London calling as table-topping Blue & Gold head into second half of 2021 Superleague season excited for challenge ahead
Anna Stembridge, Superleague Head Coach for the Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold, has been pleased with her highly-talented squad’s individual and collective performances so far following 10 wins from their opening 11 matches.
As the action moves from Wakefield to London’s Copper Box Arena for the final nine games of the regular season, Stembridge is expecting her table-topping team to come under growing pressure from the chasing pack but cannot wait to see how they rise to the challenge.
“We’ve all been loving the season so far and now it’s about keeping that sense of energy and fun as we push on into the business end,” said Stembridge, whose side faces Welsh rivals Celtic Dragons on Sunday (12pm centre-pass).
“It’s been pleasing to see how we have matched up against different oppositions and different styles, and all 15 players in our squad have taken to the court which is really important in ensuring they are ‘good to go’ whenever we call on them.
“It’s great that we’ve won 10 out of 11 so far, and that loss was only by a single goal, but we are under no illusion that the next part of the season is going to be harder. Teams know what everyone else is about now and, with all of this year’s matches being shown on YouTube, there is so much information out there for players and coaches.
“Teams are going to have to be smarter in the second half but that is something we are determined to thrive on. Ultimately we want to be the best so we have to play against the best.
“The players are continuously asking more from themselves, their team-mates and us coaches, as you would expect from such a talented and driven group. In training last week we asked ourselves what are we happy with so far, what we need to build on and what we want to focus on moving forward.
“We’re still tweaking and building on connections, and that’s why I know we still have much more to give during the coming weeks. We can’t wait to get going again.”
The second half of the season will see one absentee from the Blue and Gold, though, with Jess Shaw having picked up an ankle injury.
Stembridge explained: “Sadly, Jess Shaw has picked up an ankle injury which will rule her out for the remainder of the 2021 VNSL season and we now have permission from England Netball to add a replacement player to the squad. This is not something that we are going to rush into. We are looking at all options including training associates and other players.
“Jess has been in great form for us this season and has made a major contribution to our successes both in training and on court at wing attack and centre through her skill and work ethic. We are all hoping she recovers strongly and we are working together with England Netball to make sure that she has everything she needs.”
Sunday’s match will be shown live on Sky Sports YouTube here:
Meanwhile, Team Bath U21 co-captain Molly Hole has been selected in the England Roses Academy squad for 2021 after impressing at trials last weekend. The talented defender captained England U17s to the Netball Europe title last year.