by George Willoughby
Head coach Tania Hoffman has the responsibility of leading Cardiff against some of netball’s most elite personnel.
The 15th season of the Vitality Netball Superleague has arrived and it is shaping up to be another extremely competitive year of action. Manchester Thunder are the reigning champions having defeated Wasps in the grand final last year. However, the focus will be on Cardiff-based Celtic Dragons who are looking to better their seventh-placed finish last year. The Dragons’ 2019 campaign was one of frustration – recording just six wins and a points tally of 18.
However, this was a stark increase from their 2018 season where they finished bottom. The most notable area in which they have developed is their scoring. Last season, across the entire set of fixtures, the Dragons scored a total of 930 points. This was up from 552 in 2018. Scoring may now not be an issue, but keeping the goals out will be one of the more challenging areas.
Only bottom of the table London Pulse conceded more than the Celtic’s 1043 last season, and if Tania Hoffman’s side is to move their way up the table, the amount of points they surrender has to decrease.
New signing Latanya Wilson will certainly add strength to their defence, with the Jamaican a natural reader of the game. If she can gel quickly with fellow defensive players Dee Bolakaro and Abby Tyrell, the Dragons should be able to tighten up at the back. Meanwhile, the likes of Rebekah Robinson, Amy Clinton and Brittany Coleman provide the attacking threat.
The Celtic Dragons will open their campaign with an away match against the Surrey Storm – a side which finished on the same amount of points as the Dragons last season. Furthermore, the Cardiff-based side got the better of the Storm in both of the occasions the two teams met. Celtic’s second match will be against a strong Team Bath side who will be looking to build on their third-placed finish last time out.
Netball in the United Kingdom has been gathering support, and it is expected that there will be near sell-outs in many of the fixtures. Sky are continuing to show their support for the sport and will be screening all of the season opening matches.
As well as that, Sky are also offering the opportunity to watch the action on their YouTube channel via a live stream for those without a subscription. It is anticipated that fan figures will set new records this season, with ticket sales for the opening round of matches reportedly 53% higher compared to 2019.
Once again, there are some excellent sides in Netball Superleague and whether the Celtic Dragons can challenge the UK’s elite teams remains doubtful. The ‘Green Army’ has shown improvements over the last few seasons, but not enough to place themselves in playoff contention. Tania Hoffman has a difficult task in constructing a side and playing style that can be competitive in a league full of world class talent.