Vitality Netball Superleague 2021: Potential finalists, exciting import players and predictions
Who is going to win the Vitality Netball Superleague 2021? Who is going to reach the Grand Final and which player do you need to watch?
With the 2021 season starting on Friday night, as Celtic Dragons take on newcomers Leeds Rhinos Netball and Strathclyde Sirens meet Manchester Thunder, we asked a number of our Sky Sports Netball team to make their predictions about the season ahead.
Due to COVID-19, the competition is going to be held across two centralised venues – Studio 001 in Wakefield and then the Copper Box Arena in London and every contest will be available on Sky Sports (Sky Sports Arena & Sky Sports Mix), the Sky Sports YouTube channel or England Netball YouTube channel.
With a corking 10-match opening weekend and 20 rounds in total before the knockout stage, here’s what our team had to say about the player to watch, the most exciting import player, their 2021 finalists and the overall Vitality Netball Superleague champion…
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Scottish Thistles head coach, former England international and Sky Sports pundit
When it comes to a player to watch, then you need to keep an eye on Adean Thomas at London Pulse. She is one of my favourite attackers, has so much flair and is still improving.
Thomas’ vision is outstanding, and she’s got great creativity and movement. Last season, Pulse started so strongly and with a good run this year and such an exciting mix of players, they will be looking to push the top teams.
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Across the league, there so many exciting new import players which is really great for the competition. The one that I’m most looking forward to seeing is Donnell Wallam of Leeds Rhinos Netball.
I’ve heard so much about her but know so little, and anyone that can perform that way against Courtney Bruce deserves a watch!
Dan Ryan about Donnell Wallam’s development
Whilst she’s only been playing the game for a couple of years, she’s so raw in terms of her skillset and ability but her ability to take on information, work on it and execute it has been really quick. I expect her to be one of the players who has the fastest and most rapid growth throughout the season.
If we look towards the end of the season then my prediction for the 2021 Grand Final is a Manchester Thunder against Team Bath Netball final, although Loughborough Lightning may sneak in there…
I then think that the 2021 champions will be Team Bath Netball because defence wins you championships!
Tamsin Greenway’s Predictions
Sky Sports Netball Reporter
I’m so excited to see Beth Cobden returning into the Vitality Netball Superleague. It was great to see her back on court for the Vitality Legends Series after back-to-back ACL injuries. Her return makes Lightning’s mid-court even more competitive, with the likes of the experienced Nat Panagarry and Hannah Joseph in there too.
When it comes to looking at the most exciting import player, we’re really spoilt for choice and that says so much about the development of the competition.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing Felisitus Kwangwa for Surrey Storm. Watching the Zimbabwe Gems and how they stole the show at the Vitality Netball World Cup in 2019 was one of the highlights for me, so I can’t wait to have some of that magic in the Vitality Netball Superleague. In terms of her pure netball skills and dynamism, she’s a fantastic addition to Storm’s defensive end.
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When it comes to thinking about which two teams might be in the 2021 Grand Final then I’m going to predict Manchester Thunder and Team Bath Netball.
Taking that a step forwards and predicting the 2021 champions, ask me again after round one! It’s so hard to call but for now, I’ll lead towards Team Bath Netball. They’ve got a great mix of youth and experience, in particular with the return of Layla Guscoth and Serena Guthrie.
Hannah Wilkes’s Predictions
Sky Sports Reporter
For me, the person who was player of the match in two of the three Vitality Roses matches during the Vitality Legends Series – Razia Quashie – is the one to watch this season.
She was phenomenal during that series. Her instinct, anticipation and vision are incredible; she’s a stealth-like defender and a game changer. I loved watching her off the ball too, creating an energy and noise to get herself and those around her going.
Having spoken to Dan Ryan this week I am hugely excited to watch Donnell Wallam in action – what a story and what a gem he could have uncovered.
But, like Hannah, having seen the impact of Zimbabwe at the Netball World Cup, I also can’t wait to see Felisitus Kwangwa. Zimbabwe re-wrote the netballing rules in Liverpool; they brought an unbelievable energy and flair, and a unique style too so I’m sure this defender will aim to impart that on Surrey Storm.
For me, I’m looking at Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning when it comes to the finalists, but it’s going to be a great tussle to even produce a top four this season.
Looking at a 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague champion, then Thunder have the strongest and most-settled starting seven. Tracey Neville is back and what a great story it would be for Kerry Almond – I have lost count of the amount of times she’s retired and then done a U-turn!
Gail Davis’ Predictions
Sky Sports Commentator
Just like Tamsin, I’m looking forward to seeing Leeds Rhinos’ Donnell Wallam play in Superleague this season.
With her basketball background and late start in netball, Donnell is going to excite on the court as she pushes for a place in the Australian national side.
She’s been described as a “rough diamond” and says she’s already learnt plenty from her head coach, who is also an experienced GA and GS himself. Needless to say, I wait to see what Wallam does on court in a Leeds Rhinos dress.
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When it comes to the most exciting import player then, Donnell would be my pick too, but I’m also excited to see how Lefebre Rademan progresses.
We saw her live on Sky Sports up against England in the Cape Town Tests and seeing how her South African teammate, Sigi Burger, has loved working under Sam Bird at Pulse, should give the London faithful hope that they’ll have another gem in their attacking end this season.
Predicting the 2021 finalists… I’m not going to do it!! But, if I have to… then it’s Team Bath Netball and Manchester Thunder, although Pulse could spring a surprise too.
If you then look towards the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague champions, it will be any one of 11 teams…. but Team Bath Netball defensively have an edge!
Caroline Barker’s Predictions
Sky Sports Presenter
As someone from the north-west I’m going to go for Manchester Thunder making the final with Tracey Neville in their ranks and being reunited with Karen Greig. As a duo, they’re an awesome one, who work so well together.
What a team Karen and Tracey have at Thunder too, with such strength in depth including the incredible Caroline O’Hanlon, the return of Kerry Almond now in that defensive end with Emma Dovey and their ever-developing England internationals too.
When it comes to predicting a finalist to go alongside them, that’s a really, really tough call. However, what I will say is that I think that Leeds Rhinos Netball will make the top-four. I think that Dan Ryan is creating a really great team culture there and has made some fantastic signings, like so many of us I can’t wait to see what Donnell Wallam produces.
Sky Sports Netball Producer
I’m also on the same page as Gail, with Razia Quashie catching my eye for this season. She has quickly become one of my favourite players to watch and over the two England series, has shown her talent with some incredible intercepts and defensive work.
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I’m so excited to see the team that Dan Ryan has put together, as he has such a wealth of experience. I’m also looking forward to watching Donnell Wallam and I’m a big fan of the South African international shooter Ine–Mari Venter
My predictions when it comes to the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague finalists are Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning, with Thunder then taking the title, after all taking on Tracey Neville and Karen Greig is some task!
Leanne McClernon’s Predictions
Sky Netball commentator
I have to say that Team Bath’s Sophie Drakeford-Lewis is the player to watch this season. She’s gaining more experience with every game and continues to grow in front of our very eyes.
With Madi Browne deferring her first season at Leeds Rhinos Netball until the 2022 term, like Leanne, I’m looking forward to seeing the South African import shooter, Ine-Mari Venter, who is joining Saracens Mavericks. She’s replacing George Fisher and is arriving at Mavs with a vast amount of experience already.
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When it comes to the 2021 Grand Finalists then it’s really impossible to call! It’s anybody’s season to take really… Wasps Netball and Leeds Rhinos Netball may well be in the mix but if you really push me to pick, I’d say Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning.
Then, because I have to pick, I’d say that Manchester Thunder will be the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague champions.
Katharine Merry’s Predictions
Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague returns on Friday with a 10-match weekend of netball. Every contest will be available to watch across Sky Sports, the Sky Sports YouTube channel or England Netball’s YouTube channel.
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