Team Northumbria - university based team desperate to court success in netball's super league
PUBLISHED: 15:32 01 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:09 20 February 2013
Roger Tames moves out of his sporting comfort zone to meet the Tyneside girls with the thoroughly modern outlook
If you went to an all-boys, sports-mad school like I did, then its not surprising that netball was just one of those sports for which you never acquired an instinct.
Netball is credited with being invented in a posh London suburb by a pioneering Swedish PE teacher at the end of the 19th century. Bounce forward a hundred years or so, and this vehicle for early female sporting emancipation now has a definite 21st century feel with Tyneside established as a cornerstone of the games rapid development.
The game evolved as a more appropriate exercise for young ladies than the womens version of basketball which was creating a sporting storm in the United States in the 1890s. It remains a game that really only flourishes in Commonwealth countries with Australia and New Zealand the strongest nations.
The latest leap forward for the netball in this country came in 2005 when Netballs Superleague was launched with live match coverage on Sky Sports taking it to a new level of public exposure.
Four years ago, Team Northumbria bravely entered the big new world and now the university based club has established itself as one of the eight national centres for the games next phase of progress.
This year the Superleague has re-invented itself into a new format. After the first complete round of fixtures the league divides into two tiers of four with the season building towards a Superleague Showdown weekend in May.
The Tyneside franchise has the considerable home advantage of Northumbria Universitys 30 million, state-of-the-art Sport Central venue which it shares with Newcastles all-conquering Eagles basketball team.
However, to retain its position at the forefront of netballs development, Northumbria had to prove a commitment to the game at all levels.
All clubs had to re-apply for a Superleague franchise last summer, said Northumbrias head of sport Colin Stromsey. It was a very competitive process and we had to go through a number of different measures with England netball.
We were delighted to be awarded the franchise for a guaranteed two years and so long as everything goes to plan, we will have Superleague netball here for four years.
Last year was challenging for us but we brought a lot of girls through, said Stromsey. Weve got our Starlight programme for schools, then there is the National Talent League our under-18s, essentially. Finally theres the NSL.
Team Northumbrias captain Sam Holt is one of the Superleagues Australian imports. And she appreciates that the university facilities give the club a tremendous boost.
The venue is amazing and in English netball terms, it makes us very lucky, said Sam, who is also assistant to new coach Lisa Stanley. Weve got everything we need here with great support.
Some good programmes have been set up to bring through new talent. We just need to build their skills to national level. So we need the team to start putting in the performances. We havent got big name players here but we do have real passion, a hunger for the ball and the will to win.
Theres only one thing that has surprised Sam: So many people here just dont seem to know what netball is especially the blokes. We need to increase the awareness so young kids will aspire to play the sport.
Apologies for the ignorance Sam and happy to help spread the word.
The print version of this article appeared in the March 2012 issue of North East Life
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