Team Bath Netball have thanked Stacey Francis for ten outstanding years of loyal service after the England defender confirmed she would be joining Yorkshire Jets for the 2016 Vitality Superleague season.
Francis was Team Bath’s longest serving player, having joined the franchise back in 2005, and was a key performer in all five of the Blue and Gold’s Superleague victories.
She was the youngest member of the squad to win the inaugural Superleague in 2006, aged just 17, and helped Team Bath retain the title the following year.
Francis also won back-to-back Superleagues in 2009 – the year she graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc in Sports Performance – and 2010.
And she was named as Superleague Player of the Year in both 2011 and 2013, having inspired Team Bath to a record-breaking fifth Superleague crown in the latter season.
Francis – renowned for her athleticism and determination – developed into one of the country’s stand-out defenders under the guidance of Team Bath coaches Lyn Gunson, Jess Thirlby and Anna Stembridge.
The crowd favourite was awarded the first of her 56 England caps in 2010 and won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later that year.
Francis also helped England to bronze medals at the Netball World Cup in both 2011 and 2015.
Her career commitments outside of netball – she works in PR and marketing – have now prompted a move to Yorkshire but Francis is leaving with the well wishes of all at Team Bath.
Director of Netball Jess Thirlby said: “On both a personal and professional level it has been a privilege to work with Stacey, one of the country’s most outstanding athletes.
“Having worked with Stacey, first as a team-mate and more so as her coach, I have seen at first hand her dedication, commitment and relentless drive to achieve the highest accolades within her netball ambitions. The standards she sets herself and others are always very demanding and as such she receives the respect of all those that work alongside her.
“I can’t thank Stacey enough for her unprecedented loyalty to Team Bath, a rarity in today’s landscape within the sport. To know that in some way we have helped provide Stacey with an environment that she has thrived in makes her a true example of what can be achieved here at Team Bath. She has been, and always will be, a fantastic role model for all of our fans who have so often voted her as their favourite player.
“With her career requiring her to relocate, it does sadly mean that we have to say goodbye to Stacey but we wish her all the best in her pursuits in the world outside of netball for which she has sacrificed so much for.
“It is great that fans will still get to see Stacey in Superleague action and we wish her well at Yorkshire Jets.”
Stephen Baddeley, Director of Sport at the University of Bath, echoed Thirlby’s sentiments.
“We wish Stacey well in this new phase of her career,” he said. “Not only was Stacey a stand-out performer on the netball court but she contributed to our overall environment at Team Bath.”
Francis said: “I have had an amazing time with Team Bath, having joined the side as a 16 year old and being a member of each team who lifted the Superleague trophy.
“With Anna Stembridge joining Jess Thirlby on the coaching team, I know they will be a force to be reckoned with and I wish the team all the best for 2016.”
Team Bath Netball, who have already added Wales World Cup star Chelsea Lewis to their ranks for 2016, are set to announce a high-profile defensive arrival in the coming days as well as other new players.