavericks

Severn Stars

Strathclyde Sirens

Surrey Storm

Team Bath

Wasps

The ins and outs

Netball clubs in the VNSL can have a total squad of up to 15 players. This comprises of 12 ‘Registered Players’ and up to three ‘Training Partners’. Matchdays squads are set to a maximum of 12 players.

Notable movers for the 2022 VNSL season:

England Defensive player Fran Williams has made the move from Wasps to 2021 Champions Loughborough Lightning. She replaces a stalwart of the English game in Sam May who retired after helping Loughborough seal their 2021 victory.

Natalie Metcalf is back with a former club, Manchester Thunder, following a few years down under with the New South Wales Swifts where she won two league titles. It will be awesome to see her back in the VNSL fold, we can’t wait to watch her week in week out.

Shadine van der Merwe is rejoining the VNSL after a couple of years in Australia with the Adelaide Thunderbirds. This is a great defensive signing for Manchester Thunder and is a strong sign of intent from Performance Operations Director and Defence coach Tracey Neville.

Ugandan International shooter Peace Proscovia is also back in the VNSL fold following a spell with Sunshine Coast Lightning in the Suncorp Super Netball League. Peace will play with Surrey Storm this season under Head Coach Mikki Austin and she’s sure going to be one to watch on the shooting leaderboard. 

Midcourt VNSL stalwart Sophie Candappa has made the move back to Surrey Storm, where she played in the 2016 season, the year they won the VNSL. Sophia is one of the most experienced VNSL players there is. She is a midcourt player that all aspiring young athletes should watch – she has a unique skillset and incredible ability to read the game. Sophia is also a mum of two proving that you can hit the court again professionally following time out.

Natalie Haythornthwaite VNSL
England Roses star Natalie Metcalf is back in the VNSL for 2022

Eboni Usoro-Brown is a figure we will miss seeing this year as she heads to Australia to join the Queensland Firebirds. It was great to see Eboni back on court towards the back end of the 2021 season following the birth of her daughter and even better to see her in an England dress in the recent series against Jamaica. We’re looking forward to seeing how Eboni progresses with the Firebirds and hopefully, we’ll see her back on English soil for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year.

2021 Loughborough Lightning winning Head Coach Sara Francis-Bayman is also heading to the southern hemisphere and taking a leave of absence from the Lightning set up to spend time with her wife Stacey who plays for West Coast Fever. Still relatively new to her coaching role, Sara has achieved an incredible amount since stepping off the court as a player. Her decision to focus on things other than netball, while still having a connection to the game, reminds us that there is life outside of netball.

Our predictions for the 2022 VNSL season

We’re going to put our necks on the line and predict a Manchester Thunder victory. It’s hard to look past the new signings they have brought in and with Tracey Neville leading the defensive charge they will be a hard team to get past.

That said, Loughborough Lightning have a largely unchanged squad following their 2021 victory. Central court players Beth Cobden and Natalie Panagarry are going from strength to strength and steer the Lightning ship with incredible precision (Beth made the top 5 for deflections in the VNSL last year). Overall they’re a strong, united unit with talent in all corners of the court.

VNSL
Natalie Panagarry leads the charge for Loughborough Lightning

Leeds Rhinos held their own last year in their first season in the VNSL and once again have experienced international midcourt player Jade Clarke at the helm. They will surely miss the dominance of Donnell Wallam in the attacking circle and with Dan Ryan heading back to Australia a change of coach could have an impact too.

Wasps and Surrey Storm have put together strong outfits and with player/coach Mikki Austin leading Surrey Storm, one thing is for sure, they’ll put up a tough fight all season. Team Bath, last year’s finalists, could also have a shout at the title. Serena Guthrie is their star player and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis progresses impressively with every game (and had a 91% shot success in the 2021 season!) but will last year’s defeat in the final still be hurting them or will they come out fighting?

One thing is for sure, it’s going to be an exciting VNSL season. Fingers crossed crowds will be allowed at all the matches throughout the season and limited interruptions will make for an epic year of netball.

It all kicks off on Saturday 5th February 2022 at Resorts World in Birmingham and all matches will be shown live on Sky Sports. Find out more here.

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Photography courtesy of:

Ben Lumley Photography

Morgan Harlow

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