Team Bath Netball have named an “exciting and dynamic” squad for the 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague season, blending international and Superleague experience with some of the sport’s most promising young players.
Captained by England star Eboni Beckford-Chambers, the squad of 15 includes five players who shone at this year’s Netball World Cup and seven who have previously won Superleague titles in the famous Blue and Gold.
Remaining in the squad from 2015 are England defender Sam Cook, University of Bath Santander Sporting Scholar Shaunagh Craig, Asha Francis, Mia Ritchie, Jazz Scott, Rachel Shaw and Scotland vice-captain Claire Brownie.
They are joined by four familiar faces who are returning for second spells with the franchise – Beckford-Chambers, Sarah Penny, Amanda Varey (nee Trounce) and Jo Vann (nee Binns).
Former England international Vann is back in Team Bath colours for the first time since leaving to join the Army in 2011 – she served as a ground support flight commander with 654 Squadron during a tour of Afghanistan.
Wales goal shooter Chelsea Lewis and fellow World Cup stars Karla Mostert and Lenize Potgieter of South Africa are also in the squad, along with England U21 international Alana John.
They have been selected from the initial long squad of 20 by Director of Netball Jess Thirlby and Head Coach Anna Stembridge after a highly-productive pre-season campaign.
“There is a nice mix in the squad – a bit of a slant towards experience but we also feel like we are developing youngsters,” said Thirlby.
“Alana John is in the National Academy and England U21s, while Jazz Scott is still very much an up and coming player and Rachel Shaw is a really exciting talent from an England perspective.
“They will all benefit from being around experienced players like Sarah Penny, Amanda Varey and Jo Vann. They are not new to Team Bath, so they understand our ideals and what we are trying to achieve, and we gain such added value from them coming back.
“With the new signings, Chelsea Lewis will be a big asset for us, a real talent, while Lenize and Karla have integrated brilliantly both on and off the court.
“This is an exciting and very dynamic group to work with. They are taking ownership of their development as a team, which is great to see.”
Strong performances in both training and friendly matches from all 20 players in the long squad have led to some difficult calls for the coaches.
Stembridge, back at Team Bath after four years as England Head Coach, admitted: “The selection of the final 15 was a really hard decision to make, with all court areas being hotly contested throughout.
“All 20 athletes must be commended in the way they have trained and conducted themselves over the last eight weeks to cause such a genuine selection headache. We are extremely proud of the training environment they have created, and Jess and I feel very fortunate to work with such an exciting and committed squad.
“I have been really pleased with the opportunities and experiences we’ve had so far and look forward to building on these over the next few months. This is a Team Bath squad which has certainly got a great deal more growth to be made and we can’t wait to push those boundaries even further.”
Thirlby added: “We would have happily worked with the group of 20 for the whole year. They have all improved during pre-season and have really committed themselves to the programme.
“There is always disappointment for those who did not make the squad and we do genuinely believe that those left out are more than capable of playing in the Superleague. We hope that will be in Blue and Gold in the years to come.
“Ultimately we felt – and the players felt – that we had to pick the 15 best available players that can also work together effectively as a team.”
Team Bath Netball – backed by Carter Jonas – begin their 2016 Superleague campaign against defending champions Surrey Storm on Saturday, January 30 (8pm).
It is part of the innovative Super Saturday season opener that sees the eight Superleague franchises in action on one day at the Genting Arena in Birmingham.
All of the teams have made significant signings since the World Cup in August, including a number of high-profile overseas imports, and Thirlby is expecting one of the most keenly-contested Superleague seasons ever.
“The squads this year, including ours and across the board, have all stepped up a level,” she said.
“Every franchise will have greater strength in depth than ever before and it promises to be a season to remember.”
Team Bath Netball 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague squad: Chelsea Lewis, Lenize Potgieter, Shaunagh Craig, Asha Francis, Rachel Shaw, Jazz Scott, Amanda Varey, Mia Ritchie, Jo Vann, Claire Brownie, Alana John, Karla Mostert, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Sarah Penny, Sam Cook (subject to fitness).